Thursday, July 06, 2006

Don't Fear the Bulls

Ben Wallace left the Pistons to join the Chicago Bulls.

So what? (insider)

Oh, don't get me wrong, I love the fact that the Piston's chemistry is gone and that they had to replace Ben Wallace with Nazr Mohammed. The Piston's 'reign' has ended. Wallace worked perfectly there because he didn't need the ball on offense and played great off the ball defense. A guy like Wallace makes everyone elses defensive job easier. Chauncy Billups and Rip Hamilton are allowed to play close, tough perimiter defense because they know if their guy drives, Wallace will alter the shot. This really disrupts the Pistons; now they have to rely on Rasheed Wallace to A) play the Ben Wallace role and B) stay motivated without a motor like Benny Wallace pushing everyone. I'm not saying Rasheed can't, but he's not exactly a guy you want to depend on.

Now to the Bulls. I don't think they'll be as good as some people think. They were 41-41 last year, the 7th seed in the playoffs. How much better does Ben Wallace make them? Does signing Big Ben equal 5 more wins? 6? 9? Are the Bulls now a 50 win team? More than that?

The Bulls played the Heat really well in the first round last year, but their problem wasn't defense. It was offense. The Bulls have a lot of good perimeter players; Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich and Chris Duhon. Even their big men, like Andres Nocioni, shoots tres. When the jumpshots were falling the Bulls could hang with anyone. They could get out on the break and push the ball. But when the playoffs started and the Heat slowed the pace down, they were sunk. The Bulls had no inside offensive presence and they were 25th in free throw attempts last year (meaning, they didn't get easy points and didn't make the opposing team work on defense or get them in foul trouble).

So signing a 32 year old undersized center who plays no offense and makes a free throw about once a week to a 4 year 60 million dollar deal isn't exactly a cure for their woes. I'm not saying Wallace isn't a good signing or won't help the team. The Bulls upgraded their defense significantly while also hurting a division rival- that is good. Wallace is going to have a Sam Cassell like effect on that locker room; they are going to believe they can contend. And with Wallace, Nocioni, newly acquired PJ Brown and lottery pick Tyrus Thomas, the Bulls defense will be tough as nails (hell, even revolving door Ben Gordon might be shamed into playing some defense).

All I'm saying is this: the Bulls upgraded a strength (defense) without addressing their weakness (inside game/consistent offensive scoring/free throw attempts). Sure, they'll be better, but how much?

(of course, if they trade for KG, this is all moot)

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