Only 5 players remain from the 2009-2010 Chicago Bulls roster: Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson and James Johnson. Core role players like Kirk Hinrich and Brad Miller have been replaced with fresh faces. The NBA preseason has just started and only time will tell how the new players will gel with those few left from last year. With the talent added to an already solid core, this team should win the Central Division and challenge in the Eastern Conference. The new players added to the Miami Heat will dominate headlines as the season nears tip-off but these new Bulls will make the Eastern Conference race interesting.
Carlos Boozer joins the Bulls after spending his last 6 seasons in Utah. His career averages of 17.2 PPG and 10.2 RPG make him the low post presence the Bulls have been waiting for since Elton Brand was traded to the Clippers. Boozer has had several injury plagued seasons and is starting this one the same way as he’ll miss about 8 weeks while his broken hand heals. If healthy, he will be instrumental in the Bulls contending for an Eastern Conference championship as he’ll help balance a Chicago team that has been primarily a jump shooting team over the last several years.
Ronnie Brewer is the projected starting shooting guard and, at 6’7″, will add height and athleticism to a position mostly filled by smaller guards like Gordon and Hinrich in recent years. John Salmons filled this need briefly over the last 2 years but ended up on the bench, and eventually with the Buck, due to early season struggles. Brewer hasn’t played a preseason game yet this year as he continues recovering from a sore hamstring which was injured last year. He has career averages of 10 points per game along with 1.5 steals per game. Tom Thibodeau’s defensive expertize should assist in Brewer’s continual defensive improvement this year.
The Bulls 3 point specialist, Kyle Korver, has started strong this preseason. Last year he set an NBA record for 3 point percentage hitting 53.6% of them. This bodes well for a Bulls team with slashers who can drive and kick the ball to him and who also have good passing big men like Boozer and Noah. Korver will add an above average shooting presence that has been missing since Ben Gordon departed for Detroit and may get into the starting lineup if Brewer struggles or doesn’t recover as well as expected from his injury.
This year’s backup point guard, C.J. Watson, arrives in Chicago after 3 years as a backup with the Golden State Warriors. He doesn’t project to receive a lot of playing time as Derrick Rose averaged close to 37 minutes per game last year, second most on the team. Watson is a capable, but not overly talented point guard who should be able to spell Rose for 10-15 minutes a game or if he gets into foul trouble. In this regard, the Bulls will miss Hinrich who was traded to the Wizards for salary cap space in the off-season. He was a reliable combo guard who could shoot, pass and guard bigger defenders.
Omer Asik, out of Turkey, was drafted by Portland in 2008 and traded immediately to the Bulls. He has spent the last couple years continuing to develop by playing in the Euroleague and expects to make the Bull’s roster this year. He is a big body at 7 foot, 255 pounds and, with Boozer out, has seen some time along side Noah in the starting lineup this preseason. He is a solid shot blocker who could help fill the lane and guard big centers better than the lighter, faster Noah.
A career journeyman, Keith Bogans is a guard/forward who could struggle to find playing time on a roster already packed with other players at the position like Brewer, Korver, Deng and James Johnson. He does bring experience to a younger team so will provide some value, even in limited playing time.
Kurt Thomas rounds out the notable newbies to the Bulls 10-11 roster. At one time in his career he was a solid center playing 30-35 minutes per game but is now a bottom of the roster reserve. Bull’s management expects him to provide veteran experience to young front court similar to Brad Miler’s contribution over the last few years. He’ll contribute more at the start of the season given Boozer’s hand injury but should see fewer minutes when Boozer returns as Carlos, Joakim and Omer expect to receive more playing time.
The Bull’s 2010-2011 roster is vastly different from last year’s team. This is mostly due to expiring contracts from this past offseason as the Bulls took a run at LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh. Even though the offseason didn’t net any of the three most talented players available, the Bulls have added solid pieces that should help them contend in the Eastern Conference this year.