As the NBA preseason gets underway, we preview the upcoming campaign with the “Highs and Lows” system — predicting the respective ceiling and basement for each team.
Added: Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, Kurt Thomas, Omer Asik, C.J. Watson
Lost: Kirk Hinrich, Brad Miller, Hakim Warrick, Flip Murray, Jannero Pargo, Joe Alexander
Ceiling: Eastern Conference semifinals
The Blazers of the East have made it back to respectability with two straight playoff appearances, but now the expectations have been raised and it’s time to actually make it past the first round. After taking their crack at LeBron and D-Wade as megastar free agents over the summer, Chicago “settled” for a mere All-Star, Carlos Boozer (19.5 ppg, 11.2 rpg), who gives the Bulls the low-post scorer they’ve needed ever since Elton Brand left but doesn’t change the identity of the team necessarily. Booz is used to playing with top-caliber point guards, so he’ll gladly play his position and allow Derrick Rose to remain the face of the franchise … Rose (20.8 ppg, 6.0 apg) is athletically the best PG in the world, and a lot was made over the summer about how he’s worked on his outside shooting and defense. While that’s great for fantasy owners, it’s not like Rose is being asked to be Steve Nash for the Bulls. The common line is, “If he gets a three-point shot he’ll be a beast,” without realizing that he Rose is already a beast … Knowing their conference now includes Wade, LeBron, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Joe Johnson and Vince Carter, the Bulls have assembled a strong defensive unit on the wings. New pickups Brewer and Bogans, plus second-year forward James Johnson and Luol Deng can all handle defensive assignments against top scorers and at least theoretically hold their own. New coach Tom Thibodeau made his reputation on building Boston’s championship D, which could neutralize everybody from Kobe to Dwight Howard … Joakim Noah (11.0 rpg, 1.6 bpg) returns as the lynchpin of the Bulls’ D after being involved in trade rumors throughout the offseason. His defense will complement Boozer’s offense and give the Bulls an effective inside combo, and although Boozer will miss at least two months with a broken hand, 2010 All-Rookie pick Taj Gibson‘s presence allows Chicago to avoid a big drop-off at the position.
Basement: First-round playoff exit
The Bulls were 28th in the League in three-point percentage last year. They addressed that issue by signing Korver, but their efforts to also land J.J. Redick fell through when Orlando matched his restricted FA offer. As its stands, there really isn’t another great shooter on the roster, only guys like Bogans and Deng who think they’re shooters … Boozer’s durability has always been an issue in his pro career, and this latest injury is just another setback. At a crucial time when Booz could be developing on-court chemistry with Rose and Noah, he’ll be sitting out … Noah is happy now that he’s got a $60 million contract extension, but will he get fat and happy and lose some of the fire in his belly? … Thibodeau was a rock star assistant on a great team, and he was thought to be ready for a head coaching job a couple of years ago. He has a talented team to work with, but what happens when the rookie head coach has to go up against Stan Van Gundy or Doc Rivers or Larry Brown in a postseason series? … Hurting Chicago the most, however, is simply the strength of their conference. The Heat, Celtics and Magic are the clear 1-2-3 in the East. Chicago is good, but did they get good enough in the offseason?
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