Saturday, October 08, 2005

Offseason Overview: Chicago Bulls

This is why I waited to tackle the Bulls. It took forever, but they finally sorted out their big man situation, signing Tyson Chandler to a big contract and shipping Eddy Curry to New York for Mike Sweetney and Tim Thomas. The Bulls will once again have an incredibly young team and it will be interesting to see if they can return to the playoffs.

The Stud: Kirk Hinrich, G
Regular readers know that I’m a huge fan of Captain Kirk. I sung his praises before last season, spent a fourth round pick on him and it paid off nicely as he finished 33rd on the player rater. I’m expecting things to get even better this year. He started alongside Chris Duhon for much of the year last season and was often playing the 2 instead of his normal 1. This caused a drop in his assists from 6.8 in his rookie season to 6.4 last year. With Ben Gordon expected to occupy the starting SG role this season, expect Hinrich’s assist numbers to rebound. Besides his 40% shooting – which you can deal with from the PG position – there’s nothing to complain about. Look for 3.5 to 4 combined 3s and steals per game, top 10 assist numbers and above-average rebounding for a point guard. Expect another top 40 – and perhaps top 30 – finish.

The Support: Tyson Chandler, PF
More or less, he’s Marcus Camby, fragility included. He managed to play in 80 games last year, although it probably helped that his PT was limited to 27.4 mpg. With Curry gone and lots of money in Chandler’s bank account, the Bulls will be counting on even bigger things from him this season. He won’t score much – low double digits seems to be his upside – but that’s fine with us as long as he grabs 10 boards, blocks two shots and makes half his shots from the field. He basically did all of that last year, and if you prorate his numbers out to 34 mpg you end up with 12.0 rpg and 2.2 bpg. There’s not a fantasy owner in the world that won’t take those numbers. He did miss 47 games just two seasons ago, and for any player this young to have recurring back problems is worrisome. But he should be taken in the first half of your draft. Note that he will start the season with only PF eligibility.

The Supporting Support: Mike Sweetney, PF
Assuming Sweetney captures the starting PF gig, he could emerge as a sort of poor man’s Zach Randolph. (Well, you know, as long as Zach Randolph himself isn’t a poor man’s Zach Randolph again.) Sweetney has a very well-defined skill set so you know what you’ll be getting. He’ll shoot a high percentage – likely over 50% – he’ll be among the top rate-rebounders in the league and he’ll score enough to help you break even in that category. He won’t be of much help in the hustle categories which means you shouldn’t count on him as much more than a utility option.

The Sleeper: Darius Songaila, PF
If you look at Sweetney’s and Songaila’s numbers from last year side-by-side, it’s pretty hard to differentiate them.
Sweetney: 19.6 mpg, 8.4/5.4/0.6, 53.1% FG, 74.9% FT, 0.4 steals, 0.4 blocks
Songaila: 20.6 mpg, 7.5/4.3/1.4, 52.7 FG%, 84.7% FT, 0.6 steals, 0.2 blocks
Sweetney has the big advantage in rebounding which makes him the deserving starter at the 4, but we all know that fantasy basketball success if all about opportunity. Should Sweetney go down with an injury or be ineffective, Songaila could likely step in and offer similar production. This doesn’t mean he’s worth drafting, and with Malik Allen and Othella Harrington around he might not even get the chance, but Songaila has a pretty well-rounded game.

The Slacker: Ben Gordon, G
Exciting to watch? Check. Dynamite scorer? Check. One of the more amazing float shot artists around? Check. Overrated fantasy player this season? Check. Until Gordon shows that he’s more than a scorer he will likely be overvalued. Yes, he could approach – or even top – 2 3pg this year and as long as he does lock down the starting job he’s obviously worth drafting in all leagues. But Gordon is like a point guard without the assists and steals. Young players like him are capable of making huge leaps forward, but let someone else overpay for that possibility.

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