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Competition Discussion: Chicago Bulls

The season is still not here, 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, we're going to throw up a "competition discussion" thread for each of the other 29 teams over the next couple months or so.  We'll go in alphabetical order from A to Z.  Today's team: Chicago.  Jump to the comments to discuss the Bulls and make a prediction on their record.

Previously: AtlantaBostonCharlotte. 


Last year's record: 41-41 (Pythagorean record: 36-46)
Playoffs: Lost to Cleveland Cavaliers 4-1 in first round

Offensive Rating: 103.5 (27th)
Defensive Rating: 105.3 (11th)
Pace: 93.1 possessions/game (11th)

In: Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, C.J. Watson, Omer Asik, Kurt Thomas, Keith Bogans, Tom Thibodeau
Out: Kirk Hinrich, Brad Miller, Hakim Warrick, Flip Murray, Devin Brown, Acie Law, Jannero Pargo

Projected starting lineup: Derrick Rose, Ronnie Brewer, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah

Five big questions:

  • How will Derrick Rose adjust to having more talent around him? What's his ceiling?
  • Will Carlos Boozer be as successful away from Jerry Sloan's flex system?  (Assuming, of course, the Bulls don't adopt some of those sets).
  • How will Tom Thibodeau adjust from "much-ballyhooed assistant" to "head coach?"  Can he work the same defensive magic with the Bulls as he did with the Celtics?
  • Who wins the battle at shooting guard?  
  • Is there enough perimeter shooting, or are we going to see a bunch of clanked 20-footers like we saw last year?

The Bulls are a tough team to figure out this year.  They'll certainly be very good after having about as good an offseason as possible without getting one of the big names.  I happen to think Carlos Boozer is a bit overrated -- he's not a great isolation player, and Utah's motion-based flex system was ideal for his talents -- but he's a major upgrade over what they trotted out at that position last year.  Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and CJ Watson were all solid pickups, and Tom Thibodeau should be a major upgrade over Vinny Del Negro.

So they'll be better, perhaps much better.  But I can't put them up with the other contenders at this point.  For one, I don't think their offense will be good enough.  Last year, the Bulls were a horrific offensive team mostly because they were in love with long two-point jumpers.  They, and not the Wizardsled the league in most shot attempts from 16-23 feet.  This season, they're likely to trot out at starting lineup that has no legitimate three-point shooters.  Boozer and Luol Deng have good mid-range games, and Derrick Rose's is improving, but that's just not going to work in today's NBA. It's why they made a big bid for J.J. Redick before signing Brewer.

The other thing worth wondering about is whether Thibodeau can bring that same defensive magic to a Bulls team that doesn't have Kevin Garnett.  Rose and Boozer are both poor defenders for their position, and if the Bulls elect to play Korver a lot because of the shooting problem, that's three subpar defenders Thibodeau needs to improve.  He could do it, and the presence of Joakim Noah will help him, but it's certainly not a given. 

Those are the two big reasons I'm stopping short of calling the Bulls a title contender.  Their one saving grace, though, might be Rose himself.  If I had to pick one player who would make that leap from star to superstar this season, it would be Rose.  In the second half of last season, with pretty much nobody else who could take the offensive load off his shoulders, Rose averaged 23 points and 6.5 assists while shooting over 52 percent from the field.  His production last year got dragged down by a poor start due to a slow recovery from an ankle injury.  Once Rose fully recovered, he was outstanding last year.  I expect that to carry over into this year, which may well be enough to push the Bulls above their potential.

Mike's prediction: 49-33, fourth in the Eastern Conference

BF editor predictions:

Team Mike Prada CJ Hempfeld Sean Fagan Rook6980 Jon Kelman Jake Whitacre
Atlanta 45-37 44-38 44-38 46-36 48-34 43-39
Boston 51-31 51-31 48-34 42-40 50-32 60-22
Charlotte 44-38 38-44 38-44 44-38 41-41 38-44
Chicago 49-33 46-36 46-36 46-36 50-32 49-33
Golden State
LA Clippers
LA Lakers
New Jersey
New Orleans
New York
Oklahoma City
San Antonio