Chicago Bulls Weekly: 5 Preseason Lessons

Four preseason games, four Chicago Bulls victories. Because we’ve all been so concerned about what to expect from Derrick Rose in his first season back in more than a year, some have lost sight of the fact that the Bulls were already a tough team to play without Rose. Now that he’s back and seemingly healthy? This is the kind of team that could legitimately challenge the Miami Heat for the Eastern Conference belt.

Not convinced? That’s understandable. It’s only been a few preseason games, after all. But the preseason usually provides a decent glimpse at what to expect for the regular season and the Chicago Bulls’ four preseason contests have been particularly telling. Coming off their 96-81 win over the Detroit Pistons Wednesday night, here are the five lessons to take from the undefeated Bulls thus far:

5. Tony Snell is starting to shape up – Rookie Tony Snell hasn’t had a chance to really shine in preseason. He played well during the NBA Summer League, but Wednesday night was really his first breakthrough as a professional. Snell had 12 points in 25 minutes while shooting 5-of-8 from the floor and 2-of-4 from 3-point range. Snell had been struggling to find his shot up until this point; he went 0-for-5 from the floor in Chicago’s first preaseason game, 1-for-3 in the second and 1-for-5 in the third. But Snell’s shot was finally falling last night and he showed why he’s a perfect fit for Chicago.

Snell also found other ways to contribute in the most minutes he’s seen all preseason. He added four assists to his name in the box score, which was (somehow) a team best. Snell also showed his defensive potential and racked up three steals, including a particular sneaky one that led to a Derrick Rose 3-pointer 34 seconds into this highlights video. Notice how many times Snell appears in those clips? It’s just the preseason, but this is a great sign for the young rookie.

Tony Snell

I’m firmly on the Tony Snell bandwagon. And not just because I’m a big UNM Lobos fan. (NBA.com photo)

4. Banged up Bulls – I guess this applies to almost every team in the NBA, but the Chicago Bulls have definitely had a harder time keeping players healthy at the right time than others. It’s not just Derrick Rose; don’t forget Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng all missed crucial stretches of the regular season and the playoffs last year.

So it was really not much of a surprise to hear that Rose would sit out of Chicago’s third preseason game. It was even less surprising to find out Jimmy Butler would be sitting out with a left knee contusion. Neither one of those injuries are serious, but they do call to mind how hard it is for this team to stay completely healthy. Luckily a couple preseason games or even a few regular season games won’t hurt Chicago much, but it’ll still be something to keep an eye on for the 2013-14 playoffs.

3. This bench is deep – The 2013-14 Chicago Bulls could potentially have the deepest bench they’ve had in the past few years. In 2011, Chicago brought C.J. Watson, Omer Asik, Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver, Keith Bogans (and of course, the man-God Brian Scalabrine) off the bench. This season, they’ll be sporting Kirk Hinrich, Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy, Tony Snell, Erik Murphy, Marquis Teague and Nazr Mohammed. Okay, so maybe this bench isn’t quite as deep as that ’11 squad, but it’s still pretty good considering how much better Gibson’s gotten (more on that in a second).

With Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, the Bulls have one of the strongest starting fives in the entire league. But having a 3-point specialist like Dunleavy, an improving defensive stud like Gibson and all-around promising prospects like Snell and Murphy coming off the bench, Chicago might be able to give their starters a rest without losing too much momentum.

2. The Taj Gibson-Carlos Boozer debate will continue – I’ve already written about the Boozer-Gibson debate at length, but Gibson’s not going to make it any easier for Boozer supporters to stick up for their guy this season. Through four games, Gibson is averaging an impressive  15.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game while shooting 65.8 percent from the floor. Compare that to Boozer’s 9.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game while shooting 45.7 percent from the floor. Granted, Gibson is playing almost four more minutes per game than Boozer in the preseason, but those numbers are hard to ignore.

However, you have to remember that Gibson’s playing the majority of his minutes against other teams’ second units. So while Boozer’s taking on the starters, Gibson’s wiping the floor with the oppositions’ benches. Which raises the question: Even if Gibson could be more productive playing ahead of Boozer, isn’t it better to keep Boozer in the starting five because of his contract and let Gibson continue to devour the reserves? Boozer’s play would undoubtedly be affected by a demotion and Gibson might be taking over in a year anyway. For now, the Boozer-Gibson balance looks pretty good.

1. Derrick Rose looks good – Speaking of looking good, Derrick Rose is looking good. I mean, reeeaaalllly good. A lot of people were ready to hit the panic button when Rose sat out of the Bulls’ third preseason game with soreness in his knee, but he was on a mission Wednesday night against the Pistons. Rose put up 22 points in 22 minutes of action, adding in two rebounds, two assists and one block. He committed just one turnover and got to the line 10 times (where he went 9-of-10).

His assist numbers could be a little higher, but Rose wasn’t really looking to pass last night. Rose has passed the eye test in each of the three games he’s played in and looks healthy as ever. Performing at a high level during the preseason is a bit easier than the regular season, but Rose looks like he’s ready to play. If you have doubts, look at this ridiculous 3-point play and tell me Derrick Rose’s return isn’t going to be spectacular:

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Tags: 2013-14 Derrick Rose Preseason Highlights Chicago Bulls 2013-14 Preseason Recap Chicago Bulls Vs Detroit Pistons Preseason Highlights Chicago Bulls Vs Detroit Pistons Preseason Recap Derrick Rose Preseason Highlights Taj Gibson Vs Carlos Boozer Tony Snell Chicago Bulls Highlights

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