Five Takeaways From the Chicago Bulls First Two Games

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Oct 28, 2015; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Pau Gasol (16) celebrates scoring with guard Jimmy Butler (21) during the first quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The frontcourt is loaded

Once Joakim Noah approached Fred Hoiberg about coming off the bench to play with Taj Gibson, there was a good feeling that last year’s issues may be gone. Hoiberg took Noah’s advice and started Nikola Mirotic instead, and despite Joe Johnson not remembering #44’s name after the game, it has worked well in the first two games.

The new lineup isn’t working well because everyone is scoring a bunch and getting every rebound. It’s actually the opposite. Guys are playing to each other’s strengths and using that to help one or two areas in their game.

Pau Gasol wasn’t able to score much against Cleveland. He only had two points. However, Gasol still had a remarkable six blocks, including one against LeBron James that will go down as one of the season’s top plays already. He got his offense back on track against Brooklyn where he scored 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting and had nine rebounds to go along with it. Mirotic went off against Cleveland and that may have caused Gasol’s poor shooting game, but either way, it looks like he’s back on track.

Nikola Mirotic’s shot is falling as good as anyone’s these past couple of days. Mirotic so far has shot 7-of-12 from behind the arc (58.3 percent); a big jump from his 31.6 percent mark last season. It’s only been two games and there’s not much hope that Mirotic leads the league in three-point percentage, but his shot has looked better than last year and he’s been able to catch and shoot more. Mirotic has been a rebound away from a double-double in both games as well.

Coming off the bench is a big change for Joakim Noah, but he was willing to sacrifice his role in a contract year. Noah is the definition of a ‘team player’ and so far it has worked out well for him. He has played as well as you can without scoring a basket. On offense, he’s been the passing big man we were use to seeing before last season’s struggles. He already has racked up six assists and it’s nice to see him take control when out there with the second unit and have the offense run through him.

He banged knees with Richard Jefferson in the season opener and they didn’t know if he’d be able to play the next night, but he played through it and had another good game.

Noah attempted his first shot of the season, but missed all three shots during the Bulls second game. He also missed two free throws in each game. Going from 30.6 minutes per game to less than 20 is a huge change, but so far, he’s been able to adapt. His nine rebounds in the season opener and six the next night is a great sign for Chicago that he could once again be the old Joakim Noah.

He’s giving the Bulls great production for the amount of minutes he’s playing and I doubt he stays under 20 minutes a night for long. Once Mirotic cools off, there will be more minutes for him.

The reason Noah thought going to the bench would work is because he plays well with Taj Gibson. Coming off of ankle surgery, there were questions about whether the Bulls should keep Gibson and how much of a role he would have. With an aging Gasol and a possible departure of Joakim Noah, I think Gibson is a key piece for the Bulls future. He looked great against Cleveland: five points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.

Gibson’s numbers went down against Brooklyn though, as he only had three points and a rebound, but he didn’t play poorly. Gibson runs the floor well and isn’t going to stuff the stat sheet. He is still a great defender and while he may not be useful in fantasy basketball, he does a lot of things that doesn’t show up on that stat sheet.

No one expected the new rotation to click this fast, but it has, and it has left rookie Bobby Portis as the odd man out. I was surprised that he didn’t see any playing time in a 15-point win against Brooklyn. However, there aren’t enough minutes to go around. When you have two guys — Gibson and Noah — who are seeing less than 20 minutes per game, after each seeing over 25 minutes per game last season, you know minutes are scarce.

Portis will get his time eventually, but he may have to wait for an injury or a bigger blowout to happen because right now, Chicago looks like they may have best front court in the NBA.

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