***Editor's Note: I am very pleased to tell you that this preview was written by Brian Schroeder, a longtime Twitter associate of mine and a solid basketball writer. I think you'll enjoy reading him. Also, please go follow him on Twitter at @Cosmis.
Chicago Bulls (8-8) at Cleveland Cavaliers (4-14) Preview: Much Ado About ScoringDecember 5th, 2012 at 8:35 AM
By Brian Schroeder
The struggle for the garbage fire known as the Central Division continues as the Chicago Bulls visit the last place Cleveland Cavaliers tonight at 8 PM Eastern.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but one of the biggest problems the Bulls face in this uphill slog without Derrick Rose is a legitimate scoring punch. Through 16 games, nearly one-fifth of the regular season, these scoring woes are neither unexpected nor surprising. So why should you care? Because not only is the Bulls bench not scoring (or defending, or playing much at all), but they’re not getting consistent scoring from anyone outside of Luol Deng. The Bulls, as a team, have a combined eighteen 20 point games. Deng has the most with seven, followed by Richard Hamilton with 4 and Carlos Boozer with 3.
Hamilton is out for the indefinite future, and counting on Boozer to score 20 is like counting on the weather, if the weather was a massive waste of time and money who slowly alienated everyone on the Earth merely by existing. Joakim Noah has three 20 points games of his own, but two were in the first three games of the season, and he doesn’t exactly have an easy matchup in this game (more on that later).*
*Nate Robinson has the lone remaining 20 point game, in case you were wondering. Although, really, that’s like 8 points in Nate-Rob money.
What makes this so concerning? Well, if we take a look at some of the more “elite” scorers in the league, the Bulls consistent lack of a scoring threat really comes into focus. Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony all have at least fifteen 20-point games, and Kobe himself has eight 30 point games while the Bulls have 1 (Rip against the Bucks when Monta Ellis was guarding him). Surely, these are elite scorers, and to hold Deng to that standard is nothing short of absurd. Let’s go with a more familiar name, one who could easily have been a Bull if the front office’s offseason priority had anything to do with improving the quality of their product: O.J. Mayo. Mayo has nine 20-point games on the season, including two 30 point games. While this is not altogether shocking in comparison to Deng’s seven, it is quite a dichotomy when compared to Kirk Hinrich’s zero.
In the end, for the multitudes of advanced statistics that are becoming more and more en vogue in the NBA (and for good reason), there’s still a lot of value in having someone that just scores a lot of points, night in and night out. Unfortunately for the Bulls, that value is currently months away from returning, and the schedule only gets more brutal from here on out.**
**Seriously, I am not looking forward to seeing another Bulls/Pacers game without Rose and Granger. It was like a root canal, except without the minty aftertaste and free barbiturates.
Key Matchup: Joakim Noah vs. Anderson Varejao
Unlike last night’s Noah/West matchup, these two will most definitely guard one another, and for the first time in a while, it does not favor Chicago. Noah has done all we could ask of him this season, but Varejao has been an absolute monster thus far, posting 15.2 points, 15.4 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game on 52.2% shooting from the field. If you take only the games since Kyrie Irving fractured his finger, and Varejao’s rolling along at a 17.1 point, 17.8 rebound, 3.3 assist, 1.8 steal clip, at a 53.4% clip from the field. The man is playing the best basketball of his life, and if Noah can’t at least keep pace with him, it could end up being a very long night for the increasingly beleaguered Bulls’ frontcourt.
Probable Starting Fives
SF Luol Deng
SG Marco Belinelli
PG Kirk Hinrich
C Anderson Varejao
PF Tristan Thompson
SF Omri Casspi
SG Alonzo Gee
PG Jeremy PargoTags: Anderson Varejao, Carlos Boozer, Chicago, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Joakim Noah, Kyrie Irving, Luol Deng, Nate Robinson, NBA, O.J. Mayo
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