Wolves vs. Bulls Gameday



Scouting Report
Last June, the Chicago Bulls set a record without even stepping on to the basketball court. The franchise faced a 1.7 percent chance at snagging the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft. The ping-pong ball bounced the Bulls way to capture the top pick with the lowest percentage chance to ever win the lottery. Chicago used the No. 1 pick on former Memphis freshman Derrick Rose. The Bulls hope to turn around a team that was considered on track to competing for the Eastern Conference crown with a young group of highly touted players. After reaching the conference semifinals in 2007 and a 49-33 record, Chicago quickly fell in the following season with a 9-16 start last year. The dismal record, forced general manager John Paxon to fire Scott Skiles while the team finished last season just 33-49. During the offseason, Paxon hired Vinny Del Negro as head coach and re-signed Luol Deng to a six-year contract worth $71 million. Through 33 games, the Bulls are 14-19 and 4th in the Central Division. Chicago remains in the playoff hunt in the East by sitting in the No. 9 position, a half game behind Milwaukee. Scoring has not been a problem with the squad averaging 100 points per game. However, on defense, the Bulls allow 102.9 points per game, which ranks 26th in the league. Despite a low defensive ranking, Chicago is the third best team defending the 3-point line as the opposition shoots 33 percent from the arc.

Rose has lived up to all the hype surrounding the No. 1 overall pick. The combination of incredible athleticism and a quick first step allows Rose to blow past defenders. Through three months of the season, Rose and O.J. Mayo are battling for possible Rookie of the Year honors. Rose averages 17.6 points and 6.3 assists per game along with an extremely high shooting percentage from the field for a point guard at 47.4 percent. The 6-foot-3 Chicago native is the playmaker for the Bulls and they rely on his production for wins. Since November 8, Ben Gordon has found a spot in the starting lineup at the shooting guard position. With the injury to Kirk Hinrich, the Bulls took a hit to their backcourt depth and Hinrich does not look to return for at least another month. The former 6th Man of the Year award winner, Gordon is the leading scorer for Chicago by posting 21 points per game. Gordon shoots 43.7 percent from the 3-point line and can light up the box score despite his small size for the position. The Bulls rely on both Gordon and Rose for offensive production as the guards combine for 38 points per game in the backcourt.

The bench play for Chicago has become crucial due to injuries to Deng and Drew Gooden. The frontcourt starters only average a combined 15.6 points and 12.8 rebounds per game. In an effort to generate offense, the Bulls march Andres Nocioni and Joakim Noah off the bench. Nocioni averages 10.3 points per game and relies on outside shooting to score. At the center position, Noah leads Chicago in rebounding while replacing starter, Aaron Gray. Noah had a monster game in the loss to Orlando on Wednesday as he scored 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. The Bulls are in desperate need for frontcourt output with the absence of Gooden and Deng. Gooden averaged close to a double-double and Deng was the third leading scorer for the team before the ankle injury last Friday.

Minnesota should use its advantage inside the paint to capture a road victory in Chicago. Al Jefferson will be the most skilled post player on the court on Saturday night. Both teams will head into the Windy City for a back-to-back game with the Bulls suffering a loss to Cleveland last night. Chicago is a solid squad at home with a 10-4 record while the Wolves hold a 3-13 mark away from Minnesota. Tipoff scheduled for 7:30 PM at the United Center.

Projected Starters
Chicago
Derrick Rose, PG
Ben Gordon, SG
Thabo Sefolosha, SF
Tyrus Thomas, PF
Aaron Gray, C

Minnesota
Kevin Ollie, PG
Randy Foye, SG
Ryan Gomes, SF
Craig Smith, PF
Al Jefferson, C