Here at Blue Man Hoop, we’re gearing up for the 2012-13 season by looking around the NBA to see how each team matches up with the Golden State Warriors. We’ll give you an overview of each opponent, a matchup or stat to watch and a measure of just how big a threat each opposing squad represents for the Dubs. Be sure to check out the other previews we’ve done so far on Blue Man Hoop: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats.
Chicago Bulls Overview
The Chicago Bulls are the yin to the Golden State Warriors’ yang. Looking at them is like seeing a photographic negative of the Dubs. If you’re into Superman lore, the Bulls are the Bizarro Warriors. You get the idea.
Last season, the Bulls were the NBA’s best defensive outfit, with a defensive efficiency rating of 95.3. They were also tops in the league in rebound rate, snagging 53.9 percent of available boards. Conversely, Golden State was at or near the league’s basement in both of those categories (30th in rebounding and 26th in defensive efficiency, to be exact).
Statistics aside, the Bulls are an especially interesting study in just how far defense and rebounding can take a team. Stylistically, the Bulls seek to physically dominate opponents, sacrificing speed and athleticism for pure brawn and determination. That all works brilliantly, as long as there’s a singularly talented offensive superstar to keep the offensively-challenged roster functioning at respectable levels.
Which is exactly what the Bulls have in Derrick Rose. And if there’s any question about Rose’s unique importance to his team, witness the Bulls’ predictable defeat at the hands of the 8th-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in last year’s playoffs. After Rose went down with a torn ACL in Game 1, the Bulls’ total offensive dependence on Rose cost them the series. Put simply, the Bulls don’t work without Derrick Rose; sans their MVP, they’re just a collection of defenders and role players.
So, with Rose expected to be out until January of 2013, at the earliest, the Bulls won’t assume their true identity until then. And really, Rose probably won’t assume his until he’s at least a year-and-a-half removed from his surgery.
So the Bulls figure to utilize new additions Kirk Hinrich, Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli to assume some of the back court scoring burden. Beyond those three, Chicago can hope for a little scoring out of Luol Deng, Rip Hamilton and Carlos Boozer. But their identity is still that of a defensive team, with Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah banging around in the front court.
Key Matchup / Interesting Stat
The Warriors and Bulls met just once last season, in each team’s second game of the year. Surprisingly, the Warriors defeated the Bulls 99-91, despite being outscored by nine in the fourth quarter. That game was decided by two key factors: the Warriors’ solid shooting and the Bulls’ carelessness with the ball (20 turnovers), the latter factor being the one to watch when the teams meet this season.
Turnovers will be the key again when the teams meet on January 25 and March 15 this season.
If Rose isn’t playing, the Bulls will have to rely on their defensive-minded roster to try to figure out ways to score. That’ll mean players like Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Luol Deng (who’s definitely a more capable scorer than Noah or Gibson) will have to handle the ball much more than they would if Rose were healthy. They’ll all be slightly outside their comfort zones, which means they’ll be a little more prone to turnovers, forced shots or awkward passes.
If Rose is healthy, all bets are off. The Warriors will be in a dogfight on the boards and will struggle to score effectively against the Bulls’ perpetually staunch defense.
Threat Level: 8/10
If Rose miraculously recovers, there’s an argument for bumping the threat level up to 10 here. The Bulls are no fun to play against, whether or not their MVP is in the lineup, though. With the Warriors likely to slow things down on offense this season, they’ll be playing right into Chicago’s hands. Golden State should be happy to split the season series, even if Rose is sidelined.