SI Vault
Marty Burns
October 30, 2000
The good news: The Bulls will be better than they were last year. The bad news: not much better
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October 30, 2000

13 Chicago Bulls

The good news: The Bulls will be better than they were last year. The bad news: not much better

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Projected Lineup



1999-2000 KEY STATS


Marcus Fizer (R)


22.8 ppg

7.7 rpg

1.1 apg

1.05 bpg

58.2 FG%


Elton Brand


20.1 ppg

10.0 rpg

1.9 apg

1.63 bpg

48.2 FG%


Brad Miller


7.7 ppg

5.3 rpg

0.64 bpg

46.1 FG%

78.5 FT%


Ron Mercer


16.9 ppg

3.7 rpg

2.3 apg

1.10 spg

42.6 FG%


Bryce Drew


5.8 ppg

2.3 apg

1.4 rpg

38.3 FG%

36.2 3FG%



1999-2000 KEY STATS


Ron Artest


12.0 ppg

4.3 rpg

2.8 apg

1.65 spg

40.7 FG%


Jamal Crawford (R)


16.6 ppg

4.5 apg

2.8 rpg

1.12 spg

41.2 FG%


Dragan Tarlac (r)


9.8 ppg

8.0 rpg

1.3 apg

55.5 FG%

75.3 FT%


Fred Hoiberg


9.0 ppg

3.5 rpg

1.29 spg

38.7 FG%

34.0 3FG%


Michael Ruffin


2.2 ppg

3.5 rpg

0.37 bpg

42.0 FG%

48.9 FT%

New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
(r) Rookie (statistics for final year with Olympiakos S.F.P. of Greece)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 113)

Elton Brand first met rookie forward Marcus Fizer at the 1997 McDonald's High School All-American Game. Brand recalls initially being struck by the goofy-looking goggles that Fizer was wearing. "Then, during the dunk contest, he tried to do this fancy up-and-under dunk and got hung up," Brand says with a chuckle. "He actually fell on his back. I'm always getting on him for that one."

Brand might rag on Fizer, but the importance of the Bulls' top draft pick to the future of the franchise is no laughing matter. Last year Chicago suffered through its worst season, losing 65 games, nearly setting an NBA record for offensive futility (84.8 points per game) and finishing last in field goal percentage (41.5%) and first in turnovers (18.9 per game). The Bulls went 2-26 in their first 28 games, and only three points separated them from an unprecedented 0-28 start.

Fizer is coming off a far more successful campaign in which he averaged 22.8 points per game, was named Big 12 player of the year and led Iowa State to its first Elite Eight since 1944. This year he will again be asked occasionally to hoist a team on his big shoulders. For starters, Chicago is counting on him to take some of the scoring load off Brand, who was one of only two Bulls to average in double figures last season. "I'd like to win Rookie of the Year," says Fizer, "but my Number 1 goal is to play on a team that's going to win."

Though Fizer was a power forward and center in college, the 6'8", 260-pound bruiser will start the season at small forward, where coach Tim Floyd believes he will develop into a "power three" in the mold of the Heat's Anthony Mason or the Knicks' Larry Johnson. Like those two players, Fizer can run the floor, rebound and hit the 15-foot jumper. He is also an effective passer out of the post, a key skill in the Bulls' triangle offense. Floyd thinks Fizer can hold his own defensively against smaller, quicker players, especially if he sheds 10 pounds. "His feet are quicker than people think," says Floyd, who coached Fizer during his freshman season at Iowa State in 1997-98.

The confident Fizer shrugs off concerns about potential matchup problems. "Those [small forwards] are going to have just as hard a time guarding me," says Fizer, who averaged 13.6 points during summer-league play but shot only 37.1%.

If Fizer should struggle, Brand, the 1999-2000 co-Rookie of the Year, has other sources of support. Free-agent pickup Ron Mercer, a 6'7" slasher who has averaged 16.2 points in his three NBA seasons, gives the Bulls something they sorely lacked a year ago: a perimeter threat who can create his own shot when the 24-second clock is winding down. Rugged 6'7" swingman Ron Artest showed a knack for getting to the basket as a rookie, and newcomer Bryce Drew will provide a steady, if unspectacular, presence at the point until highly touted 6'6" rookie Jamal Crawford—who played only one year of college basketball, at Michigan—learns the pro game.

The Bulls should be stronger in the middle—defensively, at least—thanks to the additions of free-agent pickup Brad Miller, a mobile big man who likes to bang, and 6'10" Dragan Tarlac, a second-round draft pick in '95 who as a member of the Yugoslav national team played well against Chicago in the finals of the '97 McDonald's Cup. Neither, however, is very adept offensively, so the 6'8" Brand will still face plenty of double teams. That of course didn't stop him last season, when he led the NBA in offensive rebounds and became the fifth rookie in the past 15 years to average 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Brand is determined to produce even bigger numbers this year, which explains why Floyd found his second-year star at the team's practice facility late one night in September, all alone, working on his left hand. Brand will be better, but how much better will his team be? "We'll be much better," Brand says. "Not that you could get much worse."

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]