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ProBasketballTalk 2013-14 Preview: Chicago Bulls

Sep 23, 2013, 9:17 AM EDT

Last season: The Bulls went 45-37, putting together an impressive regular season that included the victory that snapped the Heat’s 27-win streak. Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler each got Defensive Player of the Year votes as Tom Thibodeau continuously reinforces a culture in Chicago.

In the playoffs, the hard-nosed Bulls beat the more-talented Nets in a seven-game first-round series. As Chicago injuries took a toll, Nate Robinson emerged as quite the spark. Chicago ended the talk of Miami going undefeated throughout the playoffs, but otherwise, the Bulls ran out of gas in a 4-1 loss in the second round.

Anything else from the Bulls’ season worth mentioning? Any other key storylines? It seems like I’m missing something or someone, but I just checked all the Bulls’ 2012-13 box scores and every name is accounted for in the preview. I don’t know. It’s a mystery.

Signature highlight from last season:

No. 2: Evidence that the Bulls had a mental edge over the Nets in their playoff matchup:

Key player changes: The Bulls signed Mike Dunleavy and drafted Tony Snell and Erik Murphy. Those players likely won’t make major impacts, but they could turn into glue guys, especially considering how much the Bulls need shooting.

Nate Robison left as a free agent, and though he could be a headache, he really brought an element the Bulls didn’t have. They might be better without him, but they’ll definitely be less fun. Marco Belininelli also left, and Richard Hamilton was waived.

Keys to the Bulls’ season:

1) How good is Derrick Rose? Rose took his time returning, but ACL tears are no joke. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has completely ruined expectations for how long it should take a professional athlete to return to full health. Despite incredible medical advancements, it’s still possible Rose has lost some explosiveness.

Rose is almost certainly good. The question is just how good.

2) Will Gar Forman keep the team together? Luol Deng has an expiring contract and could be major trade bait. Carlos Boozer, now so overrated he’s underrated, is overpaid for the next two seasons, so Chicago might want to dump him. Those moves could arguably make the Bulls better in the long-term. But both players are key this season.

3) Can Tom Thibodeau hold back just a little? Need to win one game, and there might not be a better coach than Tom Thibodeau. But need to have the most successful season, and Thibodeau slips in the rankings. He’s relentless, which makes his teams fun to watch (see below), but it also wears on his his players. The Bulls are capable of making a deep playoff run, but not if all their players are fatigued and injured.

There’s no guarantee Thibodeau can instill toughness while still limiting minutes and allowing slightly reduced intensity on certain nights. But if he can, the Bulls would be better for it.

Why you should watch the Bulls: They play hard every game, and that often leads to a couple fun plays. Plus, if you enjoy defense, the Bulls play it as well as any team in the league. Joakim Noah is relentless on that end, a real throwback.

Offensively, the Bulls could be rough last season, but Derrick Rose should solve that. He’s the type of singular talent who really transforms the entire scheme. Chicago’s offense might not become elite overnight, but it will at least be passable while the defense excels.

Prediction: 55-27. If healthy, the Bulls should win a playoff series or two. With the right breaks, that could be three or maybe even four. Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah form a complete, talented and balanced lineup. But the Bulls’ bench has fallen off in recent years, which could prove costly (though I really like Taj Gibson). Unless Tom Thibodeau changes his hard-charging ways, it’s unlikely Chicago’s starting lineup holds all season.

Of course, none of this matters unless Derrick Rose looks like the player who won MVP. With that Rose, the Bulls’ ceiling is a championship. With a lesser version, every playoff series will be a scrap, and it’s tough to win many while going through that each round.

  1. 2016olympics - Sep 23, 2013 at 9:43 AM

    Plenty of depth on this team w Hinrich who can be a combo guard w or wout Rose in the game. Wing talent w Butler, Deng, Dunleavy and Snell. Biggest weakness is depth behind 5…Nazr Mohammed and Dexter Pittman.

  2. papichulo55 - Sep 23, 2013 at 11:58 AM

    Brooklyn fan here. If the Bulls are healthy and rested at the start of the Playoffs, they will win the East.

    • soflasfinest - Sep 23, 2013 at 7:43 PM

      Um, no.

    • dls612 - Sep 23, 2013 at 9:51 PM

      Hey papichulo55 ! What about your team? you already giving up hope on your nets and the season haven’t started yet! Lol! Question your loyalty!

  3. moseskkim - Sep 23, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    Thibs runs his players to the ground. Noah gets frequently injured.. I think 55/27 is really high. I’m pretty sure Noah will have plantar fasciitis flare ups and they have no center depth. Maybe Omer asik can come back.. Lol. Deng is a question mark after his issues late in the season. I think rose will be good to great but the team needs a player like jimmy butler to improve into a borderline all star to see a huge win total like 55 and it could happen

    • sw69ca - Sep 23, 2013 at 12:49 PM

      Who else is he going to put in? …its sports and sooner or later players get injured, it is the way it is!

    • chitownmatt - Sep 23, 2013 at 2:23 PM

      I don’t think Deng had anything that would preclude a full recovery, I mean didn’t he get poised or something – it wasn’t an injury anyway.

      Yes, the depth at the center is the big question mark. Noah will probably be dealing with Plantar Fasciitis for the rest of his life and the only real treatment is rest. So, the Bulls really need another Big-C to share some minutes and Nazr ain’t the guy he was 5 years ago. Taj can take some of those minutes, but he is not quite big enough to be a true center.

      I think the Bulls’ success depends on exactly how big Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson can become.

      We already know what we are going to get out of Deng, Noah and Rose.

      • chitownmatt - Sep 23, 2013 at 2:34 PM

        Oh yeah, and we never know what we are going to get out of Boozer.

        But at least he is consistently inconsistent.

  4. dysraw1 - Sep 23, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    the thing that has made me a believer in this team is their incredible run to the playoffs last season. without Rose they could have easily been a bad team, instead they maintained an went about business as usual in spite of not having their best player available. i also think they got a bit of a chip on their shoulders. i think a lot of their progress depends on if young Jimmy Butler can become the beast they expect him to be

  5. chicitybulls - Sep 23, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    Training camp opens on Fri. Yes. The season is upon us.

  6. asublimeday - Sep 23, 2013 at 5:11 PM

    Wade has no knees left. Bulls are the most talented team in the east, just have to put it all together.

  7. antistratfordian - Sep 23, 2013 at 6:13 PM

    “Of course, none of this matters unless Derrick Rose looks like the player who won MVP. With that Rose, the Bulls’ ceiling is a championship.”

    With that Rose the Bulls still got smacked down pretty hard by the then much weaker Miami Heat. Then the Bulls biggest asset from 2011 (their bench) has been weakened considerably while Miami has become appreciably improved.

    So I don’t think the Bulls can get through the East unless their big 3 includes at least one player better than either Deng, Noah or Boozer. Those guys are not really “big 3″ material to go along with D.Rose.

    Yeah, I’m sounding like Rose’s brother… but he has a point.

    • Kurt Helin - Sep 23, 2013 at 11:38 PM

      This is a different Bulls team, not sure how people don’t see the improvement.

      • chicitybulls - Sep 23, 2013 at 11:59 PM

        Because they don’t wanna see. They wanna rest on the past and feel like Miami cant be beat under no circumstances unless james and/or wade is lost for the season. I’m interested in seeing how the season plays out and if the Bulls do in fact come out of the east if these same people will give credit where credit is due. Sadly, I think I already know the answer.

      • antistratfordian - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:27 AM

        Some things may have changed but one thing remains the same: If Rose can’t score the Bulls cannot produce enough offense.

        That same fundamental problem from 2011 remains in 2014. And this is particularly a concern against the Miami Heat because they have the ability to prevent Rose from scoring seemingly whenever they want.

        Their “improvements” may help them against the rest of the league, but when it comes down to brass tax against the Sultans of South Beach, Rose will be locked down by James while Chicago doesn’t have anyone to return the favor.

        This is ultimately the problem that every team is going to face against Miami – LeBron can stop Durant/Rose/Melo/George/Pierce/etc in crunch time but they can’t stop LeBron.

      • chicitybulls - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:45 AM

        Really? “The Sultans of South Beach”? Woooow. How do you KNOW they can’t score if Rose doesnt? You dont know. You dont know how much Jimmy has improved his game. You dont know how Dunleavy will fit on this team. Boozer traditionally has had big games against them. How do you know what Tony Snell will bring? How do you know the improvements Rose has made in his game isn’t enough to make James guarding him that much tougher? You dont know any of these things but speak on them as if its a proven fact. Lets just let the season play out and at the end congratulate whoever wins.

  8. papichulo55 - Sep 24, 2013 at 8:30 AM

    Sorry, but the Heat does not have the pedigree of the MJ Bulls, the Showtime Lakers or Russell’s Celtics. They just dont. The Heat will not Three-Peat.

    • philaw123 - Oct 18, 2013 at 10:16 PM

      The Showtime Lakers never three-peated. They repeated once but won 5 titles in the 80s while making the Finals 8 times. They also made an encore performance in 91 to get MJ’s Bulls started. You must be confusing them with the Shaq-led Lakers of the early 2000s. For the record, the LBJ-led Heat have made the Finals 3 straight years and are the favorite to win their 3rd straight title this year. When they do, we’ll be celebrating in South Beach. You’re welcome to join us.

  9. papichulo55 - Sep 24, 2013 at 8:36 AM

    @dls, Loyalty to my Nets? Its like the same thing with my lady. Neither are the prettiest on the block, but their mine!

    • phoenix - Oct 5, 2013 at 9:42 AM

      Great and classy comment.

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