Posted: Monday August 7, 2006 2:37PM; Updated: Monday August 7, 2006 4:11PM
Have a question or comment for Kelly Dwyer? Submit it here.
SI.com: Which will have more of an impact on this year's Bulls squad, the addition of Wallace and P.J. Brown or the internal development of such youngsters as Kirk Hinrich, Andres Nocioni, Luol Deng, Ben Gordon and Michael Sweetney?
Bernhardt:If even only a couple of their existing players make a leap in their games, it'll make a huge impact. That could mean Hinrich raising his shooting percentage, Nocioni cutting down on the turnovers, Gordon becoming more adept at creating his own shot or Sweetney putting down the barrel of frosting and becoming a dependable low-post option. Out of them all, I think Deng has the best chance at stardom. He's only 21 years old, and last offseason was spent rehabbing a serious wrist injury. This could be the season he breaks out. The newly added veterans will make them a more consistent team, but their young core progressing can make them a great team (or at least fine trade bait).
SI.com: How many wins can this team put together this season?
Bernhardt:I have high expectations -- around a 50-55-win season. And a lot of that optimism comes from believing this team is built for the marathon that is the 82-game schedule. They're much deeper than last season, and under head coach Scott Skiles they've always played disciplined offense and tough defense. What this summer's acquisitions will change is that they won't find themselves facing early deficits, not only on the scoreboard but hopefully also in free-throw attempts, which killed them last season. In the type of grueling schedule that leads to teams being susceptible to off nights, I just can't see this team having many.
SI.com: Define a reasonable Bulls fan's expectations for draft picks Tyrus Thomas and Thabo Sefolosha.
Bernhardt:The Bulls were able to take a gamble at No. 2 (thanks, Isiah!) in taking Thomas. They know he likely isn't ready to contribute instantly, but he has the best chance at eventually becoming a star. I am expecting little from Thomas in his rookie season, though despite being very raw, at least he seems to be the type of player who fits the Bulls' style of play. His work ethic and effort will be beneficial in practice even if he doesn't see many minutes on the court, and if he does gets the minutes we'll know he's earned them.
Sefolosha fills a more immediate need: a big guard off the bench to help ease the defensive pressure off Hinrich and Gordon. If he can adequately handle NBA off-guards, hit a few open shots and even help run the point in spots, Sefolosha could be taking a lot of Chris Duhon's minutes this year. Sefolosha is 22 and already has been playing professionally overseas, so his learning curve may be accelerated.
SI.com: What about these Bulls would surprise a fan of another team?
Bernhardt:That while they're well known as a defensive team, they do play an exciting brand of basketball. They were fifth in the league in possessions per game, and without a player they can regularly feed in the post, they rely a lot on ball movement and dribble penetration to work their way toward an open shot. And with Wallace anchoring the defense, fans can expect even more fast breaks resulting from forced turnovers.