The season is still two months away, but most of the rosters are set, barring the requisite Michael Jordan comeback rumor (just kidding, but only a little). We have an idea where our team stands, but we can't really know unless we discuss everyone else. In that spirit, I'm going to throw up a "competition discussion" thread for each of the other 29 teams over the next month or so. We'll go in alphabetical order from A to Z. Today's team: Chicago.
Last year's record: 49-33
Playoffs: Beat Miami 4-0, lost to Detroit 4-2.
In: Joe Smith (free agency), Joakim Noah (draft), Aaron Gray (draft), JamesOn Curry (draft)
Out: P.J. Brown (free agency), Malik Allen (free agency), Michael Sweetney (free agency)
Projected Starting Lineup: Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Joe Smith, Ben Wallace.
Bench (in no particular order): Chris Duhon, JamesOn Curry, Thabo Sefolosha, Adrian Griffin, Andres Nocioni, Tyrus Thomas, Viktor Khryapa, Joakim Noah, Aaron Gray.
So what do we think? Is this team simply doomed to be very good, but not great? Do they have enough scoring? Did it make sense to re-sign Andres Nocioni and draft Joakim Noah when it didn't solve the dreaded "low-post scorer" question? Can Ben Gordon and Luol Deng take another step forward?
Personally, this is the best team in the East, in the regular season. I'm really not all that concerned about the lack of a "low-post scorer" (and I put that in quotes for a reason). Yes, they will have nights where the jumpers aren't falling and they can't score a point, but more often than not, they'll outwork teams with their defense and motion offense. I'm not in love with the Joe Smith signing, but I love Joakim Noah on this team. He probably should have been the fourth or fifth pick in the draft, and he somehow fell to a club that won't overextend him. Noah seems destined to be a great role player, and not a superstar, but if he went somewhere like Seattle, a lot would have been thrust upon him right away. Here, he can focus on rebounding, passing, playing defense, and providing scoring in a pinch, and I think it's a role suited for him. Combine that with Tyrus Thomas, who showed some real signs last season, and I don't know who will score against the Bulls' reserve front line.
What'll cripple them from winning in the playoffs, however, is that Nocioni re-signing. It simply makes no sense to pay a backup small forward 7.5 million dollars annually, especially one as overrated as Nocioni. He's a very good catch-and-shoot guy, and he has a knack for making big plays, but he dribbles too much and roams defensively, thereby overextending the rest of the defense. Playing Nocioni at power forward makes little sense as well, not only because he can't rebound, but because it'll mean less minutes for the far more productive Thomas. Down the line, the Bulls will have salary cap issues after re-signing Deng and Gordon, and it'll be difficult to acquire that final piece, thanks to the Nocioni contract.
But for this year, they're the best in the East. They should have been last year, but got unlucky in close games and also had that slow start. For now, I'll say 56-26 and an Eastern Conference Finals loss.