Oklahoma City Thunder 2012-13 Preview: Chicago Bulls


Thunderous Intentions will begin to preview the 2012-13 NBA season by going through every team in the league and breaking down how they match up with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Be sure to check out the previous matchups we have previewed: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats.

Chicago Bulls Team Overview

The Chicago Bulls had the best regular season record in the NBA last season before tragedy struck in the first game of the playoffs. Derrick Rose tore his ACL and the Bulls could not recover, losing to the 8-seed Philadelphia 76ers in the first round.

Rose battled injuries all year long and perhaps he came back too soon. Now, he may not even be ready for the start of next season and many are seriously downgrading the Bulls’ chances at competing for a title.

The Bulls tried not to make much noise this offseason but there will be some new faces next season. The Bulls will be reuniting with Kirk Hinrich. They also signed Nate Robinson, Vladimir Radmanovic, Marco Belinelli and Nazr Mohammed. In the draft, they snagged Marquis Teague late in the first round.

The Bulls are parting ways with Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Watson and Kyle Korver, three key players from the team. Jerry Reinsdorf hates paying the luxury tax and that is essentially why the Bulls didn’t end up overpaying to keep any of these guys.

Their roster isn’t going to be too different from last year’s but on paper, they really didn’t do anything to improve. The team’s success almost entirely depends on the health of Rose.

Last year

The Oklahoma City Thunder played the Bulls just once last season and beat them 92-78 at home. Rose did not play in the game and the Thunder led by 29 after three quarters.

Kevin Durant had 26 points and 10 rebounds while Russell Westbrook had 27 points. James Harden had 11 in 23 minutes.

The Thunder shot 48.6 percent from the field for the game while Chicago shot just 33.0 percent. There was no semblance of an offense for Chicago without their MVP and they were absolutely no match for the Thunder who were really playing well at that point in the season.

The matchup

Despite their great record, the Bulls had just the 19th best offense in the league in terms of points per possession. That puts them at a pretty steep disadvantage vs. the Thunder in trying to find scoring.

The Bulls being one of the best “teams” in the league was very efficient in their spot-up shooting, fourth in the league. That is the one major advantage they had against the Thunder who were just 10th in the league defending spot-up shooting.

This makes sense as one way the Bulls would be able to beat the Thunder is with great ball movement and finding open shooters.

With Rose out for much of the season, the Bulls were less efficient in isolation and pick-and-roll settings than you’d think. Even with Rose though, the Bulls were always at their best playing together within the offense rather than relying on him to create everything himself.

The Bulls are really all about their defense which was the best in the league overall in terms of PPP. There may be no better team in the league more equipped to slow down the Thunder offense.

Westbrook would have a very tough matchup vs. a healthy Rose while Luol Deng has as good of a chance as anyone to slow down Durant. The Bulls pick-and-roll defense is something that would make it very tough for Harden to get going and we could expect to see Harden struggle similarly to how he did vs. the Heat in the Finals last year.

One area where the Bulls aren’t so great on defense is defending the post and that is the one area where OKC doesn’t look to get much of their offense from.

The Thunder would have a slight advantage vs. the Bulls in this matchup simply because they have more players who can get their offense. But the matchup is a very close one where home court would influence the outcome quite a bit.

Next year

The Thunder and Bulls will play twice next season with the first meeting coming early in the season on Nov. 8 in Chicago. They will play next on Feb. 24 in OKC.

Rose may not be ready for the first meeting but if all goes well, he should be playing in the next one. Expectations for the Bulls entering next season are less than they were last year. They surprised a lot of people having such a good regular season record despite Rose missing so many games.

The consensus is still that the Bulls are set to take at least a minor step back from the team they were the past two seasons, winning more games than everyone else. The Thunder are very much on the rise and really should extend the slight advantage they have over Chicago in this matchup.

For more Chicago Bulls coverage, visit Pippen Ain’t Easy.