2014-15 Record: 50-32
Bobby Portis, Fred Hoiberg
Projected 2015-16 Lineup
PG Derrick Rose SG Jimmy Butler SF Mike Dunleavy PF Taj Gibson C Pau Gasol
The Bulls are the only team in the NBA returning 99% of minutes played last year, and while that may not seem like a huge deal, look at how long it took the Cavs to get into winning form at the start of 2014-15. Chemistry can be a big deal in the league, and not having to learn the guys you’re playing with is key, especially when you bring a new coach into the picture. That’s likely the biggest unknown coming into this season, though health issues are always a concern with this team.
Obviously Derrick Rose is the biggest question mark. Not that his current injury should have any impact on his play, but he has been unable to stay on the court for the past three seasons. Noah has had his own share of problems being healthy and effective, at least last year. Gasol has a few years of injury-prone play on the table. Dunleavy is already hurt. Taj Gibson’s knee problems are hopefully fixed, but we can’t know for sure. That means this team is already starting off on the wrong foot when it comes to healthy.
But that still may be okay. The Cavs are just as beaten up, and they have no reason to really push for the first seed. The Bulls are going to be putting in a new offensive system, trying to retain their defensive ability,1 and finding the proper rotations. It may not be totally smooth at the start, but as the season goes on, look for the Bulls to really start to click. Plus, the ample frontcourt depth they have is going to be an asset if anyone does get injured. I don’t know that this is a championship team, but they should certainly be in the discussion.
X-Factor: Fred Hoiberg
I hate to put a coach in here, but he really is the X-Factor for this team. Will Hoiberg’s offense be able to flourish with this set of players? Will the defense Thibodeau left behind still shine through Hoiberg’s coaching? How certain is the translation of college success to the NBA?
I’ve watched a lot of the Bulls in the preseason so far, and I feel rather confident that the offense will be improved under Hoiberg. How much it will be improved is a legitimate question, and the rest is still up in the air.
Most To Prove: Doug McDermott
Usually the 9th or 10th guy on a team isn’t going to be the guy I’d say has the most to prove, but considering the crazy scorer Dougie McBuckets was in college and the disappointing season he had last year, it makes sense that McDermott could make a huge jump this year. If he doesn’t, he may go the way of the Jimmer’s of the league. But considering he’s going to get more playing time until Mike Dunleavy is healthy and he’s already looked great during the preseason, I have faith that McDermott can make a jump. Plus, the guy I had in this category for the Bulls last season was Jimmy Butler, and we all saw how that turned out.
Why They’re Worth Watching:
They’re going to have a new, uptempo and spaced offense. Plus, Derrick Rose can still be an assassin when he’s playing at the top of his game.
Best Case – 62 wins
The team shines, Rose is healthy and effective, and Noah returns to defensive player of the year form. Look out Cleveland.
Worst Case – 50 wins
If injuries are prevalent, Butler regresses, and Gasol struggles to play at the level he did last year, the Bulls could be as low as the 4 seed in the East.