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Competition Discussion: Chicago Bulls

The season is still two months away, but most of the rosters are set, barring the requisite Michael Jordan comeback rumor (just kidding, but only a little).  We have an idea where our team stands, but we can't really know unless we discuss everyone else.  In that spirit, I'm going to throw up a "competition discussion" thread for each of the other 29 teams over the next month or so.  We'll go in alphabetical order from A to Z.  Today's team: Chicago.

Last year's record: 33-49

In: Derrick Rose
Out: Chris Duhon, Adrian Griffin, Victor Khryapa

Projected starting lineup: Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, Drew Gooden, Joakim Noah.

Key themes:

  • What's going to happen with Ben Gordon?
  • Was last year the outlier, or the beginning of a theme?
  • How good will Derrick Rose be right away?
  • Vinny Del Negro has no coaching experience.  How will he do as the coach?
  • Will Tyrus Thomas finally get extended minutes?  If so, will he take advantage of them?
  • Will we see Kirk Hinrich or Mopey Iowan?
  • How exactly do they plan on scoring this year?
  • Does the defense return to its 2007 level?

Chicago's a really tough team to read.  In 2006/07, they were sneaky good because while they posted only 49 wins, they had the point differential of a 55+ win squad.  They just happened to run into a bad matchup in Detroit, who punished their guards like crazy.  With no big changes to the roster and another expected year of growth for the young guys, many, including me, had them as the top team in the East. 

Then, somehow everyone decided to completely suck.  It's unprecedented, really.  Kirk Hinrich somehow turned into a below-average point guard, Ben Gordon suddenly turned into a negative presence, Luol Deng got hurt and Ben Wallace fell completely off a cliff.  Scott Skiles quit, Jim Boylan sucked, etc etc. 

It's tempting to say last season was a complete outlier, considering how poorly it went, but there were a lot of disturbing problems.  Without the consistent energy level, the defense suffered.  There was still nobody who could score, leaving Gordon in tons of awful positions.  Worse yet, there was nobody who could pass and set others up for easy scores. 

The hope is that the final problem will be alleviated with Derrick Rose in town.  I'm not sure how great Rose will be, but while he was a pretty good passer in college, he seems more Gary Payton than John Stockton.  That's hardly a bad thing, but Rose may not be as pure as the Bulls need him to be. 

The biggest issue next year, though, is Gordon.  Is he or isn't he returning.  He's being a little ridiculous with his contract demands, but the Bulls have definitely given him shoddy treatment.  They're using the luxury tax as an excuse for not upping their offer like they did with Deng while simultaneously saying they do not plan on making any moves until the Gordon situation is sorted out.  Think about it: all they need is a Cedric Simmons for an unguaranteed contract trade and possibly a Nocioni for smaller salary swap, and wallah, there's the money Gordon needs.

Whether Gordon is worth it or not is irrelevant, because there's almost no possibility that Gordon will be on another team next year.  He'll be a Bull, either with a new contract that is lower than he wants or with the qualifying offer.  Neither will be good for team chemistry, which killed the Bulls last year. 

Add that problem to their young frontcourt, their unproven coach, their lack of a true go-to scorer and their pile of suck (read: Larry Hughes) in the backcourt, and I'm thinking they will be about where they were last season.

Prediction: 33-49, fourth in Central, 11th in East.

Previously (predictions are me/Jake/Truth)...