[Thanks to PaddyFairfiew for today's game preview. Making this the gamethread too. -yfbb]
After a tough loss Friday, the Bulls have a chance to bounce back and stick it to a former coach in a Sunday night game against the up-and-coming Orlando Magic.
There were some mutterings late last season about the Magic being a possible next-stop for Thibodeau, but instead they've elected for the pattented Skiles Bump. He has history with the franchise, but it's also an indication of where they're at: promising young team in need of some fundamentals/discipline as they try and find out what they've really got. (A-Drain is on the bench, too; hear Skiles talk about the similarities between the Baby Bulls and Mini-Magic here)
That doesn't mean they should be taken lightly. They've started the season taking two tough clubs to the wire, and though they lost both games, it took a John Wall buzzer-beater and some Russell Westbrook heroics (in a double-OT heartbreaker) to do it. They've got a couple athletic freaks, and Victor Oladipo is coming off a triple-double. So don't count on an easy W.
Let's look at the matchups:
PG: Derrick Rose vs. Elfrid Payton. Oh, the humanity. Nowhere outside of Saturday morning cartoons (this looks about right) can you find two hairdos of this magnitude squaring off. As for actual basketball, it should be more one-sided. Payton is a decent distributor trying to crack double-digit scoring this season (via Orlando Pinstriped Post), and he can't really shoot, especially FT's (55% last season). Speaking of shooting, we're all hoping Rose has turned the corner with his shot selection, although given his comments about double vision, it's possible he just can't see the rim from beyond 8 feet. I say good - give him an eye patch and let him play out the year looking like the world's most surprised pirate. Edge Bulls.
SG: Jimmy Butler vs. Victor Oladipo. Oladipo is one of the most promising two-guards in the game; Jimmy Buckets is one of the best players in basketball. It's a great matchup, as both guys can score, distribute, rebound and defend. Can't wait, but there's no doubt it's Edge Bulls.
PF: Tony Snell vs. Evan Fournier. Snell recently had his fourth-year option picked up by the team, and I don't know why they wouldn't - he's cheap, and his February scoring outburst shows he is at least capable of conquering his jitters and contributing offensively. Plus his length is a huge bonus in a small-ball league, and it's probably part of the reason our Gasol/Miro lineups haven't been awful defensively (and may be just fine in a practically Post Monster-less NBA world). Fournier is a French shooting specialist, which is annoying, so I'll be a homer and say Edge Bulls.
PF: Miro the Hero vs. Tobias Harris. It really is wild to me that this is what the "power" forward world looks like in 2015. But the four-out strategy does make for exciting ball (remember how much you hated those "purists'" Spurs teams of Duncan's early prime?) and you have to think having a blue-collar guy like Harris, who he coached in Mikwaukee, helped Skiles get excited about the Orlando job. But Miro's been on fire, and the Bulls' best player. Edge Bulls.
C: Pau Gasol vs. Nikola Vucevic. The other Niko has predictably been improving defensively under Skiles, and he's a double-double machine. Pau, on the other hand, hasn't looked like he's entirely comfortable in the new offense, and his pick and roll defense is as atrocious as ever. I don't doubt that he'll find the offense, but I wonder if Noah wouldn't be a better bet since the bench unit has been so unwatchable offensively. Still, Gasol/Miro has been the Bulls best unit. Because of depth and previous All-Star status, it's Edge Bulls again. But don't kid yourself - Edge Bulls at all five starting spots does not make this a lock.
Bench: hoping for the best as far as the backcourt is concerned, but Aaron Brooks may be the one guy CJ Watson is big enough to lock down. Dougie's made some shots and Kirk has two DNPs, so that's two improvements over last year. For the Magic, Hezonja's a streaky shooter and a defensive liability. Aaron Gordon is a complete athletic freak. Lot of fun guys to watch tonight, and Gibson/Gordon is intriguing. Looking forward to this game.
Alright, that's it. Here's hoping we defend home court and get back to our winning ways. See red!!