If preseason football is too drawn out and meaningless, then preseason basketball is a bottomless pit void of almost any purpose. There aren’t really roster spot battles in the NBA like there are in the NFL, as there’s only 15 roster spots, and there isn’t a ton of opportunity to evaluate young prospects as the regular rotation players end up playing the majority of the minutes after the first couple of games.
But alas, we must try and glean something from the eight games the Chicago Bulls played. There are a few things that should make Bulls fans giddy.
1. Derrick Rose is back to being as explosive as ever.
Rose has thoroughly silenced the critics who thought he should have come back sooner last season and helped the team’s playoff push. Rose said that he wanted to feel as explosive as he was before the injury and to be able to dunk comfortably. Check and check.
It was evident from the first preseason game against the Indiana Pacers that Rose has all the speed, leaping ability, agility and scissoring-change of direction that he had before his knee injury. We saw it on his first basket of the preseason, when he challenged Roy Hibbert at the rim, missed, and quickly second-jumped, got the board and got the putback.
Throughout the preseason, we have seen Rose fly by defenders on fast breaks, relentlessly pushing the ball in transition (more on that in a moment). Rose has driven to the hoop and tried to finish through contact and over big men, which is incredibly encouraging for the Bulls and Bulls fans.
Now, if Rose can be effective as a player rather than just an athlete (which he has been in the preseason, too) through a stretch of regular season games, I’ll gladly eat my predictions of Rose not being as effective a player. But as far as Derrick Rose the speed demon, he’s already back and ready to rumble.
2. Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler will change the Bulls’ offense.
Last year, the Bulls’ offense was a slugfest. They were the equivalent of a football team that tries to run the ball and play defense, to extreme lengths, because they can’t win a shootout or don’t have explosive offensive players. Take the star quarterback out of the lineup, and what happens? The offense becomes more conservative and slow, in an attempt to maintain control of the game and limit mistakes.
The same happened to the Bulls with Rose out. The Bulls were a slow team, with very few fast break points. The offense had to work extremely hard to create open shots; there was no one they could count on to distribute the ball consistently.
Now, not only do they have their quarterback back, in Rose, but they have a young, athletic, backcourt partner ready to run with Rose, in Jimmy Butler.
Throughout the preseason, Rose and Butler consistently got out on the fast break, turning the Bulls’ typically stout defense into easy transition points.
Rose was always a one-man fast break, but his running mates were the rather slow group of Keith Bogans, Richard Hamilton and Kyle Korver. Ronnie Brewer was pretty good, but he was a bench player. Luol Deng would get out and run sometimes, and we know how Joakim Noah loves to lead fast breaks on his own, but Butler’s speed and athleticism could give the Bulls a dose (a DOSE) of what the Miami Heat have in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Butler will start and play heavy minutes this season, meaning he and Rose will have plenty of chances to run. For a team like the Bulls that can be offensively-challenged at times, there could be no better antidote.
These are the two main takeaways I had after catching as much preseason as I could. Taj Gibson played well, Tony Snell seemed like he could contribute sooner rather than later, and Marquis Teague didn’t show much. Both of these developments, I feel, could prove to be very important and beneficial to the Bulls this season.
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