With the NBA season right around the corner, newly inducted Basketball Hall of Fame writer Sam Smith has awoken from his slumber to write not one, BUT TWO columns this week on Bulls.com. The first was a long-winded piece pumping up the much-maligned Bulls offseason, a piece that was thoroughly dismantled by Matt on this very site.
Sam's latest looks more forward and not backward, as he tries to answer 10 of the most pressing questions facing the Bulls this season. Obviously the biggest question surrounding the team is the health of Derrick Rose, and that's an issue that won't go away until we see him back and performing at the high level we've come to expect from the young superstar.
But there are plenty of other questions as well, although some of them are certainly tied to Rose. How the hell will they score? Who will surprise? Will there be any individual honors? Who will be the team's "anchor?" What about Tom Thibodeau's contract? Will Marquis Teague do...anything? What's the status of Luol Deng? (to be discussed separately)
I must say that I agree with Sam on several of his points. He predicts the Bulls will finish 47-35, which is about the amount I've pegged them for even after the debacle that was this offseason. He says the Bulls will try and play through Carlos Boozer more often, a strategy that does make sense with Rose out. He also thinks Taj Gibson will play close to 30 minutes a night, something that should happen considering the Bulls are hoping to make him a part of their long-term plans.
Naturally, Sam also writes a few things that just make me chuckle. He envisions Vladimir Radmanovic being the biggest surprise of the team and in the same paragraph, takes another shot at the departed Bench Mob. There's also the notion that Marco Belinelli could be a Sixth Man candidate, which I'd say is a bit far-fetched, although I like that signing.
And then we have the response to the "anchor" question I mentioned earlier:
Obviously, the veterans Deng, Joakim Noah and Boozer will be relied upon. But the team's most important player may be returnee Kirk Hinrich. The seven-year Bull bounced around with Washington and Atlanta the last two seasons amid injuries and, especially, little use in Atlanta. But at 31, he's hardly done. In fact, those who have worked out with him this summer say he's in as good shape and as motivated as any time in his career. He could produce a big comeback season. And the Bulls will need it. He's the only true point guard on the roster. Robinson is his backup, but isn't exactly an offensive organizer. It's why when the Bulls add someone perhaps a month into the season, I can see it being a point guard, maybe someone like free agents Jannero Pargo or Marko Jaric over a big man. Otherwise, they'll need to have Hinrich have his healthiest season. If the NBA still had a comeback player award, he could get it.
This probably should have been expected, because Sam writes about Kurt like a loving father writes about his son. I almost feel bad going back to the well of Hinrich bashing because we've long beaten that horse dead, but I can't help myself when I see people drool over a player who has been bad for several years going (and a player whose signing brought upon an unnecessary hard cap). I actually do expect Hinrich to bounce back a bit this season, but there's no reason to expect a "big comeback season" that would've been worthy of a comeback player award if it still existed. We've heard all that "best shape of his career" type of bullshit before (with Boozer last season for example), and it usually means nothing.
Furthermore, I really can't buy this notion of Hinrich being a "true point guard." When was the last time he played that position effectively? He can't defend quick point guards, and he really doesn't do all that much driving or distributing anymore. Sam says that Robinson isn't an "offensive organizer," but it was NateRob who had a higher assist rate and lower turnover rate last season. Hilariously, this talk of a true point guard comes right before the idea that the Bulls should possibly bring back Jannero Pargo to shore up the position. Yes, because Pargo is the epitome of an "offensive organizer."
And finally, Thibs' contract situation. We basically get no news on this front, other than a half-assed prediction that it will get done...at some point. It's ludicrous that this situation is still ongoing, but thus is the nature of the org.