Pre-Season Preview: Brooklyn Nets v.s. Chicago Bulls
The Brooklyn Nets and the Chicago Bulls faced in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs last year. The Bulls got the best of the Nets in seven games but both teams will have welcomed additions when they face off this season.
Williams and Rose are two of the elite point guards in basketball. They can both score in bunches while also creating opportunities for their teammates. They are also extremely good on the defensive end, which makes this matchup even more intriguing. If Rose didn’t sit out all of last season then there would be much more skepticism about how he will bounce back from his ACL injury, but he has taken his time getting back to assure that he is 100% when he makes his return this season. Quite simply as good as Williams is, Rose is better. When healthy he is not only the best point guard in the league but a top three overall player.
In order for the Bulls to compete in the Eastern Conference this season, Butler will have to continue to develop as a player. He was thrust into a major role in his second season in the league and continued to get better and better. He is 6’7” and quickly becoming one of the better on-ball defenders in the league with the ability to guard either wing. However, he still has a lot of work to do on the offensive end. This should be a great head to head matchup because of Butler’s defensive prowess but for now the slight edge goes to the veteran Johnson, who averaged 16 points per game and shot 37% from deep last season.
Small Forward- Paul Pierce v.s. Luol Deng
Deng seems to be on the trading block every season at one point or another but it would be tough to see why the Bulls would want to get rid of him. He is an extremely under appreciated player: he scores, he rebounds, he passes and he is a terrific defender. He isn’t flashy, he just takes care of his work on the court. Pierce and Deng had very comparable stats last season while taking on similar roles due to an injury to their star point guards. The edge in this matchup goes to Deng because of his defensive prowess, which stifled Pierce in their head to head matchups last season, holding him to just 11.7 points per game in 4 meetings.
Power Forward- Kevin Garnett v.s. Carlos Boozer
On paper Boozer had a really good season in 2012-2013, averaging 16.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. On the flip side he only shot 47% from the field, the lowest percentage of his career and 5% lower than his career average. Boozer has never lived up to the big pay day that he received in the summer of 2010 and really struggles when his opponent is physical in the post. Defensively he is the weak link in a team that prides themselves on that end of the court. Garnett is a defensive master and has gotten the best of Boozer in nearly every statistical category in 26 career matchups against one another.
Center- Brook Lopez v.s. Joakim Noah
Noah is the definition of a pest. He is the player you hate if he is on the opposing team but would love to have wearing your team’s jersey. He is the ultimate hustle player, keeping plays alive on the offensive boards and throwing his body around wherever and whenever necessary. But Lopez has emerged as one of the premier centers in the league and averaged 22 points per game against Noah in the playoffs last season.
Bench- The Nets boast one of the deepest benches in the league with Andray Blatche, Andrei Kirilenko, Jason Terry, Shaun Livingston, Alan Anderson, Reggie Evans and Mason Plumlee.
The Bulls are bringing back veterans Nazr Mohammed, Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson from last season. They also added 3-point specialist Mike Dunleavy in free agency and brought in forwards Erik Murphy and Tony Snell in the draft.
Bench Backcourt- Livingston’s biggest contribution will be his length on defense but offensively he doesn't offer a ton and Terry is coming off a rough season in Boston. On the other side Hinrich is a good facilitator and defender who should complement Rose well. Dunleavy is one of the best three point shooters in the league and should get plenty of open looks due to the attention placed on the Bulls star players.
Bench Frontcourt- This seems to be the Bulls' biggest weakness and might be the Nets' biggest strength. The Nets have a number of different looks that they can bring in off the bench with their plethora of big men. Meanwhile the Bulls have mediocre backups in Mohammed and Gibson and unrpoven rookies Snell and Murphy.
X-Factor- Bench Play
The starting five for these teams are extremely well matched. Each battle could go either way depending on the night. The likely difference maker in this series will be the ability of the bench to provide substantial production. The Nets are much deeper, stretching 10 or 11 deep while the Bulls bench is short and full of question marks.
Nets- Four Bulls-Three
This will be a great matchup all season and these two teams could see one another in the playoffs for the second straight season. When these two teams meet up it should be a well contested matchup, with the Nets bench possibly being the difference maker.
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