After a fairly average year in the 2010-2011 season, Chicago Bulls point guard C.J. Watson came into this shortened campaign with fairly low expectations, or, at least to me he did. But regardless of the expectations anyone had, they undoubtedly increased the moment Derrick Rose began dealing with what would end up being a myriad of injuries.
In the regular season, instead of thinking "C.J. Watson just needs to keep the offense moving slightly so it's not completely stagnant," we were all thinking, "Watson needs to keep this team close to or atop the standings so Rose can just pick up where he left off when he returns." And in the postseason we went from thinking, "Watson just needs to keep things flowing," to "Watson needs to run this offense to at least the Eastern Conference Finals." Obviously, things did not go swimmingly.
Overall, Watson did pretty well, despite things finishing on a rather poor note in the playoffs. He didn't live up to the altered expectations that we may have had for him, but considering the injuries and the nagging plantar fasciitis he had in BOTH feet, he did pretty well.
Regular Season Stats: 49 GP, 25 GS, 23.7 MPG, 9.7 PPG, 4.1 APG, 36.8 FG%, 39.3 3P%, 80.8 FT%
Postseason Stats: 6 GP, 5 GS, 27.3 MPG, 7.3 PPG, 5.5 APG, 24.1 FG%, 25.0 3P%, 75.0 FT%
Positives: He may not be the best at it, but Watson knows how to drain the long ball. We saw it, especially earlier in the year, that Watson can be a phenomenal three-point shooter, and his 39.3 percentage from long range is indicative of that. He is somewhat streaky from deep, as we saw from the incredible hot streak in the beginning of the season followed by the weeks long drought shortly after. However, something is better than nothing and his injuries can partially explain some of the drop-off.
Watson also has the ability to occasionally create his own shot, which is something the Bulls are lacking. While the shots he creates are as streaky as his three-point shooting, teams do have to account for it to some degree.
Negatives: The major knock against Watson is that at times, his decision making is awful. Quite often, he'll try to force a pass that isn't there or he'll pull up for a bad shot. For example, Watson does like to shoot the long ball, however, he will fall in love with the shot and pull up for one in transition (the famed PUJIT) or when closely defended. Sometimes, like John Lucas III, Watson also has a tendency to over dribble and put the offense in bad situations. Sometimes he'll just dribble the shot clock down to about six or seven seconds left before passing, other times he'll dribble himself right into a double team off of the pick-and-roll.
Watson's bad decision making helped cost the Bulls their season, as his pass to Omer Asik in the final moments of Game 6 against the Philadelphia 76ers was a crucial gaffe that doomed Chicago. If Watson wants to run a team as a starting guard in the near future, he really needs to improve in this area.
Outlook: The Bulls currently have a $3.2 million team option on Watson for next season. I fully expect them to bring him back given the situation with Rose. Bringing in a new point guard to start for the team next season, or play backup should another point guard be signed this season to start instead, would actually hurt the team since there'd be a learning curve. As far as improvement goes, unless Watson watches tapes like Tom Thibodeau does, I expect him to be about the same, especially since he has to recover a bit from procedures on his foot for the plantar fasciitis.
Final Grade: As we see from the numbers, Watson did a good job in the regular season and was able to keep the Bulls going for a while. Unfortunately, his success wasn't able to translate in the postseason. Averaging the two out, you end up with a B-.
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