More than three months have passed since the Sixers last took on the Bulls. If you recall, the Bulls took the Sixers to overtime before putting them away in Chicago. After a quick start, Philly succumbed on the tail end of a home-and-home series. That team, however, is far different from the Bulls' team the Sixers will take on in the Spectrum tonight. I figured we could spare some time this morning talking about what's changed in Chicago, and what that means for the Sixers.
The Bulls have made wholesale changes to their roster, and they've swapped injured players as well. Back in December, they were without the services of Kirk Hinrich, now it's Luol Deng on the shelf. They've also jettisoned Larry Hughes, Andres Nocioni, Drew Gooden and Thabo Sefolosha. Taking the bulk of the departeds minutes are John Salmons and Brad Miller.
Personally, I loved the moves for the Bulls. Salmons has really been playing excellent basketball and Miller should, theoretically, help this team get away from leaning on its guards so much. As Sixers fans, though, we're painfully aware that upgrades on paper don't always translate to the floor quickly. Since the trades, Chicago is only 4-6.
Miller and Salmons are combining for a shade under 20 shots per game. With the injury to Deng, Salmons has worked his way into the starting lineup at SF. Hinrich and Miller are both coming off the bench.
Salmons has played well against the Sixers, of course, most of the games he's played against his old mates have been decent scoring nights in losing efforts for Salmons. Tonight, he's probably going to have Andre Iguodala draped all over him, so I'd expect his efficiency numbers to be down.
Miller could cause problems for the Sixers, because he prefers to play on the outside. If Sammy is on him, he'll either be sucked out of the lane in coverage, or Miller will have wide-open looks.
Hinrich is the wild card, to me. Vinny Del Negro was using Hinrich as his point in crunch time, mainly because Derrick Rose couldn't guard me. (If you think I'm exaggerating, check out his on/off stats at 82games.com. With Rose on the court, Chicago allows 111.1 points per 100 possessions. With him on the bench they allow 102.8). They're actually worse on offense with Rose on the floor as well. Your probable rookie of the year, ladies and gentlemen!
Hinrich, on the other hand, greatly improves their team offense and defense. The difference between Rose and Hinrich is really night and day. Cumulative +/- in team rating is +13.5 for Hinrich, -10.7 for Rose. Luckily for the Sixers, Del Negro seems to have caved to media pressure. Rose has been seeing significant fourth quarter minutes.
So, the more things change in Chicago, the more they stay the same. I still think their personnel is greatly upgraded from December until now, but they have the same coach (with the same exquisite mullet) and their minute distribution doesn't seem to be tailored to winning basketball.
My pregame will be up later this afternoon for the final game at the Spectrum.