Chicago Bulls Fan Fridays: The Defense and Realistic Expectations


Every Friday here at Pippen Ain’t Easy, we’ll take the time to answer questions about the Chicago Bulls and the rest of the NBA overall. So, without further adieu, here’s the fourth edition of Fan Fridays here at PAE.

The Chicago Bulls are 2-3 during their eight-game preseason slate and riots have taken place in the middle of Madison Ave. in the heart of downtown Chicago.

OK, the latter is a complete lie, but the former is accurate. It’s been a preseason full of peaks and valleys for the Bulls with three games left before the real season begins. The Bulls are taking and making more three-pointers, but their defense has more holes than Camp Green Lake. (If you have read the book or seen the Disney movie Holes, you’re seriously missing out.)

ALSO AT PIPPEN AIN’T EASY: Would The Bulls Be Better Off Trading Taj Gibson?

If you’re new to this, then welcome aboard! If you’re not, then you exactly how this goes down here at Pippen Ain’t Easy on Fridays. You ask questions on our social media platforms and we answer them. It’s that simple. Don’t have Facebook? Find us on Twitter! Don’t have either? Call us! (Actually, don’t. I don’t think our staff wants their numbers all over the web.)

So far in the first three weeks, we’ve discussed everything from NBA 2K15 (I personally have yet to play 2K16, but I heard it’s not exactly terrible. It’s really good.) to the new systems for the Bulls this season.

With out any further delay, here’s the fourth installment of “Fan Fridays”.

Question from Twitter user @jessealcantar22: After what you’ve seen so far, what rotation would you go with for the regular season?

This question is simple: start Jimmy Butler at all five positions.

Just kidding, but seriously … do it, Fred. DO IT.

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In all seriousness, from the first five games, there’s some intriguing stories. Doug McDermott is looking more and more like a legit player in the league, Nikola Mirotic looks more comfortable with the NBA game, and the offense is free and wide-open for the Bulls to execute with proper spacing.

For starters (literally), I’m beginning to think more and more that the starting five on Opening Night will be E’Twaun Moore (if Derrick Rose can’t go), Jimmy Butler, Tony Snell, Nikola Mirotic and Pau Gasol.

I know McDermott seems like the easy choice to take Mike Dunleavy‘s starting spot with his hot shooting right now, but Fred Hoiberg has already expressed his excitement towards McDermott bringing a scoring pop off the bench. I’m not saying he can’t be a starter (because I think he can be at some point), but McDermott being a wing threat off the bench seems like a legitimate weapon.

Based off that, Hoiberg rolling Joakim Noah and Doug McDermott off the bench seems promising and the most likely. Gasol’s the better offensive option, while Noah (and Taj Gibson) can bring the defensive aspect and hustle off the bench. It’s tough to put a complete rotation because, oh yeah … there’s Bobby Portis. The Bulls have 11 guys (counting Rose and Dunleavy) that can log good minutes this season. That’s not even counting Kirk Hinrich and Cameron Bairstow.

I’d say in the early going, everyone is going to see minutes (and I mean everyone). Hoiberg, along with the front office, want minutes trimmed and guys fresh for the playoff push. Don’t be surprised if you see a ton of different combinations in the early months for the Bulls.

(I hope this answers your other question too, Jesse.)

Question from Twitter user @MiroGOAT: Do you think Jim Boylen can point our defense in the right direction?

OK, you win the Twitter Handle of the Day award. That needs a trophy emoji next to it.

As for the Bulls defense, it’s not great right now. Like, at all.

In five games, they’ve given up over 109 points per game on average, and teams are beating the Bulls to the punch too often right now. Before I get hammered with the “It’s just preseason, Mike!” comments, let me explain.

The Bulls are learning two systems right now. (I highly suggest this video by Coach Nick of BBALLBREAKDOWN on the Bulls offense.) It’s going to take some time for the Bulls to get these systems down. That’s what the other 82 games with meaning are for. Boylen has won three NBA titles for two different organizations (Houston and San Antonio) and is one of the most respected assistant coaches in the game right now. He knows what he’s getting into and what he’s doing.

The defense that turned LeBron James and the Miami Heat into “LeBron vs. a 11-man rotation” during the 2014 NBA Finals? Boylen helped design that defense.

The Bulls won’t be an elite-level defense in year one. It will take time, practice and patience from fans. This isn’t a defensive team anymore. This team’s identity will come from the offensive end.

Question from Twitter user @russellwilliam4: What are realistic expectations for the Bulls this year? Is the ECF or NBA finals in the immediate future?

Outside of Derrick Rose, this might be the two most-asked questions from Bulls fans (that I’ve seen).

I (sort of) answered these questions a couple weeks ago, and I said that the Bulls aren’t ready yet to take down a fully-healthy Cleveland roster.

To really answer these questions, let’s start with the first one: What are realistic expectations for the Bulls? Realistic expectations aren’t 60 wins and a seventh NBA title for the franchise. I know that’s not what many what to hear, but it’s not. A rookie head coach with an older roster that’s currently learning two new systems? It’s not completely impossible, but it’s not likely. The 2014-15 Golden State Warriors are an extreme outlier.

The Bulls went 50-32 last season with injuries and turmoil off the floor. I’d say that’s realistic for the Bulls this year. Derrick Rose is already injured and the timetable of his return is still up in the air and Mike Dunleavy didn’t sound too confident that he was coming back in 8-10 weeks after back surgery. The Bulls have some youth that can contribute, but the Eastern Conference has improved as a whole.

As for making the Eastern Conference Finals or the NBA Finals, I’ve said many times that the ECF is a best-case scenario for the Bulls. Once again, they’re not equipped to beat a full-strength Cleveland roster yet. Miami has improved and can be really dangerous if they’re healthy. Milwaukee can give the Bulls fits with their length, and there’s always Atlanta, Toronto and Washington as well. It’s going to be a fun NBA season.

And to answer a question for the Cubs fans in the Pippen Ain’t Easy community, I have the Mets over the Cubs in six games. I’m sorry, but the Mets have Juan Uribe (even though he’s injured). That’s good enough for me, a depressed White Sox fan.

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