I always find it best to get the bad news out of the way first. Thus, I'll present the best case scenario tomorrow. These scenarios are meant to reflect the low end of reasonable expectations. Clearly a plane crash or career ending injuries is the real worst case scenario, but there's no reason to reasonably expect it, so I won't be covering it. So what's the worst that can happen?
That's the worst that can happen for so many reasons. First, the Bulls miss the playoffs. Always depressing. Next, the Bulls get scored by every 2010 FA due to the fact that they stink. Finally, they don't even get a high lotto pick to help compensate for the above two problems, because at least five or six teams will end up even worse.
How can they arrive at that total? There are a great combination of factors which could cause that outcome, and several iffy propositions need to come up bad for it to happen.
The most important influence on the win total: Derrick Rose. He's a superstar in the fan's mind more so than on the court right now. At his peak, we've seen him dominate games in a way few players can, but he's didn't play at that level frequently. More often, Rose played passively on offense and was a turnstyle on defense. That's fine for a rookie, we saw the flashes of greatness which shows a ceiling at the highest level in the NBA game.
Most consider it a foregone conclusion that he reaches that peak, but if he doesn't work hard enough or improve enough this summer, then the Bulls are in for a rude awakening. Ben Gordon shielded Rose from a lot of pressure. He carried the offense more frequently than Rose and gave the Bulls another option in the clutch. Rose is the focal point now, and the most viable second option is probably John Salmons which means a lot more pressure on Rose in those tight situations.
If Rose becomes a superstar, then we should see significant improvement this year, so a lack of improvement also signals a dark cloud over his future on top of the negative impacts of the season.
Luol Deng continues to struggle with health and/or ability. I don't think Luol Deng became a worse basketball player than he was in 06/07. Not at his age. However, the minor injuries seem to have added up to a point where he can't perform at a high level. We're hoping for improvement this year in that regards, but we've also heard mixed messages on his health.
As early as July, management was implying Deng was 100% without saying it. Instead, focusing on the fact that he "looked good" or was working out three times a day. Deng later blew the cover off that story by saying he's still not 100%, but he's getting there and hopes to be ready for training camp.
Still, it's hard to feel confident about Deng's health at this point, and he's one of the core eight players the Bulls need to rely on to have a quality season. If he can't play effectively then everyone's role increases by one. Jannero Pargo, James Johnson, and Taj Gibson need to then play more minutes to pick up the slack. That's going to be a large net negatiev for the team.
Joakim Noah/Tyrus Thomas continue to play inconsistently. The fans have rallied around Joakim Noah after "the steal", but both players improved considerably at the end of the year. However, Noah hasn't had a history of working out hard in the summer, and Tyrus seems to come in with expectations that don't match his abilities and shoot his way out of playing time.
What we get out of these two largely determines whether the Bulls have an effective front court or whether they get owned down there every night.
Brad Miller/John Salmons fall off a cliff. Let's face it, Brad Miller is at the age where you're expecting his performance to take a nasty dive while John Salmons really had his first break through offensive season last year. They were also amped to get out of Sacramento and go to a team with a playoff chance.
Can they continue to play well for a full season? Hard to say, but a drop off means significant problems for the team.
On top of those specific question which we have reason to ask based on the players history or age, there is the unexpected incident. A significant injury to any major player can hurt this team significantly given that they're really seven deep talent wise (rose, kirk, salmons, deng, tyrus, noah, miller) with some wild cards who may or may not help signifiantly after that (pargo, johnson, gibson).
Interestingly, it won't take all of these things to arrive at the worst case scenario. If all of them come out bad, the Bulls might win 22 games which would at least earn them the high lotto spot to attempt to draft a player to play with Rose in the future. Given that it won't take all of them hitting to give the Bulls a worse case, the odds of it happening are probably slightly higher than the best case scenario.
If it does come to pass that the Bulls miss the playoffs, look for the team to struggle in mediocrity for a significant time in the future.