Brandon Jennings vs. Derrick Rose
This is one that should be interesting. If Jennings had problems early against Rodney Stuckey, he’ll really have a hard time getting it going against Rose. Rose is one of the most athletic and exciting point guards in the league, and I don’t even need to say young, because young or old there are only a few with the tools Rose has. He does not have a great three point shot or a sparkling mid range game, so Rose and Jennings will both be looking to penetrate a lot tonight. Physically, Rose is considerably more imposing, but we saw how much that mattered to Jennings in the third quarter against Detroit. It’s far too early to say that Jennings will be able to score on whoever is in his way Iverson style though. This will be a good test for the Bucks rookie.
Advantage: BullsShooting Guard
Charlie Bell vs. John Salmons
Salmons is essentially filling Ben Gordon’s role from last year, but he’s doing it from the starting lineup and not the bench. The problem thus far is that he hasn’t filled that role very well. Designated scorers are supposed to score more than 11 points per game and shoot better than 28% from the field. And he’s been even worse from deep (16%). Eventually Salmons will get it going and make these numbers look much more respectable Will he be able to score as efficiently as Gordon? That remains to be seen. Bell is filling in for the injured Michael Redd and will be splitting the shooting guard minutes with Delfino (with a possible splash of the rookie Jodie Meeks). There will be open shots available for him, whether he can make them or not will go along way in deciding how many minutes he gets.
Carlos Delfino vs. Luol Deng
Poor Bulls fans. Luol Deng was once an incredible commodity and a possible blossoming star. Now, he doesn’t shoot threes, he doesn’t get to the free throw line and he’s pretty much an incredibly athletic jump shooter. He’s a good (and long) defender, but is that really worth ten million dollars a year? Yikes. Isn’t that pretty much what Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is (at least sans jump shot currently)? That said, Deng is still better than Delfino. Delfino will likely see plenty of chances to score with Redd out, but it won’t be easy against Deng’s long arms. If Delfino gets free for any open threes he’s going to have to connect.
Kurt Thomas vs. Tyrus Thomas
Kurt Thomas may get the start again, but it’ll likely be in the Royal Ivey Memorial role. Ivey started 66 games for the 2005-06 Hawks and averaged roughly 13 minutes per game. Hakim Warrick was the Bucks most effective player in the first half in their last game against the Pistons and ended up starting the second half, which of course was when the Bucks took over the game. Thomas is the crafty veteran, but Warrick is the Bucks most aggressive player. Warrick’s game actually matches up much better with Ty Thomas. Thomas has an inconsistent offensive game that, considering his athleticism, features way too many jump shots and not enough dunks. He’s a real threat to block shots at the defensive end, but may have his hands full once Warrick gets in.
Advantage: Bulls (Based on Kurt vs. Ty)
Andrew Bogut vs. Joakim Noah
Bogut and Noah have been heading in opposite directions so far this year. Noah is asserting himself a little more offensively and taking good shots to boot, while grabbing rebounds and blocking shots at personal best rates. Bogut is … struggling. He’s coming off a significant back injury, so the benefit of the doubt has been granted, but look for him to be aggressive and hopefully much better against Noah than he was against Sam Dalembert and Ben Wallace. Previously, rebounding and defense were the must haves with offense as an added bonus for Bogut, but with Redd out, the offense needs to come from somewhere. Hopefully it will be Bogut.
Warrick, LRMAM, Ersan Ilyasova, Luke Ridnour and Dan Gadzuric
Brad Miller, Kirk Hinrich, Jannero Pargo and Taj Gibson
The Bulls are deep. Hinrich is always one of the league’s top sixth men, Miller has started for many years and with a game not heavily based on athleticism, has aged fairly well. Pargo returned to the NBA from Russia this season and will look to be the scoring pop off the bench when he gets the chance. We last saw him in the NBA trying to take over the fourth quarter in the final game of the Hornets Spurs playoff series two years ago, which predictably ended in a Spurs win. The Bucks bench weakens without Bell, but still features the aforementioned Warrick and the improving Ilyasova. If Ilyasova is feeling confident and shooting when he gets looks he can be effective.
Prediction: Bucks 86 – Bulls 101
This is a match-up not so dissimilar from opening night for the Bucks. The Bulls are going to look to transition and score easy baskets, as they have lots of athleticism and don’t have a lot of great half court players. If they are forcing turnovers it could be a very long night for the Bucks, who don’t have Redd to help them play catchup. Jennings shined in his first road game in Philly, but will be dealing with a much tougher point guard tonight. Make sure to stop over to the Daily Dime Live part of the NBA section of ESPN.com where bloggers (like yours truly) and ESPN personalities alike will be participating in a live chat during the game and taking questions from fans.