What could have been for the Chicago Bulls last season?
They were good.
Good enough to earn a second place finish in the Central Division and advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals, where they were ousted by the Miami Heat.
But how much better could they have been and how much deeper could they have gone in the playoffs had they not been missing a huge piece of their lineup for the entire season? How different would things have been with Derrick Rose?
Since Rose is a young and dynamic point guard who already has an MVP under his belt, I'm guessing quite a bit. Perhaps enough to make up the five games that stood between them and the division champion Indiana Pacers. Perhaps enough to face the Heat in the conference finals, instead of the semifinals. Perhaps enough to beat them.
As the 2013-14 season draws near, however, Rose is finally back in the lineup. He made his pre-season debut last week against the Pacers and it went well. So the issue now is how well will Rose fit back into the mix? How rusty will he be? How will the rest of the team respond?
What will be for the Chicago Bulls this coming season?
Head Coach: Tom Thibodeau enters his fourth season at the helm for the Bulls. Prior to joining the organization, he was an assistant for the Boston Celtics during their championship run. In his first season, he coached Chicago to 62 regular season victories and an appearance in the conference finals. Those 62 wins bested Phil Jackson's first season mark by seven games.
He hasn't been able to repeat that level of success in the two seasons that followed. This due in large part, I presume, to the absence of Rose.
Last Season's Record: 45-37
Player Losses: They lost shooting guard Marco Belinilli to the San Antonio Spurs and Seattle product Nate Robinson to the Denver Nuggets. They chose not to resign former Sonic Vladimir Radmanovic, who played last season on a one year deal. In addition, the following players were released/waived: guards Kalin Lucas and Patrick Christopher, forward Malcolm Thomas, and guard Richard Hamilton.
Player Additions: Rose is the most obvious addition.They used their first round pick to acquire 6-7 shooting guard Tony Snell out of New Mexico and spent their second rounder on Florida power forward Erik Murphy. They also added Mike Dunleavy, who was personally wooed by Rose. Snell and Dunleavy should combine for a solid outside shooting threat.
Best Player: Rose. Duh.
Worst Player: Nazr Mohammed because his first name starts with 'Naz', which makes me think of nasal, which makes me think of things that stink. It might not be a fair assertion, but I'm going with it.
Player due to breakthrough: Taj Gibson was a first round pick in 2009. Last season, he averaged 7.7 points and 5.3 rebounds in 63 appearances. Could this be the year that Gib+son turns into a rebounding specialist?
The Starters: Projected as follows: PG Derrick Rose, SG Jimmy Butler, SF Luol Deng, PF Carlos Boozer, C Joakim Noah.
The Bench: Headlined by Hinrich, Dunleavy, and Snell. Other contributors are likely to be Marquis Teague, Gibson, Murphy, and Mohammed.
Random Seattle Connection: Thibodeau was an advance scout for the Sonics during the 1991-92 season.
Best Case Scenario for the Season: Rose takes the court and instantly regains his MVP stature. The rest of the players feed off his play making abilities and everything clicks. Everyone stays healthy and they take the Central division by storm to earn the number two seed in the playoffs. The Miami Heat wait one game too long to flip the switch in the conference finals and the Bulls beat the Thunder in seven games.
Worst Case Scenario for the Season: I don't even want to write these words, but Rose re-injures his knee and the Bulls are back to just being a solid team again, this time without Robinson to make an impact.
Most Likely Scenario for the Season: Rose takes the court and gradually regains his MVP stature. The rest of the players feed off his play making abilities and everything clicks about midway through the season. Everyone stays mostly healthy and they take the Central division back from the Pacers in a race that goes down to the last week of the regular season. They are eliminated by the Heat again, but this time in the conference finals.
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