Derrick Rose will return this season to the best cast he's ever had. Miami looked vulnerable last year and is coming back with the same group with a year of extra age.
Now this theory could get blown out of the water if Miami breaks up next season. Wade, Bosh, and LeBron can all opt out of their contracts while Miami will also need to deal with the free agent status of the supporting cast as well. It's possible the Heat will be considerably worse in 2014 than this season.
That said, it's likely the Bulls will be as well. As I noted in my 2014 article Friday, 2014 isn't a magical rebuilding year. The most likely scenario is the Bulls lose at least one of Deng/Boozer, possibly both, and only add Mirotic, our draft pick, and the Charlotte pick if conveyed to us. For all the hate Boozer and Deng sometimes get, the odds of those additions making up for the subtractions aren't exactly stellar.
Chicago doesn't have a ton of improving pieces either. Jimmy Butler may improve while Teague and Snell may prove they're NBA caliber players. Of course, Butler may also show that he as a fluke and Teague/Snell could wash out. These things can go either way or a combination of both (ie, one or two pans out and one or two fails, which is most likely).
However, this year, the Bulls have as much two way talent as they've ever had. Rose, Butler, Deng, and Noah are two way players. Granted, Rose is the only really good shot creator of the group, but the other three all have at least some dynamic offensive skill.
Butler can get to the hoop and showed promise as a shooter, Deng has the mid range jumper, great off the ball movement, basket cutting, and general basketball IQ, and Noah's one of the best passing and ball handling bigs in NBA. Carlos Boozer rounds out the offensive group, and his offensive play improves significantly with better play around him as he thrives with just a little space.
On defense, the only hole in the lineup is Boozer, and if the Bulls swap in Taj Gibson the hole is closed which gives the Bulls an extremely solid offensive and defensive look.
Chicago can also field one of the more athletic teams on the floor. Rose, Butler, Gibson, and Noah are all plus athletes. Throw them on the court with Luol Deng who's about average for his position and the Bulls can match the athleticism of pretty much all comers.
With Deng, Butler, and Rose playing the one through three, the Bulls have two options to throw at both Wade [Rose/Butler] and LeBron [Butler/Deng] with two tremendous help defenders behind them [Gibson/Noah].
The Bulls have a bench which has thus far been underrated by those complaining the Bulls haven't done anything yet. Hinrich, Dunleavy, and Gibson give you a nice eight man rotation which is typically your playoff squad.
Snell has potential to come in and be a valuable cog with his skillset right away while Murphy has some potential to fill a situational niche, Nazr can provide fouls, and Teague may give the Bulls a really nice PG if he shows his summer league was not a fluke.
If the Bulls make it to the playoffs healthy, then their roster doesn't need anything else. Their biggest potential problem is that they can't withstand a front court injury and are playing Carlos Boozer with two guys likely to be injured. Crazy that we're not lumping Boozer in that group anymore, but after three healthy seasons [post wrist at least], he feels like the safety.
If Chicago could add Drew Gooden to this team, I'd feel extremely good about the depth/quality of the roster and mark the off-season as a complete win. If they find a decent fourth big man from another move then I'd say the same.
It's easy to be down about the Bulls chances because we just saw a season without Derrick Rose and the team limp to a 45 game finish and an annihilation in the second round while missing multiple key players, however, Rose has had enough time that he'll likely be as good as he'll ever be by the playoffs next season, the cast around him will be more dynamic than it's ever been, and the primary competition didn't add much.
Will the Bulls win this season? Still a long shot. However, they're legitimately in the mix and probably have as good a shot as they've ever had in the Rose era.