2008-09 Chicago Bulls Preview

(Sports Network) - The Derrick Rose era is about to begin in Chicago.

The Bulls selected the Windy City native with the No. 1 overall selection in the 2008 NBA Draft and the point guard will team with new head coach Vinny Del Negro as the faces of the franchise.

Del Negro, who played 12 NBA seasons, was an interesting choice as the team's new mentor since he has never coached at any level before. However, the North Carolina State product has always been regarded as having a high basketball IQ and he will have a number of experienced assistant coaches to lean on, including the highly-regarded Del Harris.

Del Negro inherits a roster still getting to know each other after a massive three-team trade deadline deal between the Bulls, Cleveland and Seattle last season. Chicago sent the declining Ben Wallace and Joe Smith to the Cavs while the Bulls took back Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden, Cedric Simmons and Shannon Brown.

In remains to be seen just what Del Negro envisions for the Bulls. Before he was fired early last season, former coach Scott Skiles preached defense and had an offense revolving around his guards and wingman Luol Deng. But, it doesn't look like Chicago has enough hard-nosed defenders to go back to that style.

However, with Kirk Hinrich, Hughes, Deng, Rose and Ben Gordon, the new coach has plenty of offensive options and may want to preach an up-tempo game plan.

"We have a lot of work to do," Del Negro said on a recent conference call. "We have a lot of young players, we're trying to incorporate our rookie point guard. But guys have come in here with a great focus, great energy, and they've grasped things well.

"We have a lot of work to do, but I expect us to play physical and aggressive, to be unselfish offensively, and physical and aggressively defensively, and continue to build. We'll continue to get better and find ways to win."

2007-08 Record: 33-49

ADDITIONS: Omer Asik (C) - Trade with Portland; Elton Brown (F/C) - Free Agent; Roger Powell (F) - Free Agent

SUBTRACTIONS: Shannon Brown (G) - Signed with Charlotte; JamesOn Curry (G) - Waived; Chris Duhon (G) - Signed with New York.

RE-SIGNINGS: Luol Deng (F); Ben Gordon (G).

2008 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (1) Derrick Rose (G, Memphis); 2. (39) Sonny Weems (G, Arkansas) - Traded to Denver.


PG- Kirk Hinrich SG- Larry Hughes SF- Luol Deng PF- Drew Gooden C- Joakim Noah

KEY RESERVES: Ben Gordon (G); Derrick Rose (G) Thabo Sefolosha (G); Tyrus Thomas (F); Andres Nocioni (F)

FRONTCOURT: The versatile Deng, who signed a long-term contract extension in the offseason, is one of the most underrated players in the NBA and is solid at both ends of the floor but did slip a bit last season. Deng's numbers went from 18.8 points per game to 17.0 and his rebounds went from 7.1 per game to 6.3 but it was a bad year all around in Chicago and the lack of energy around the United Center probably affected everybody, including Deng.

Gooden was a nice pickup and is an excellent rebounder with nice offensive skills. He is quick and agile for a player of his size and remains a tough defender and is capable of scoring inside or from within 15-feet, making him difficult to defend. Gooden's work ethic has been questioned at times but his offensive consistency and mid-range jumper has improved over the years.

Joakim Noah plays with great energy and has the potential to be an elite shot blocker but has virtually no low post skills. His wingspan and athletic ability enable him to wreak havoc at times and he loves to run the floor but to be an upper echelon player at the NBA level, Noah must polish his offensive skills and he has never shown the aptitude to do so.

BACKCOURT: Hinrich has been solid at the point but will have to become more of a two-way guard to make room for Rose. The expectations for Rose are off the charts and more than a few have called him a 6-foot-3 version of LeBron James. The Memphis product certainly has an impressive physique for his age with top- tier quickness and jumping ability but the lacks a consistent jumper and that may make it much harder to drive.

"He has all the physical capabilities, but now it's just the mental side of understanding the game," Dallas Mavericks star point guard Jason Kidd recently told the Chicago Tribune. "There's no comparison to college. People can talk about it. But you have to go through it.

"(Deron) Williams and (Chris) Paul picked it up pretty fast. But you have to have talented teammates and understand this doesn't happen overnight. You're going to have some good nights, and there are going to be some nights you kick the ball into the stands. You have to understand how to let that go because there are so many games to be played."

Hinrich is a solid ball-handler that can stick the jumper but will have trouble with quicker guards at the defensive end.

Hughes has never lived up to his skill level after coming to the league as a teenager out of St. Louis. That said, he has developed into a solid NBA player. The lack on a consistent jump shot has hampered Hughes from being a consistent scorer on a nightly basis but his size and quickness give him the ability to be a solid defender.

BENCH: The Bulls will be able to sport impressive depth in the backcourt and on the wings. The sharp-shooting Gordon and Rose will give Del Negro a ton of offense firepower off the bench, while Thabo Sefolosha has the ability to be a shutdown defender and Andres Nocioni is solid if unspectacular.

Gordon, who re-signed a one-year qualifying offer as a restricted free agent in the offseason, is almost like a Vinnie "Microwave" Johnson clone, in that he can heat up in a moment and take over a game when his stroke is on. But, if the jumper is not there, Gordon really isn't going to help you in any other areas.

Nocioni was the only Chicago player to play in all 82 games last season, averaging 13.2 points and 4.2 rebounds.

Up front is a different story as Tyrus Thomas has been a huge disappointment on both ends of the floor since arriving as a top-five pick from LSU.

OUTLOOK: On paper the Bulls look like an upper echelon team but they are coming off a wildly disappointing season and just 33 wins.

It will not be tough for Del Negro not to improve on that but expecting a first year coach with no previous experience to hit the ground running is a bit of a stretch.

Growing pains will likely hamper both Del Negro and Rose so expect a nice solid improvement but no postseason in 2008-09 for the Bulls.

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