Chicago Bulls 2008-09 Fantasy Preview

Luol Deng is the only player whose role seems defined on a Chicago team that is in a state of transition.

Luol Deng is the only player whose role seems defined on a Chicago team that is in a state of transition.

All previews follow the same format, I’ll be going in depth only on the players worth owning in a standard 12-team league, followed by players who you might consider as injury handcuffs/deep sleepers. As always, it starts with the most valuable player on the team:

Luol Deng (SF)

Helps: Points, Rebounds, Steals

Although he did not take the giant leap forward many expected, Deng’s 2007-08 season was not as mediocre as it seemed. He missed 19 games with back and Achilles injuries, causing a significant drop in his overall minutes, but his per minute numbers were nearly identical to the previous season.

The injuries along with Chicago’s wildly inconsistent season wreaked havoc on Deng’s value.  There are further questions to be answered at every position, but Deng’s situation makes him the safest choice on the Bulls.

Regardless of how the remainder of the Bulls’ roster may be altered before the start of the season, Deng will log 35 to 40 minutes per night. He does not dominate any one category, but is a solid scorer and rebounder, a career .480 shooter from the floor and provides a modest amount of steals.

Deng has improved to become a 77% free-throw shooter and keeps his turnovers low. He doesn’t hurt you anywhere and compared to his other high-profile teammates, his role on the team is the most secure.

Where to take him: In the sixth round, which could be a steal. If Ben Gordon gets traded, Deng could score 20 points per game as Chicago’s No. 1 option.

Kirk Hinrich (PG)

Helps: Assists, Steals, FT%, 3-pointers

Hurts: FG%

Another Bulls starter whose value is in flux, Hinrich took a massive step backwards last season after a superb 2006-07 campaign. He turned in his worst performance since his rookie season, managing just 11.6 points, 6.0 assists and 1.3 3-pointers per game while shooting a paltry .414 from the floor.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Chicago drafted point guard Derrick Rose with the top overall pick, which may eat into Hinrich’s already declining minutes. He played a career-low 31.7 minutes per game last season.

What we do know about Hinrich is that his 45 percent shooting two years ago was a fluke. He is more of a 41 percent shooter. And no matter how many minutes he plays, he gives you assists, steals and a good number of 3-pointers.

Based on those categories alone, he has solid value. But if Rose develops quickly or Hinrich struggles to start the season, Hinrich’s career may take another step back. At that point you would have to pray for a midseason trade to resuscitate the Great White Hope.

When to take him: In the mid-to-late sixth round, but whatever news trickles out of Bulls camp in the next six weeks could alter that dramatically. He could be a major steal.

Ben Gordon (SG)

Helps: 3-pointers, Points, FT%

Hurts: FG%

Make no mistake, a quick look at Gordon’s stats suggest he is easily the most valuable player on the Bulls. He’s a prolific scorer (18.6 per game), makes a ton of 3-pointers (2.0 per game) and has developed into an outstanding free-throw shooter (.908).

But there are a couple of issues for concern. Most important is that he wants out of Chicago, which means a) he will be playing for a team he hates or b) he will get traded to a team where he may no longer be the top perimeter option.

Also, Gordon was at his best last season while Deng was sidelined, averaging 19.8 points in December and 21.2 in January. As Deng slowly worked his way back into shape, Gordon fell off, posting 17.7 points per game in March and just 14.4 in April.

Gordon and Deng played very well together two seasons ago, so perhaps it is just coincidence. But the question marks surrounding Gordon make him a slightly riskier pick, even though he has more upside.

When to take him: In the middle of the seventh round, but that could change depending on what happens in the next six weeks.

Derrick Rose (PG)

The top overall pick in the draft, Rose is a highly athletic point guard who will likely show an ability to penetrate right away. However, point guard in the NBA is a tough position to learn and Rose has a very limited outside shot, meaning he will struggle to score and probably have lousy percentages.

With a new coach and a roster in turmoil, it is anybody’s guess how the minutes will shake out for the Bulls. Here is what I expect: Rose will struggle to adapt to the NBA game, going from potential starter to limited reserve in the middle of the season. I think he could have more of an impact towards the end of the season.

I rarely draft rookies before my starting lineup is filled out and Rose is no different. Point guards tend to develop slowly, especially those who can’t consistently hit a 15-footer.

When to take him: Ninth round. Let someone else assume the risk. 

NOTE: The next three players’ value are bound to change wildly base on who the team announces as the starters and how the minutes play out. If I were running the Bulls, Noah and Thomas would get as much burn as possible. New coach Vinny Del Negro was part of management during the Mike D’Antoni era in Phoenix. Both Noah and Thomas are athletic big men who can fit a fast-break style, if that’s how Del Negro chooses to run the team. Time will tell.

Joakim Noah (C/PF)

Helps: Rebounds, FG%, Blocks, Steals

Hurts: FT%

After a tremendously slow start that included a suspension stemming from a confrontation with an assistant coach, Noah has shown that he deserves more playing time from the Bulls.

Noah was tremendous down the stretch for Chicago and finished the season averaging 11.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.5 blocks per 36 minutes. He also shot 48 percent from the floor, including .512 in 31 games as a starter.

It’s no secret that the Bulls lack solid interior players. Drew Gooden is easily the safest pick and will provide guaranteed rebounds but little else. Noah’s potential to contribute in both blocks and steals on a nightly basis makes him a worth the risk. But beware: his role – surprise! – is not guaranteed.

When to take him: In the tenth round as you begin to fill out your bench.

Drew Gooden (PF)

Helps: Rebounds

Hurts: FT%

Gooden played very well for the Bulls after being traded last season, averaging 14 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. Don’t be overly fooled, Gooden has never averaged more than one block per game over a full season and while averaging 14 and eight this season isn’t out of the question, Gooden does not provide much help in other areas.

He is a mediocre shooter, posting only a .471 career FG% for a player who lives in the paint, and a .720 career free-throw shooter.

Gooden giving you around 12 points and eight rebounds is more of a certainty that Noah helping you in four categories, but I’ll always risk taking four-category potential over a one-category journeyman.

When to take him: In the tenth round or later.

Tyrus Thomas (PF)

Helps: Blocks, Rebounds

Hurts: FT%

Much like Noah, Thomas posted superb per minute numbers last season (13.6 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.3 steals per 36 minutes). But he could not get consistent court time until starting in the final nine games, when he averaged 12.7 points and 6.6 rebounds to go with 14 blocks and eight steals.

Thomas also shot 52 percent from the floor as a starter – a huge improvement over his .443 career mark – but he is unlikely to be a starter when the season opens. He has greater multi-category upside than Gooden, but it seems the least likely chance of getting big minutes.

When to take him: In the last coulpe rounds when you are scoping for big men with upside.


Larry Hughes will be drafted in most leagues – and should be – but I don’t have the energy to go through what a mindfuck it is having that guy. If you need steals, go for it, but he is the most inconsistent, potential-wasting turd I can think of. Not a bad 12th rounder, though. Andres Nocioni can provide some 3-pointers and a solid FT% off the bench and is the main candidate to see increased minutes if any of the Bulls starters get injured.

Be sure to check your league rules for specific position eligibility rules.


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Filed under Draft Strategy, Season Preview, Team Preview

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