NBA Season Preview: Chicago Bulls

Derrick Rose
After a rough FIBA World Cup, former MVP Derrick Rose looks to prove he still has it. (AP)

Projected record: 54-28 (2nd in East)


Derrick Rose
After a rough FIBA World Cup, former MVP Derrick Rose looks to prove he still has it. (AP)

Head coach: Tom Thibodeau
2013-14 record: 48-34
2013-14 ORtg: 99.7 (T-27th)
2013-14 DRtg: 97.8 (2nd)
Players in: Aaron Brooks, Cameron Bairstow, Pau Gasol, Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic, rights to Milovan Rakovic, rights to Tadija, Dragicevic
Players out: Lou Amundson, D.J. Augustin, Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer, Jimmer Fredette, Mike James, Greg Smith
Projected Starting Lineup: Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah

This is not an article about Derrick Rose’s knee.

Regardless of Rose’s health, this team is a shoo-in for home court advantage in the Eastern Conference: ranking 2nd in the East with a record of 54-28 in The Brooklyn Game’s projections.

The Eastern Conference’s offseason was tumultuous: The Pacers fell off the map, the Cavaliers appeared in mid-air, and nearly every other team in the Conference returns with a major change to their roster.

Who better to capitalize on uncertainty, than the all-too-dependable Bulls?

The Bulls enter the season with more depth, better shooting, and Pau Gasol. Sounds like a decent offseason to me. Rose, even at 80 percent, makes this team a contender. But they’ll do fine however he plays.

Aside from Rose, the team returns a core of Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and Kirk Hinrich –a group that wakes up in cold sweats dreaming about Coach Tom Thibodeau shouting his zone principles. A group that has finished every year but one rated as a top-2 defense since Thibodeau arrived in Chicago (in 2012, they “only” finished 6th).

The Brooklyn Game staff is fine going out on a limb and saying this team will be a top-5 defense in 2014-2015. Only a Thibodeau heart attack or the loss of this defense’s team’s heart and soul, Joakim Noah, can derail The Bulls on the defensive end. That’s good enough to grind their way to the top of the conference.

But offensively, there are questions. In the two seasons Rose missed to injury, the Bulls failed to crack the top 20-rated offenses in the league – last year plummeting to 28th in the league with an offensive rating of 102.5. To put that into context, only the Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers – two teams not exactly shy about tanking – managed to put a less efficient offense on the court.

This offseason addressed those issues, as the Bulls acquired Pau Gasol on a two-year contract.

In Gasol, the Bulls gain an efficient and unselfish post scorer. Gasol can mimic Noah’s game in the high post hitting cutters, he can work the boards, and succeed in the pick-and-pop game. On defense, the strong-side isolation zone hid Josh McRoberts, Carlos Boozer, and Al Jefferson — so Gasol will be just fine.

They also added ample floor spacing, bringing over the team’s Euro-stash Nikola Mirotic, a stretch four who shot over 46 percent from three in 31 games of Euro League play last season with Real Madrid. Legendary college chucker Doug McDermott shot .458 over the course of his college including a scorching hot Junior Year where he nearly hit half of all the three pointers he hoisted. Mike Dunleavy, a marksman himself, will benefit from a second year in the system and a reduced role that does not require him to carry any offense.

With Rose, the team finally regains a pick-and-roll catalyst (sorely needed) to get opposing defenses frantic. But this team can also manufacture points dumping into the post for Gasol or Butler, and running some plays through both Noah and Gasol up at the nail. It will not be the prettiest, but it can get the job done in a way they haven’t in the last two years.

On Opening Day, wouldn’t you be a little scared of a lineup that included Noah, Gibson, Dunleavy, Butler and Rose with Pau Gasol looming on the bench? It will be a fun season in Chicago.

This is not an article about Derrick Rose’s knee.