The Chicago Bulls surprised a lot of people last year by making it to the second round of the NBA Playoffs without their superstar point guard Derrick Rose. Rose is prepared to make his comeback this season, and is said to be in great shape. There are quite a few things that will factor into the Bulls’ success this season, but none more so than the return of Rose.
Coming off of an ACL tear is always hard for a basketball, but especially for a guy that relies on his quickness and cutting ability as much as Rose does. Getting the confidence worked up to trust the knee completely again is always the hardest part to recovering from a serious knee injury. All that being said, Rose is reportedly working out at full speed, and has publicly said that he feels 100% and trusts his knee again. We’ll have to see how that holds up once he’s on an NBA court, playing at NBA speed, against NBA competition.
The Bulls have many supporting figures around Rose in Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler, and Carlos Boozer, and they will need them all to step up in order to compete against the elite Eastern Conference teams. Luol Deng is playing in what appears to be his contract year, as reports have been stating that he will test the free agency market at the end of the season. Joakim Noah is one of the most underrated players in the entire NBA as well, and is expected to have another big season this year. He averaged 11.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game last season, and was the emotional leader for the Bulls as well. A big question mark surrounds Carlos Boozer. When the Bulls made the move to sign Boozer, they were expecting him to be the nightly double-double that he was during his tenure with the Utah Jazz. He’s become a defensive liability as well as an inconsistent offensive threat as well. If the Bulls want to beat teams like the Heat, Nets, and Pacers, they’re going to need Boozer to get things together and step up.
Jimmy Butler is the most intriguing player on this years Bulls roster. Hoops-Nation contributor Antonio Santiago broke down why Jimmy Butler will be the Bulls’ X-Factor this year, and you can expect to see a big season from him. He came up big in the Bulls’ post-season series with the Heat, both on offense and defense. Jimmy Butler averaged 8.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game last season as a whole, but upped his scoring average to 13.3 per game throughout the 2013 NBA Playoffs. He will likely step into the starting shooting guard role in Chicago, and you can expect to see a much improved Jimmy Butler right from the get go.
Tom Thibodeau preaches defense to his teams, and there will be no difference in this years Bulls team. With Noah, Butler, Deng, and Rose all being very solid defenders, the weakest link becomes Boozer. It will be very interesting to see how the Bulls split time between Boozer and Taj Gibson. Gibson is the much better defender, and can score and rebound the basketball at a high level as well. All that being said, the Bulls will be one of the best defensive basketball teams in the NBA once again.
Overall, this Bulls team has the potential to make a very deep run in the Playoffs. They will obviously need Rose to come back at complete health to reach their full potential to compete in the East. They do have some holes in their depth, however, especially at the backup point guard spot. Marquis Teague will be asked to step up and provide Rose with the necessary relief when needed. He’s fairly inconsistent offensively, but can make plays for his teammates. The Bulls brought in Mike Dunleavy to fill their backup small forward and shooting guard roles, which will be a nice upgrade over what they had last season.
This Chicago team should end up with a top-5 seed in the Eastern Conference. Where they wind up in that top-5 will depend on whether or not Rose can come back completely healthy, and also how the team gels around him. Don’t expect there to be too many issues surrounding this team. They will have another great season and have a chance to compete for an NBA Championship.