Things We Learned Against The Bulls

Coming into Toronto, the Chicago Bulls had won 6 in a row, including the last 2 games by an average of 25 points, they have the third best record in the East, and have one of the best defenses in the league, anchored by one of the league’s premier defensive big man. They are also the best rebounding team in the league. Oh, and they not only have on of the best PGs in the league, in Derrick Rose, but one of the best players.

The Raptors, on the other hand, are 3-7 in their last ten, having given up 110.2 ppg in those ten games, stopping only Oklahoma from beating their season ppg average, and have been outrebounded by their opponents since Reggie Evans was injured. And while they are in the top ten in scoring, they are actually a pretty mediocre offensive team that doesn’t have much of an ability to create for themselves, are below average passing the ball, and are near the bottom in three point shooting. Oh, and they’re currently missing their two best offensive players, in Calderon and Bargnani.

So on the surface, things looked pretty bad for the Raptors. And I haven’t mentioned that they were trotting out the youngest starting lineup in Raptor history, at an average age of 22 years, with Weems, at 24, being the senior of the group. Conversely, Derrick Rose, at 22 years, is the only Bull starter UNDER the age of Weems’ 24 years, Boozer is 29 and Keith Bogans in 30. Of the Raptors starters, only Amir Johnson has played more seasons than the least experienced Bulls starter, Rose. And Rose has played nearly twice as many minutes as Amir has.

Am I starting to paint you a clear enough picture?

So this game pretty much turned out as expected. Fortunately, even in bad losses, there are things that can be learned. And they are…

1. Jerryd Bayless is NOT a PG (and neither is Leandro Barbosa, for that matter). Looking at the stats, you might think that Bayless had a good game. He scored 20 points, on 9-15 shooting, had only 1 turnover, and held Derrick Rose 18 points BELOW his seasonal average of 24.7 ppg. This would be great if he also did what a PG is supposed to do.

Unfortunately, without the much maligned Jose Calderon available, Bayless was expected to run the offense. And he can’t do that. Chicago plays great defense, but it certainly didn’t help that Bayless doesn’t have a clue of how to run and offense and deliver the ball where it’s supposed to go. If this game doesn’t underline why I have always said that Calderon should be starting, I don’t know what will.

The big problem with trying to convert a SG into a PG is that running and offense and making your teammates better is mostly instinctual. It takes YEARS of playing that position to understand what needs to be done. It’s why I was so against drafting Avery Bradley at 13 in the last draft. He’s a talented players, but I doubt he’ll ever be a PG.

This game showed that, at this point, anyway, Bayless is a good player, but should never start.

2. Chicago is a very, very good team. This is the first game I’ve watched of them play since Boozer returned from injury and it reinforced why he is so important to this team. Taj Gibson is a good, young big man, but he’s not the low post threat that Boozer is, and is not the veteran Boozer is. Boozer’s in his 9th season, has played in 4 playoff series, including a trip to the Conference Finals, and has even played in 2 All Star games. He’s not a great defender, but he at least knows what to do on that end of the court, even if he’s not the most willing.

The two main reasons the Bulls are so good: Derrick Rose and their defense. Despite only scoring 6 points, Rose killed the Raptors with his playmaking. And the Bulls play such good defense, even if Bargnani and Calderon had played, the Raptors would still have had trouble scoring.

Chicago has an easy schedule ahead, which is a good thing because it appears Joakim Noah will be getting surgery on his injured hand and be out for a while. Hopefully, for Chicago, it’s not too long.

3. Ed Davis and Amir Johnson form a formidable defensive front line, but neither one of them should ever be asked to be the primary scorer. Without Bargnani, I was hoping to see what I feel is a more balanced front line, but early foul trouble from Amir killed that chance, and he only ended up playing 20 minutes. Joey Dorsey had a career night, in his place, but the problem with Dorsey is that, while he’s an excellent rebounder, good shot blocker and pretty good low post scorer, he’s not really much of a defender. He’s not Bargnani-bad, but there’s certainly a reason he doesn’t play a lot of minutes. And this is a problem I’ve noticed long before the game against Chicago.

Now, both Davis and Amir can be very effective and efficient scorers, but score mostly off offensive rebounds and passes from teammates. Unfortunately against the best rebounding team in the NBA, there’s not going to be a lot of second chance points, and without a true PG, there aren’t going to be many good passes inside.

On the plus side, Davis got his first ever double double, but did learn that he has to get a lot stronger to be able to defend guys like Boozer in the post.

13 thoughts on “Things We Learned Against The Bulls

  1. Pingback: Toronto Raptors Morning Coffee Dec 16 | Raptors Republic | ESPN TrueHoop's Toronto Raptors Blog

  2. long term calderon is not the answer, i hope you realize that. His defence is a liability that would require all the other players to be lock-down defenders. We should concentrate on drafting a true pg this summer but i’m willing to give bayless a chance to improve, instead of bringing calderon back and ruining are lottery chances.

    I don’t know about you, but even though the offense was lacking i liked what i saw defensively from the starting 5. Are problem isn’t just bayless, we would have come out of there in better shape with a little more talent at the 2 and 3.

    • pran,

      I’ve never said Calderon is the long term answer, and actually said the opposite on many occasions. He is, however, the best person for the job right now. And his defense is much improved this year, although he’s still not a good defender. I don’t think you’d necessarily need lockdown defenders at every other position, but you’d have to be a good defensive team. Either way, I agree that they need to upgrade their PG position. As for the draft, I think they need to draft the best player available, regardless of position.

      I agree about the defense. It wasn’t great, but it was better.

  3. “And his defense is much improved this year, although he’s still not a good defender.”

    His defense was improved for a time, but ever since he’s settled back into the starting role, it’s gone from bad to worse.

  4. tim, dont you think keeping old caldy would hurt our chances of improving through the draft, bargnani too, they would help us win a few more games simply b/c they are gifted offensively (not dominant, and to the extent of the better players in the league mind you)they are the definition of mediocre, and will keep us that way.

    • Bargnani really isn’t going to win many games for the Raptors, despite his offense, because he gives so much away on the other end. Unless he’s scoring 26+ points, he’s generally a determent. Besides, any trade involving Bargnani should net back some talent, or else why do it?

      As for Calderon, I’d rather have him as the main PG for the Raptors than Bayless, right now. Players can’t develop if they can’t get the ball where they need to to score.

      Besides, the Raptors simply lack the talent to win more than 30 games, so it’s not as if they need to do something in order to get a high draft pick. They just need to play the players the have.

  5. i would argue that the only player’s that need to develop are 1. davis and 2. bayless himself and maybe amir, but i think he’s reached his peak. The rest frankly don’t have enough talent or aptitude to handle the nba and they shouldn’t be part of our future, and that includes demar.

    • Wow, I think you’re giving up WAY too early on a lot of players. Amir is 23 years old, and only last year did he really get consistent minutes. He’s improved quite a bit just from last season, so to say he’s reached his peaked is rather premature.

      DeRozan is 21 and barely two years out of high school. He’s averaging 12 ppg on .457 shooting while showing an above average ability to get to the line. He needs to improve his jumper, but a jumper is probably the easiest skill to learn in basketball. He’s certainly shown improvement over last year.

      Weems is frustratingly inconsistent, but this is basically his 2nd season. And has improved vastly over last season. I don’t think he’s a future starter, but I don’t think Bayless is, either.

      Speaking of Bayless, I think a lot of fans are overvaluing him. He’s aggressive, a good defender and very confident. But he constantly make poor decisions, shoots way too much and has shown very little ability to run an offense. Not good attributes for a point guard to have. Still, I think he’s got a possible good future as a third guard. Then again, Chauncey Billups looked like a bust after 4 years. I doubt that’s his future, but you never know.

      The point is that it’s to early to write anyone off, especially guys that have barely been in the league.

  6. okay fair enough, derozan in my opinion will never be a star, there is just too many little things he consistently never does, but I agree he can become adequate,not all star caliber but it was definitely hasty to suggest trading him. Amir has beeen in the league for five years, has started for the pistons, the man was playing for a contract last year and got it, not for his talent but for his hustle and athleticism, has shown no steps toward improvement other than his jumper might be a tad less ugly, so i would say he has peaked. weems is fundamentally sound (he spent quite a while in college) but stupid (that might be the most flattering term i can use for this kid right now). Him and amir (and derozan possibly, the jury’s still out on him) are definitely bench players that can stay, but are they really part of the core? i wouldn’t say so. And bayless has been playing well, but i see a little too much of the other jarret(jack) in him, but he could be useful if we pick up a point forward. The point is: chances are you can’t get something for nothing, a price needs to be paid in order to find talent, you can’t just pull these weems/amir/bayless/derozan(lets face it he was a gamble) deals and expect the product to be as good as the other teams that have paid a price and made big sacrifices for proven talent. (and that includes teams that became good through the draft). I think you could do this once you have established a core of good players but right now getting proven (proven includes college players) talent should be a priority.

    • Just because a player is never going to be a star doesn’t mean you shouldn’t develop him, nor does it mean he can’t be a valuable player.

      Amir never played more than 15 mpg before he got to Toronto. And I’m pretty sure he’s not the type of player that plays for a contract. I haven’t noticed him play any less hard this year than last. And this year he’s improved over last season. I can see him becoming a 15-10 player down the line if he continues his development. Hard to say he’s reached his ceiling if he can improve to that.

      Weems is young and still raw. You’re too impatient with young players. Young players make mistakes. Often over and over again. The young player who plays smart is the exception, not the rule.

  7. @ Pran:

    Late reply but I think this needs saying.

    “The point is: chances are you can’t get something for nothing, a price needs to be paid in order to find talent, you can’t just pull these weems/amir/bayless/derozan(lets face it he was a gamble) deals and expect the product to be as good as the other teams that have paid a price and made big sacrifices for proven talent. (and that includes teams that became good through the draft).”

    Uh, what teams have made big sacrifices for proven talent? Let’s see now. Cleveland lucked into LBJ by being bad in the correct year. Orlando lucked into Howard by being bad in the correct year. San Antonio lucked into Tim Duncan by being bad in the correct year. LA lucked into Kobe Bryant, pure and simple. You make it sound like teams routinely acquire great young talent by trading away good players. This simply isn’t true. If someone is already proven in the league, you try to lock them up. Sometimes, they decide to leave, but this doesn’t mean the receiving team made any “big sacrifices.”

    “I think you could do this once you have established a core of good players but right now getting proven (proven includes college players) talent should be a priority.”

    Did you actually put proven and college player together in the same sentence? By definition, any college or high school player is NOT proven until they prove themselves in the NBA. Otherwise, Adam Morrison is “proven”. Even Bayless “proved” himself in college.

  8. One more note @ Pran: your last point (“right now getting proven […] talent should be a priority”) completely conflicts with your first point (“chances are you can’t get something for nothing, a price needs to be paid in order to find talent”). Since our players are obviously unproven, how do you propose we get proven players? By trading nothing for something?

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