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Deconstructing the Chicago Bulls Implosion – Part 4: The Backcourt

When you look at the Bulls backcourt, you see a lot of combo guards, and not a lot of height. You really don’t see much by way of pure point guards.

Point Guards

Chris Duhon: The only pure point guard on the team, he’s outta there. After oversleeping after catching a late flight back from the Duke – North Carolina game, Bulls management flipped out when they saw him on TV at the game (he hadn’t told them what he was doing on his day off) and slapped him with a suspension when he was late the next day. Duhon made some comments about his lack of playing time not making it a big punishment. Things went downhill from there. That relationship is so bad, a sign and trade is probably not even in the cards.

Kirk Hinrich: As much as the Bulls would like to make Captain Kirk their poster child, Hinrich is chest-deep in a slump. His first half of the season was pretty bad. Maybe he was banged up for most of the season. Maybe Skiles was in his head. Whatever the case, he’s been in a tailspin. More a combo guard than a classical point guard, Hinrich can fill it up when his game is with him. He’s a little too small to play shooting guard and doesn’t have great lateral quickness, so a speedy point can burn him off the dribble. Good for closing off on perimeter shooters, but not nearly the defensive second coming of Jerry Sloan that their media office portrays him as. As much of a malaise as Hinrich was in, I’m not going to howl if Paxson is shopping him in the off-season, looking for someone a bit more enthusiastic. He might be best suited to be the swing guard in a three-guard rotation.

Shooting Guards

Ben Gordon: Gordon doesn’t appear to be real happy being a Bull. He wants to start, Boylan liked him off the bench, and Skiles just seemed to like messing with him. Gordon doesn’t talk about it too much, but you sure get the impression he’s disgusted and just wants to leave. Rumor has it he’s ready to sign a one-year extension so he can be a free agent. Gordon can score like a demon if you take the leash off him, but at 6’3″, he’s a little small to be guarding some of the other shooting guards. As much as Skiles seemed to want to make him into a scoring point guard/combo guard, he’s really a shooting guard and I’m sure there are plenty of coaches that wouldn’t have a problem with that. If all Gordon will sign is a one year, you have to trade him. It’s unfortunate, but you can’t let that kind of talent walk. Otherwise, the Bulls media office can make up for neglecting to hype the all-science fiction backcourt of Captain Kirk and Flash Gordon.

Larry Hughes: Hughes is another shooting guard that can handle the ball, so everyone wants to play him at the point. Call him a combo guard, call him a shooter who can dribble, it’s more accurate to call him a player who’s been in inappropriate systems. Hughes needs to be in a motion offense. Try and make him a spot-up shooter and you’re wasting him. If you put him in a running game and can get a shot blocker in the middle so he can go for steals, he can be very effective. He scored 20+ points per game in Washington in a scrambling system, but wasn’t played to his strengths in Cleveland. Probably the best backcourt defender, he also has decent size at 6’5″. If Gordon catches a fast train out of town, he’s likely the new starter, just hope that it isn’t at point.

Thabo Sefolosha: Poor Sefolosha. Skiles turned him into a quivering mass of Jello this season. Fortunately, after a little while under the less abrasive Coach Boylan, he came back out of his shell and started playing like he did the end of last season. Sefolosha has excellent size at 6’7″, plays good defense and shows flashes of a good offensive game. Like Gordon and Hughes, the Bulls keep wanting to turn him into a point guard. He really isn’t, so call him yet another combo guard. Sefolosha very nearly lost a year of development this season, so next year will be very important. He could end up being very good or just solid. We’ll have to wait, but I’d just as soon they made any trade decisions in January or February, just to see if he continues to progress.

Shannon Brown: Brown was a trade throw-in. Another slightly undersized shooting guard (collect them all), he didn’t play much and I don’t anticipate the Bulls picking up the option for next year.

JamesOn Curry: Curry’s a combo guard who leans a bit more towards shooting guard than point. Yup, another 6’3″ shooter. Better than most second round pick-ups, Paxson seems to like him, so figure he’ll be in training camp again next year, looking to get picked up.

The Bulls badly need to lay hands on a pure point guard. This habit of trying to shoe horn combo guards into the point doesn’t exactly help matters with a weak post game. A lot really depends on the off-season transactions. There could easily be three players gone and a new starting backcourt. It also depends on who the new coach is and what style he decides to play. Current personnel would be better suited to a running game than the slower pace they played much of the last year.

Tomorrow: Putting Together the Pieces

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