NBA 2016-17 Team Preview – Chicago Bulls: Home Town Hero Returns

Oct 29, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade (3) controls the ball during the first half against the Indiana Pacers at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 29, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade (3) controls the ball during the first half against the Indiana Pacers at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

NBA 2016-17 Team Preview – Chicago Bulls

To prepare our readers for the regular season SCS  offers a series entitled NBA 2016-17 Team Preview for each of the Houston Rockets’ 29 opponents. Who will return to the playoffs? Which team will fall from grace and who will be the Cinderella team?

Included in each profile:

  • Where the team finished 2015-16
  • Key 2015-16 stats
  • Future draft pick status
  • Current and future salary rank
  • Off Season Moves
  • 2017 Free Agents
  • Schedule, NBA League Pass and Win Projection Ranking
  • Team Overview entering season (Starting 5, reserves and notable injuries)
  • When each team will play the Houston Rockets
  • Strengths, Weaknesses and Prediction

NBA 2016-17 Team Previews now looks at the Central Division Chicago Bulls. With all due respect to Kevin Durant, the true shock of free agency was Dwyane Wade leaving the Heat to return home to Chicago. The newly formed backcourt of Wade and Rajon Rondo has pundits all over the map guessing where this Bulls team could finish.  With that let’s look at the team preview.

NBA 2016-17 Team Preview:Chicago Bulls:

2015-16 Record: 42-40

Playoffs:

Finished 9th in Eastern Conference missing the playoffs

Points Per Game: 101.6 (21st )

Opponent Points Per Game:  103.1 (16th)

Pace: 95.7 (15th )

Offensive Rank: 105.0 (23rd)

Defensive Rank:  106.5 (15th)

Three Point Rank:  37.1% (3rd)

Rebounds: 46.3  (3rd)

Assists: 22.8 (12th)

Steals: 6.0 (29th)

Blocks: 5.7 (8th)

Turnovers: 13.9 (13th)

Nov 4, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson (22) reacts to a call during the second half in a game against the New York Knicks at the United Center. The Knicks won 117-104. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

2017 Free Agents

Restricted:

Unrestricted: 

  • Taj Gibson

All free agent updates confirmed via Basketball Reference and Sportrak

Future Draft Picks

See Real GM for full details:

Incoming:

  • 2017 first round draft pick from Sacramento
    Sacramento’s 1st round pick to Chicago (via Cleveland) protected for selections 1-10 in 2017; if this pick falls within its protected range and is therefore not conveyed, then Sacramento will instead convey its 2017 2nd round pick to Chicago protected for selections 56-60 (if this pick falls within its protected range and is therefore not conveyed, then Sacramento’s obligation to Chicago will be extinguished) [Cleveland-Sacramento, 6/30/2011; Chicago-Cleveland, 1/7/2014]
  • 2018 second round draft pick from Denver

Outgoing:

  • 2017 second round draft pick to New York
    Chicago’s 2017 2nd round pick to New York [Chicago-New York, 6/22/2016]

Average Age of Team: 26.1 years (as per Real GM)

Sep 26, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Denzel Valentine (45) poses for a photo during Bulls media day at The Advocate Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Draft Picks

Round 1: Denzel Valentine (14)

Round 2: Paul Zipser (48)

TRADE: Bulls’ big move happened Wednesday when they traded Derrick Rose to the Knicks in return for Robin Lopez, Jerian Grant and Jose Calderon.

2016 Free Agents

Unrestricted:

Moves Made post July 1st:

Incoming:

Exiting:

Jul 29, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Dwayne Wade (right) and Bulls general manager Gar Forman pose for a photo after addressing the media after a press conference at Advocate Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Jul 29, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Dwayne Wade (right) and Bulls general manager Gar Forman pose for a photo after addressing the media after a press conference at Advocate Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas over-under for wins: 38.5

Schedule strength:

As ranked by ESPN: 21st with 2.13 extra wins

The Bulls are slotted for the fewest estimated air miles in the league. Also, seven of Chicago’s 17 back-to-backs finish at home.

Games versus Rockets:

  • Friday February 03 at Toyota Center, in Houston, TX at 7PM CT/8PM ET
  • Friday  March 10 at United Center, in Chicago, IL at 7PM CT/8PM ET

Zach Lowe NBA League Pass Rank: 21st

The frontcourt is filled with exciting players who boost the comedy score. Nikola Mirotic and his sweaty beard are good for at least three ridiculous, infuriating pump fakes every game. Bobby Portis is going to be good. Fred Hoiberg has been starting Taj Gibson early in preseason, but Mirotic deserves first crack at that power forward spot; you can’t roll out lineups featuring zero guys who shoot 3s. Don’t sleep on Portis as a candidate to snag that spot for a stretch.

No one outside Chicago noticed, but Cristiano Felicio emerged late last season as a cinder-block banger with some touch. Can Robin Lopez coax Benny the Bull into a heel turn, forming a tag-team that attacks rival mascots?

Sep 26, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler (21) center Robin Lopez (8) guard Rajon Rondo (9) and guard Dwayne Wade (3) pose for a photo during Bulls media day at The Advocate Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Committed Salary

2016: $97,084,493 – 18th ranked

2017: $81,350,472 – 16th ranked

Team Salary Ranking as per Hoops Hype, and team salary overview also via Hoops Hype

Starting 5:

Point Guard: Rajon Rondo – 11.9 points, 11.7 assists, 6.0 rebounds

Shooting Guard:  Dwyane Wade – 19.0 points, 4.6 assists, 4.1 rebounds

Small Forward: Jimmy Butler – 20.9 points, 4.8 assists, 5.3 rebounds

Power Forward: Taj Gibson – 8.6 points, 1.5 assists, 6.9 rebounds

Center:  Robin Lopez – 10.3 points, 1.4 assists, 7.3 rebounds

Reserves:

Guards: Isaiah Canaan, Michael Carter-Williams, Jerian Grant

Wings: Doug McDermott, Denzel Valentine, Paul Zipser

Bigs: Nikola Mirotec, Bobby Portis, Christiano Felicio

Injury News:

  • Michael Carter-Williams – strained left wrist, will be out 4-6 weeks and targeting December return

All injury news as per rotoworld

Oct 6, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; (From R-L) Chicago Bulls Jimmy Butler, Rajon Rondo, and Dwayne Wade watch from the bench during their game against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers won 115-108. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Strengths:

Marquette Products: Both Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade attended Marquette University and each offers copious assets. There were rumors the 2 didn’t like each other, but a call made by Butler to Wade apparently sealed the deal for his return home. How the 2 function will be pivotal to the Bulls outcome this season. That said, Wade remains the best leader in the NBA in being able to adjust his role around other super stars while also getting the most out of youthful prospects. Look for Valentine to bend Wade’s ear often for insight on how to escalate his growth.

Wing Depth: Certainly the glut of wings works to lesson the depth at the point and center, but it also allows for numerous wings capable of shooting threes, running the wings and offering various line-ups changes. The challenge for Hoiberg will be getting each of them playing time unless he plans on utilizing copious small ball line-ups. Each year I begin saying the Bulls have too many wings and will trade one to foster their point and center. Yet each year the Bulls don’t make the trade. Could this be the season that changes?

Carrying over defense and rebounding: This is a precarious choice given the Bulls need to replicate their defense and rebounding from last season all while the teams focus is on offense.

Weaknesses:

Leadership uncertainty: How will Butler meld to working with Rondo and Wade? Last season Butler and Derrick Rose never found a working rhythm and were minus -104 in their minutes spent together on court or minus -3.9 net rating. Conversely, when Butler was on the floor alone he had a plus +4.5 net rating where as Rose was a minus -4.7. I’m on record as saying Dwyane Wade is the best leader in the NBA, so Butler’s best bet would be to utilize that expertise, but will his ego get in the way.

Wing heavy: Once again the Bulls enter the season with a lack of depth at the point and center and a plethora of wings. Though the small forward has become arguably the most important position in the Association not having enough depth at the top and bottom of the roster line-ups could be their undoing.

Defense: With the loss of Joakim Noah the Bulls not only have to replace his energy an leadership but his anchoring of the defense. With Coach Hoiberg intent on pushing pace and utilizing a roster who doesn’t necessarily provide the elements for his style the area most likely affected will be the defensive end of the floor.

Prediction:

I’m of a different mindset than most the pundits. Fred Hoiberg’s desire to run with pace, space the court and shoot multiple threes doesn’t necessarily translate to his roster options. I’m not convinced Rondo still has the chops to be a top defender. I point you to his league high assists on a Kings team who only managed to translate that into 33 wins. Further Wade’s health is always an issue. Factor in Jimmy Butler’s reported ego and I wonder how this is all going to work out.

Best Case: Wade stays healthy, Hoiberg figures out a way to marry the vets with the youth and the Bulls achieve a home court seed.

Worst Case: Wade and others get injured, Hoiberg isn’t able to bring his high paced offense to the court and gets fired. Worst Rondo’s penchant for being a locker room cancer combined with the power struggles of Butler result in major chemistry issues.

Personally I’m not buying how the Bulls can maintain any sense of defense with a coach and team bent on focusing on offense. As much as I’m a huge Wade fan with Butler intent on taking the leadership reigns will that offset Wade’s value?  Sure they’ve gotten out of the gate well and have a great team roster should they make it to the slower paced  half court focused playoffs but I’m convinced they replicate last seasons ninth place finish.

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