Rose’s health and impact of Gasol and rookies will determine how successful Bulls are…
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The Chicago Bulls have point guard Derrick Rose back and they added significant depth this summer as they emerge as one of the favourites in the Eastern Conference.
Despite losing Derrick Rose to injury again, the Bulls ignored suggestions of tanking to go on and remain competitive without their biggest star. They ended the regular season with a 48-34 record which saw them secure the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference.
As has become a fundamental part of Tom Thibodeau’s success at the United Center, their defense was a defining factor, surrendering a Conference-low 91.8 points per game. However, without their star point guard, they had the worst points for average in the East at 93.7.
Despite their ability to grind out victories, they were unable to take that spirit and passion into the playoffs and were defeated by the Washington Wizards in the first round to end the season in disappointing fashion.
Can Rose stay healthy to lead arguably the most talented roster he has ever had around him?
Bulls fans have been in this position before as they look ahead to another highly-anticipated return of Derrick Rose. Nevertheless, it feels different this time round as the 26-year-old is full of confidence, has been more forthcoming with the press and has had a summer at the FIBA World Cup in Spain to get rid of the rust.
Having come through that unscathed, the hope is that Rose’s knees will be able to handle the strain of competitive basketball on a nightly basis, and if he can stay healthy, then the Bulls are legitimate championship contenders.
His shooting is still short of where he would like it to be, but having demonstrated his old ability of attacking the basket and making the cuts and movements that have become such an important part of his unique game, Rose appears to be back on track this time round.
It will also help his cause that the Bulls have added talented players around him to not only add depth and quality, but also to space the floor for him to be more devastating in the lanes.
Coach Thibodeau has prided his teams on their defensive effort, and Chicago are undoubtedly one of the tightest and meanest defensive units going. However, the criticism has long been his inability to rotate and rest players while the Bulls have lacked serious shooting and offensive threat over the past couple of years.
The additions of Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic address that problem, although they have much to prove as rookies, but with Pau Gasol coming in, the Bulls now have a reliable scorer, leader and winner within their ranks.
Joakim Noah provides the passion and defensive solidity as well as court vision after emerging as a ‘point-center’ last season, while Taj Gibson will hope to pick up from where he left off last season as a Sixth Man of the Year contender. The Bulls frontcourt is certainly full of talent, but it will be up to Thibodeau and the coaching staff to find the right combinations in order to make it work.
Aaron Brooks will look to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Nate Robinson and DJ Augustin as an impact guard off the bench, while Jimmy Butler has been highly impressive in pre-season as he continues to wait on a new contract.
Overall, the Bulls have one of the strongest rosters in the league, and they will be determined to ensure that this is their year despite a perhaps weakness in creativity outside of Rose.
There are a lot of variables involved with Chicago which could see their season go one way or the other. If Rose stays healthy, they’ll make a deep playoff run and potentially go all the way. If he gets injured, it’s back to the same old problem in his absence. In addition, if McDermott and Mirotic make an immediate impact, this could be special.
Despite changing teams this summer, the Bulls will have to go through a familiar rival in LeBron James, but this time he’ll be turning up with the Cleveland Cavaliers and some new friends in the form of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
However, if Chicago are going to take them on and win, then it is most likely going to happen this year as the new ‘Big Three’ get used to their new team with Irving and Love set for their first ever taste of playoff basketball.
If the Bulls can stay healthy, then I see them going all the way to the NBA Finals and potentially winning the whole thing. Despite all the question marks and hype, the facts are that they have a highly talented roster and will be fully aware that they need to strike this season before the Cavs click into gear.
PG: Derrick Rose
SG: Jimmy Butler
SF: Mike Dunleavy
PF: Pau Gasol
C: Joakim Noah
Sixth Man: Taj Gibson