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2013-2014 Chicago Bulls Season Preview
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On September 19, 2013 @ 9:00 pm In NBA | No Comments
Without Derrick Rose last season, the Chicago Bulls were a good team, but they never had any shot of toppling the Miami HEAT in a seven game series. With Derrick Rose, the Bulls truly believe they’re a legitimate championship contender. Head coach Tom Thibodeau has a way of siphoning every ounce of effort out of his teams, which is why the Bulls did so well last year even without their MVP. With him, this is a very different team potentially on the cusp of something great. Everything depends on how good Rose will be post-surgery, but at the very least we can expect this group to be among the top defensive teams in the league and rack up a whole lot of wins playing beyond their means.
- Joel Brigham
Additions: Mike Dunleavy, Jr., Tony Snell, Erick Murphy
Subtractions: Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli, Richard Hamilton, Vladimir Radmanovic, Daequan Cook
The Bulls think that their roster this upcoming season is the strongest one they’ve had since Tom Thibodeau took over as head coach, and a lot of that has to do with the emergence of Jimmy Butler. Every other starting position—Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, and Joakim Noah—has been there since 2010 and had plenty of success, leading the conference in wins twice and finishing with top-three defensive statistics in each of the last three years. That means Butler is the biggest change, as he’s the first legitimately exciting shooting guard the Bulls have had since letting Ben Gordon walk away in the summer of 2009. Mike Dunleavy, Jr. was a perfect free agency addition for this team, and the higher-ups love rookie Tony Snell. They’re deep, they’re intense, they’re well-coached, and they’ve got D-Rose back, hopefully better and stronger than ever. It’s impossible not to take these guys seriously as a major threat to the Miami HEAT’s quest for a third consecutive championship.
2nd Place – Central Division
– Joel Brigham
If Derrick Return can return to the court and, more importantly, return to the MVP form, this should be the year that the Bulls return to the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Chicago has all of the pieces to be a legitimate contender and this team could be very scary if Rose is back. Since the last time Rose took the floor for the Bulls, Joakim Noah has continued his development, Jimmy Butler has emerged as a difference maker and Luol Deng has established himself as a perennial All-Star. Chicago had a strong offseason, adding potential significant contributors such as Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Tony Snell. Throw in another year of experience for Butler, Marquis Teague and Taj Gibson, and this Bulls’ second unit should be one of the best that they’ve had in years. With all of that said, this team will only go as far as Rose takes them. If he’s back in superstar form, the rest of the league needs to look out.
2nd place – Central Division
- Alex Kennedy
The common narrative entering the 2014 campaign is the Indiana Pacers have surpassed the Chicago Bulls as leaders of the Central Division. Not hard to see why anyone would follow this logic, but the impact from the return of former league MVP Derrick Rose to the Bulls’ roster this season is potentially being underestimated. Rose led the Bulls to the league’s best record in back to back seasons before suffering a torn ACL in the 2012 playoffs. Core guys Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng add the necessary chemistry component around Rose, while emerging forward Jimmy Butler is primed for a breakthrough campaign. It will be a tough battle throughout the season, but in the end Chicago will hold off the upstart Indiana Pacers to reclaim the Central Division crown.
1st Place – Central Division
- Lang Greene
The Bulls’ run last season was simply spectacular. To still make the playoffs and win a series despite being without your best player and constantly dealing with the distraction of his potential return that never happened says a lot about the mental toughness of this team. They’re going to benefit from last year for many years to come. Luckily, though, they won’t have to go through it again. Derrick Rose is cleared, confident and ready to return to the court after a year off, helping the Bulls improve by default as much as any team in the league. There’s no telling how good the Bulls could have been last year with a healthy Rose, but we’ll find out this year. If the year off helps Rose recapture his All-Star, MVP form immediately, the Bulls should be looked at as a viable championship contender. They look to be a hair behind the Indiana Pacers on paper, but their potential is the same.
2nd place — Central Division
- Yannis Koutroupis
Though the NBA’s Central Division will be much-improved this season, it is difficult to imagine the Bulls not reasserting their dominance over the rest of their foes with a healthy Derrick Rose returning to the lineup. Even without the youngest MVP in league history, last season, the Bulls were able to win a respectable 45 games and upset the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs. Jimmy Butler has impressed everyone who has seen him play, and his continued growth will almost certainly have the Bulls looking at a 55-win season. With Rose returning, they will join the Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks and Nets as one of the teams in the East that has a legitimate chance at threatening LeBron James’ reign atop the conference. Health is certainly a factor, but with one of the NBA’s toughest supporting casts featuring All-Stars Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, the Indiana Pacers’ reign atop of Central Division may be one-and-done. As a young team and new expectations, the Bulls and Pacers will battle for supremacy in the Central, but it is a battle that the battle-tested and most talented Bulls should win.
1st place — Central Division
- Moke Hamilton
Top Offensive Player: Derrick Rose. Luol Deng was Chicago’s leading scorer last year with 16.5 ppg, but with Rose back fully healthy this season it’s likely the former MVP will go right ahead and take over the bulk of the scoring load for the Bulls this season. In his last three full seasons, Rose has never averaged fewer than 20.8 ppg, so there is every expectation that he come back and score in the 20-24 ppg range for a team that desperately needs the offense.
Top Defensive Player: Joakim Noah. To be fair, Deng got a couple of NBA All-Defensive Team votes last season, but Noah was the first Bulls player to make the first team since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen did it in 1998. Noah averaged career highs in blocks (2.1 per game) and rebounds (11.1 per game) last season, but numbers don’t do his defensive intensity justice. This guy can only play defense with the volume turned up to eleven.
Top Playmaker: Derrick Rose. In all but a few circumstances, this is an award given to a team’s point guard, but it’s especially true for the Chicago Bulls, who could very well still have one of the quickest players in the game in Rose. Few players break down a defense like a healthy Derrick Rose, and with more three-point shooters on this team than he’s ever played with, the floor should be more spaced out than it’s been in the past.
Clutch Player: Derrick Rose. Not every team has a superstar, but the ones that do know what it’s like when they are given the opportunity to score the last shot in a big game’s waning moments. Rose has already knocked down a number of game-winners in his relatively short career (in 2012-2013 alone, he had two game-winning shots in the final ten seconds of the game), and assuming he’s fully healthy, he’ll probably knock down a few more in 2013-2014.
The Unheralded Player: Taj Gibson. When given the choice last offseason between holding onto Omer Asik or Taj Gibson, the Bulls made the choice to keep their backup power forward, and as good as Asik was in Houston last year, the Bulls still feel like they made the right decision. By the end of last year, Gibson was finishing games just as often as Carlos Boozer was, and the statistics show that the Bulls’ two most successful five-man units both included Gibson.
Best New Addition: Mike Dunleavy, Jr. The Bulls didn’t have the money to do a whole lot in free agency this season, but they did manage to grab Dunleavy with their mini-midlevel exception, and the returns on that investment should be pretty good. Dunleavy is a huge upgrade defensively over the outgoing Marco Belinelli, he can knock down outside shots, and he can help spell Luol Deng, who has led the league in minutes per game two years in a row.
- Joel Brigham
1. Derrick Rose: Chicago fans weren’t thrilled with Derrick last year when he chose to sit out the Miami series, even though Joakim Noah was hobbling around and Luol Deng was stuck in the hospital thanks to a botched spinal tap, but we’ll see very quickly this year whether or not Rose made the right call by allowing himself to fully heal. He lifted weights seriously for the first time in his life during rehab, so he’s stronger than he’s ever been. He’s also put in a lot of work on his jumpshot, which should make him more dangerous than ever as long as his explosiveness is there. Assuming he’s fine (and he should be), Rose will pretty easily be Chicago’s best player again this season, and they’ll absolutely need him to be if they’re to have a real shot at toppling Miami.
2. Jimmy Butler: Easily the best starting shooting guard Tom Thibodeau has had in Chicago since taking over the head coaching gig back in 2010, Butler is an ideal complement to Rose for today’s NBA. He’s an elite defender that limited opposing shooting guards to a 7.0 PER last season, but he’s also a surprisingly efficient three-point shooter, having knocked down 47.5% of his deep balls after the All-Star break and an unbelievable 56% in the month of April. Best of all is that Butler is still getting better, and it’s easy to look forward to a full season of that production alongside Rose.
3. Joakim Noah: If you’re in Chicago, Noah is a no-brainer for a list entitled “Who We Like,” but a big part of the appeal for Bulls fans is him being the #1 guy on everybody else’s “Who We Hate” lists. The guy is a festering sore in the backs of opponents and plays with more energy than anybody else in the league, which would be fun even if it he weren’t one of the best passing big men in the league. The guy has the goofiest jumpshot of any current player, but had he stayed healthy last year he would’ve been a real contender for Defensive Player of the Year. Assuming the same in 2013-2014, he should be right there again.
4. Luol Deng: When Luol Deng was given his last contract five years ago, it didn’t take long for the collective NBA community to label him overpaid. Now a two-time All-Star, his salary looks just about right for his mix of defense, leadership, and scoring. Heading into the last year of the aforementioned deal, however, Deng could be entering his final year as a Bull. With plenty of marquee free agents looking to be available in 2014, Deng will have to show this season that he’s worth an extension. He would’ve played his guts out either way (Deng has led the league in minutes two years in a row), but a little extra motivation never hurt anything. There’s no doubt he’d love to stay in Chicago for the rest of his career, and truth be told, the Bulls would love to have him back. The question is what kind of price range he’ll play himself into this season.
5. Tom Thibodeau: After only three years as an NBA head coach, it has already become clear that he’s going to be in the conversation for Coach of the Year every single season, just like all-time greats like Jerry Sloan and Gregg Popovich always were/are. Thibs has an amazing track record his first three years, winning that Coach of the Year trophy in 2011 and becoming the fastest coach in NBA history to 100 wins. His career regular season winning percentage in Chicago is .683, which is a tiny sample but, if extended over 500 games, would place him third all-time behind only Phil Jackson and Billy Cunningham. He’s one of the few coaches in this game that can win games no matter who he’s got on the floor, and his defensive mindset has kept the Bulls among the league’s best teams over the last three seasons.
- Joel Brigham
It’s no secret that, under Thibodeau, the Bulls have been one of the best defensive teams in the league in each of the last three seasons. Considering they’re bringing back essentially the same core, which includes NBA All-Defensive First Teamer Joakim Noah, that shouldn’t change in 2013-2014. Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich, Taj Gibson, and even Jimmy Butler are also lauded for their strong defensive play, prove by the fact that last season, the Bulls were third in the league in opponents’ points per game (92.9) and in the top ten in opponents’ field goal percentage (.443) and rebounds (43.2 per game). Rest assured that as good as Chicago has been defensively in the past, Thibodeau will accept nothing but the same this coming season.
- Joel Brigham
While a lot of this can be attributed to the absence of Rose, the Bulls were one of the league’s worst offensive teams last year, and most of the same players will be returning this coming season. Chicago was 29th in points per game (93.2), 29th in three-pointers made (5.4 per game), 25th in field goal percentage (.437), and 19th in free throws attempted. They did a lot to address these weaknesses by drafting Tony Snell and signing Mike Dunleavy, Jr., but Chicago’s offensive woes last season were pretty painful to watch. They’re hoping Rose’s return and the new additions help remedy that, but considering they’ll be getting 20-25 points a night back from Rose, it would be crazy to think they’ll be 29th in the league in offense again this year.
- Joel Brigham
Can Derrick Rose be the same player he was before his knee injury?
The only person in the last half a decade to win a regular season MVP award other than LeBron James is Derrick Rose, but a lot of what made him so great before his torn ACL in the 2012 playoffs was his explosive and athletic style of playing the game. Will he be his old self now that he’s back to 100% physically, or will he be forced to evolve his game the way Dwyane Wade has? And if he does change, can he still be among the league’s most dominant players?
- Joel Brigham
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