Let me get this out of the way at the start: I love Mike Dunleavy Jr. He’s really, really good. You should love Mike Dunleavy Jr., too. Here’s why:
- Derrick Rose is BACK. He looks just as fast as ever and if he’s to be believed, his leaping ability has risen to new heights. His shooting touch hasn’t quite returned yet, as he went 0 for 7 outside of the area 5 feet from the basket, but he was 5 of 6 inside and he was just blowing by everyone on the floor. As a Bulls fan, I’m very, very excited about this. I figured he would be the same old Derrick after taking his time with his recovery, but it was nice to see that optimism rewarded in a big way.
- Taj Gibson looks like an absolute monster. Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com reported that Gibson had gained 15 pounds of muscle to bulk up to 240 pounds and Gibson looked every bit of that. On top of that, Taj looked more confident in his post moves, as he made his decisions more quickly, without hesitation, to great effect. His jumper was also WET. He seemingly couldn’t miss on the midrange jumpers that he’s traditionally been merely average on. Now, it’s obviously one game in the preseason, so it’s both a small sample and a meaningless game, but if this Taj is the one the Bulls get over 82 games and the playoffs- watch out. Oh, Taj also did this (spoiler: it was awesome):
- Luol Deng is officially on #contractyear watch. Deng took 16 shots in just 25 minutes of floor time to go with an additional 8 free throw attempts. Not only did he get a lot of shots up, but he also looked Derrick Rose off on a potential alley oop lob that would have blown the roof off the arena, despite it being a home game for Indiana. I really, really hope this isn’t a sign of selfish things to come for Lu. If it is, I’ll be the first one aboard the trade Deng train- especially since I think there’s just no way the Bulls re-sign him this offseason.
I like the Chicago Bulls. Okay, that’s a lie. I love the Chicago Bulls and I have for basically my whole life. In the past, the team’s ownership and front office have done a lot of things to make me question my loyalty to the red and black. They signed Ben Wallace to a massive free agent deal, as his athleticism was waning, and then compounded the mistake by trading away the young, promising Tyson Chandler for basically nothing besides an expiring contract, which they then failed to use in a trade to make the team better. They refused to re-sign Ben Gordon because of money (which it turned out was the right move). They signed Kirk Hinrich last off season for 2 years, $8 million, when there were younger, healthier, better options. They dismantled the Bench Mob that was so great in 2011 and got nothing in return for it. They didn’t match Omer Asik’s restricted free agent offer sheet from Houston. They avoided paying the luxury tax every year in its existence, until last year, where they only ended up paying it because they couldn’t find any team with cap space interested in absorbing the (dumb) contract to which they signed Rip Hamilton. Their GM just recently fired their amazing head coach’s lead assistant, Ron Adams, over some petty in-fighting, power playing nonsense. So, yeah, I have had a lot of complaints, over the years, about the people running things for my favorite basketball club. But not today; because today, why today they have done something pretty great. Today, the Bulls agreed verbally to sign Mike Dunleavy Jr. for 2 years, $6 million, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein.
This sort of reaction to a guy signing for the mini-midlevel exception might seem surprising. Well, it’s no overreaction, and here’s why: the Bulls have one glaring weakness on offense and it’s that they can’t shoot straight from three and Mike Dunleavy is a dead-eye three point shooter. Dunleavy shot a blistering 43% from three last year for the Milwaukee Bucks on 5.5 threes attempted per 36 minutes. Dunleavy also fits the Bulls offense to a T. He is excellent at moving off the ball, in the sort of pin-down actions that the Bulls have been quite fond of running with Kyle Korver, then Rip Hamilton. With Derrick Rose back, Dunleavy should see even better looks than the ones he got for a pretty mediocre Bucks team last year, playing alongside chucking guards, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. Dunleavy also rebounds the ball well for a wing player, passes the ball deftly, and is a solid, if unspectacular defensive player. Dunleavy is basically a perfect fit for what the Bulls need in a backup wing player and should have coach Tom Thibodeau’s trust right away. The commitment to use the MMLE also seemingly indicates a change in the team’s stance on spending. After committing to Dunleavy’s $3 million dollar salary this year, the Bulls will be deep into the luxury tax, with the new CBA’s harsher luxury tax penalties kicking in this year, it’s very nice to see ownership not shying away from paying out some of their league leading profits to pay for a winner. Maybe Derrick Rose’s brother Reggie’s comments about the need to improve the roster had their intended effect. Finally, the Bulls have clearly made an offseason priority of shooting. Coach Tom Thibodeau mentioned the need for better shooting several times in interviews following the season’s end. Then, the Bulls drafted Tony Snell (a wing who shot 39% from distance in college), Erik Murphy (a floor stretching big man who shot 45% from 3 in the SEC), and now the signing of an elite shooting wing in Dunleavy. The Bulls probably need one more big man, in addition to Nazr Muhammed, who they are likely to re-sign for the veteran’s minimum, again, but this off-season is shaping up quite nicely for the team from Chicago – aside from that bit of nastiness between the front office and the coaching staff linked above, which is admittedly very troubling.
And now just for fun, here’s highlights from Dunleavy Jr. dropping 29 points on the Cavs early this past season. Good times!