Rose looks healthy, time for some updated predictions

Throughout most of the off-season, it was always a matter of hedging bets with predictions. If Rose is healthy XYZ, but if he's only 80% then ABC. Well, after two games of seeing Derrick Rose, it's time to make something a bit more solid.

61 wins

That's the number I'm going to go with. I think the Bulls have potential for more and obviously a floor of far less, but 61 feels about right. Derrick Rose looks back and as explosive as ever which means the high end mark of predictions seem more realistic.

I'd probably go even higher, but I have significant doubts about the front court's ability to stay healthy, and I see a lack of depth up front costing the Bulls a few games down the stretch.

Still, Chicago is clearly one of the elite teams going into this season, and I think, overall, they've been overlooked by the national media who's largely hedged their bets on Derrick Rose as well. It's common to see the Bulls ranked around the 10th best team in the NBA, but I'm going to say they're sitting around 3rd.

Miami is obviously number one, and the Clippers, yes the Clippers, are my pick for the second best team. After that? I'm going with the Bulls.

Oklahoma City will be dangerous, but Westbrook is now coming off two knee surgeries however minor, and they lost Kevin Martin which will be a bigger impact than people think. OKC no longer has a third scorer, and while Martin was a shade of Harden, there's no one left to be even a shade of Martin unless someone unexpected steps up big time.

Brooklyn and Indiana are obviously wild cards in the East.

Brooklyn could dominate if they can find a way to gel, but quite frankly after Deron Williams was housed by Nate Robinson in the playoffs, it's hard to take him too seriously as a superstar. He's had chronic injuries lately, and I think Paul Pierce doesn't add anything meaningful whatsoever to the team.

If Brooklyn could get everyone playing well, then they have potential to be the top team in the league, but I don't see the pieces fitting together right, and I don't think their best player is really a match for the best player on the better teams. KG will add a ton if he remains healthy while Jason Terry and Andrei Kirlenko are vastly improvements on last year's bench.

Still, I don't like the mix in the starting lineup. Pierce might be better than Wallace on offense, but he doesn't bring the type of offense the Nets need and is far worse on defense. Joe Johnson has been in decline for awhile, and KG's is facing the cliff for the third year in a row where an expected significant decline is ever more likely.

If everything works, they're great, but there are so many ways it could not work.

Indiana's definitely improved this year. I felt they were highly overrated last season due to their close series against Miami, but with Granger coming back and the acquisition of Scola, the team is actually improved quite a bit. Especially if Paul George (probably the most overrated player in the NBA) continues to improve and possibly even becomes 90% of the player people think he already is [and I like George, but really, people talk about him like he's a superstar perpetually, he's not close to a superstar, at least not yet].

All things being equal, I like the Bulls starters much more than the Pacers, because the Bulls have a legit superstar in Derrick Rose while the Pacers have a legit really really good player in Paul George. Both teams are tough and physical, but in the end, I don't think Indiana's a serious problem for Chicago as long as both teams meet healthy in the playoffs.

I think I feel about Indiana what Miami likely feels about Chicago.

So for now? I'm taking the Bulls as second in the East and giving them a 15% chance or so at winning the NBA title this season.

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  • Doug, I agree with you about not being scared of the Pacers. Even when the Bulls had a 'tough' series against them in the '10-11 playoffs they won 4-1. And frankly, the Pacers are a different team now. And I mean in that a negative way. They may be more talented overall, but they're much less physical which is always what gave the Bulls trouble.

    In '10-11 they had Hansbrough, Foster, McRoberts all beating up Carlos Boozer on the block and banging Rose when he came to the rim. Those guys are all gone. Is David West a better player than those guys? Of course. But he's not a brute or a hack. Hibbert is still tough as tissue paper and Luis Scola defines the Euro-soft label. The Bulls will actually have an easier time beating the Pacers this year since they won't have to worry about the hacks and Jonny Hustles of years' past. They'll just match up talent against talent, and play tough D, and it won't be nearly as 'close', nor as grueling.

  • In reply to stakfry526:

    Great point on the physicality of the Pacers. They are talented and big, but they aren't nearly as tough and physical as they used to be. The Bulls can deal with talented big offensive players and struggled more against their physicality.

  • One more comment: 61 Wins but 15% chance of winning the title? You seem to believe the Bulls are in the same exact position they were in last time Rose was healthy - regular season winners, playoff losers. I do not understand this line of thinking. Consider:

    A) If Rose is back (all indications are yes), this is the most talented Bulls team he has ever had, by far. Noah is twice the player he was a few years ago, Butler is so far ahead of Bogans he can't see him in the rearview, and Boozer/Deng have not regressed.

    B) The Bulls finally have a top 8. Their rotation in the playoffs will be the starters plus Hinrich/Dunleavy/Taj. Forget the bench mob, that is the best top 8 - particularly offensively - they've had in the Rose years. No more of this silly 11-man unit in the playoffs. A top 8 is what they've needed.

    C) All the other top teams have regressed. San Antonio, another year older. OKC, injured Westbrook and lost Martin. Indy, perhaps more talented, but overall less of a threat to the Bulls specifically due to their reduction in physicality. And most of all...

    D) The Heat are on the way down. Lebron is a beast, there is no fighting that. But they are worse literally everywhere else. Bosh has been in decline since he stepped foot in Miami, they lost Mike Miller who was a huge help for them in the playoffs, Allen made one 3 in the Finals - everyone forgets the horrible series he had before that, and Wade today is about 70% of the Wade they had last time Rose faced them. I think they Heat slip down to a 3-4 seed and don't make it past Indy or Chicago.

    My projection? 58 wins. Finals Appearance. Do they win? Not sure. But I think for the first time they're the team to beat in the East.

  • In reply to stakfry526:

    If they get to the finals, I think they're more like a 50/50 shot to win.

    The thing is, Miami is still a juggernaut that I don't think they can stop. I pick them to win 66 games this year, and I think they'll just beat whomever they face.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    If the Heat can stay healthy, and Greg Oden can give them 15 solid minutes per game in the playoffs, they will be very difficult to beat. Wade played through last year's playoffs with a significant bone bruise and they still won the title. I don't see the Heat winning close to 66 games again. It's not an important enough accomplishment to compensate for the wear and tear it takes to achieve it. If the Bulls stay healthy, they can take the #1 seed, but they won't beat a healthy Heat team in the playoffs.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Sorry, i just can't see Miami winning 66 games this year and getting the 1st seed. Remember, even Chicago couldn't get home-court advantage in 1993 and 1998. I still think they are the favorites to beat Chicago in the playoffs and win it all, i just don't think it translates in lots of regular season wins. By the way, regular season wins is what the thibs' bulls do, like many people noticed here. I am too cautiously optimistic about the bulls' chances to go all the way this year but, talking exclusively about the regular season, i'm on record proclaiming Chicago the favorites.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    teams don't often win 66 plus games 2 years in a row. In fact I wonder if anybody other than the 95-96-97 Bulls has ever done it. If so it would have to be either the Lakers or the Celtics of the 80's.

    Additionally, Miami "only" won 66 games last season and that was after a 27 game winning streak, I don't think that they are doing that again.

    Finally, the competition, especially in the east has gotten better and deeper. Unless Oden and Beasely act like the #1 and #2 picks in their respective drafts, I don't see Miami matching last seasons performance. Although I would give them and the Clips the best shot at winning 60.

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    In reply to DougThonus:

    I think you're too practical when it comes to the Heat. The Bulls at full strength would have more than a 50/50 chance to defeat them. They've shown no fear or no intimidation towards that team. They've ended the Heat's 26 gm win streak playing w/ missing pieces in their lineup.
    The way I see it, had Rose, and Noah not gone down w/ injuries in 2012 the Bulls would've have defeated the Heat then. They defeated the Heat 3 out of 4 times during the regular season that year.
    A juggernaut? No. More like a team who had the fortune of remaining healthy while the C's and the Bulls fell to the injury bug.
    Personally, I feel the Bulls are 5 seconds better the the Spurs of 2013. That is the difference between them winning the championship trophy and them losing it.

  • In reply to stakfry526:

    Regarding B, I do think that Boozer and Deng have regressed. Deng ostensibly due to his wrist, he can really shoot anymore, and he can't handle the ball well with his left hand. Boozer no long provides anything inside offensively, aside from the occasional offensive rebound. His game is now 15-foot-turnaround-jumper, almost exclusively. And we all know about his defense, for which I say you can't regress from zero.

    I agree that this is the most talented team (on paper) that the Bulls have had in the Rose era, but the lack of depth up front is going to hurt them. Luckily it's not as big of a deal when matching up against Miami, especially now with the Deng-Butler-Rose combo defending the perimeter, but we did lose our biggest outright advantage against the Heat, even if we still have the advantage in Noah/Taj.

  • In reply to kozzer:

    Er, that should start "Regarding A", specifically the regression of Boozer & Deng.

  • In reply to stakfry526:

    I partly agree:
    A) Agree except for "Boozer/Deng have not regressed." I do not think we know that yet. It will take a dozen regular season games to find out. If you are correct, then the Bulls will have a dynamite team.

    As Don Ellis and others pointed out, the Bulls won about 85% of their games when Rose, Noah, Deng, and Boozer all played. Of course, that was 2 and more years ago. But now the Bulls have Butler starting who is certainly better than Bogans/Hamilton.

    B and C) Agree.

    D) Not sure. Plus, sometimes so-so players move to a championship team and that motivates them to step up their game. That could happen in Miami with Beasley. It also could happen in Chicago with Pittman. Even Duneavy, who was solid, could be better with Chicago. Always the "X" factors, the unknowns. Which helps to keep things interesting.

  • With Rose returning to full strength, the big questions, other than health, become about Dunleavy and Butler. How much will Dunleavy add to the team and how much further will Butler improve? If the answer to both questions is "a lot," Bulls have a real chance to challenge for the title. Anything less and I think they're stuck where they are.

    I think Boozer and Deng are in decline but I could see both of them holding off the decline for this year if the team around them is firing on all cylinders, especially Deng since he's playing for a contract.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Makes sense. Snell and even Murphy could turn into significant role players as well.

    Taj looks to be back in form, which is nice to see. Hope he continues.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    I think Taj is a wild card. If he shows some improvement it's a big help. I don't expect anything whatsoever from Snell/Murphy. Snell, so far in ultra limited time, looks like a bust, and Murphy was drafted in the "does not belong in the NBA" portion of the NBA draft so he'd have to prove to be the exception to become a viable player.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Doug, I'm not sure you can classify Snell as a bust already after two preseason games in an ultra limited role as you stated. I have an opposite view. His shot hasn't dropped but he's shown that he can handle the ball a bit and because of his length I think he can be a great defender.

  • In reply to JPesos1230:

    I'm not classifying him as a bust yet. I agree that it's too early. Just saying so far he's not shown me anything that says 'NBA player'. Hopefully he does soon.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    The other question was simply how close were the Bulls really to Miami in 10/11? Was it tough series but they were neck and neck or were they really outclassed? The Bulls played awful in that series, but they've held their own against the Heat in the regular season.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    My memory ain't the best, but I remember that 4 out of those 5 games were close, and the one blowout was the Bulls' win. I also remember that Korver went ICE COLD the whole series, and when you're talking 3-4 attempts per game, and it's a 2 or 4 point game in the 4th quarter, those misses - even misses in the 2nd quarter - are huge. I don't mean to pin the blame on Korver, but if he was even average maybe 1 of those losses flip and instead of going down 3-1 the Bulls tie the series at 2-2 with the home court.

    Also, LeBron gets a lot of credit for "shutting down Rose" on some of those 4th quarter possessions, but if you look at it, Rose got the shot he wanted (which was a step back jumper after dancing around) and just missed. He made a similar shot against Milwaukee at the buzzer. So fault Rose for settling for a jumpshot rather than attacking the rim (which is what got the Bulls into that position in the first place). And obviously, losing Asik with that broken leg didn't help.

    So my point is that the Bulls were much closer to the Heat than the 4-1 outcome suggests, and I definitely do not think they were outclassed, nor would they be this year if everyone's healthy. Now *last year* they were outclassed by Miami. Even in games when they were close it felt like they were hanging on for dear life.

  • In reply to kozzer:

    yea, your memory seems about right. The Bulls should have won game 5, that was an out and out blow job. A healthy Asik for the series could have been worth another win. That gets us to game 7, where you never know what can happen but we likely lose to better talent.

    As for Korver, as much as I liked him, he seemed like the kind of guy that a good defensive team, especially in the playoffs could take out of the game and make him a non factor, so I don't see him playing better and winning games for the Bulls.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    It's an interesting question, especially since some here consider the Pacers a "tough out" for the Bulls based on going 1-4 against the Bulls in a playoff series.

    I tend to think that the Bulls were closer than what 1-4 would indicate but still have a fairly big gap to close, it's not like they pushed the Heat to 7 games.

  • Good article, Doug..,great comments and followups..,here's my 2-cents to Bulls being good-enough to knock off Miami

    1--Deng wasn't good enough last year(shooting poor).,just hoping his % goes up a few points----very possible

    2--Taj's offense takes a big stride toward his defensive achievements--possible

    3--Noah can be a bit healthier AND ready for Post-Season.---not so likely

    4--The Rose/Kirk,PG SG combo works. This duo is short defensively, but aggressive. Offensively, the right mix of set up my teammates and score myself.---optimistic with time

    5--Jimmy improves his overall game as much as last year.---big ? because he just busted out last year and I remember what a disappointment Taj was(stepped back,not forward)

    6----Our ability to score in the last 2-minutes of games. We've got to be Way Good at this to beat the likes of Indiana and Miami----could be the difference in our quest for the Championship!!!

    Comments???

    3

  • In reply to rakmessiah:

    1-3 basically mean that the core Bulls need to be at, or close to, 100% come playoff time, something we've never seen. It also means Bulls need all their players pretty much play at least close to the best level we've seen them at, including Deng, Taj, Noah, and probably Boozer , not that we've ever gotten a whole lot from him as a Bull.

    4-6 are areas where the Bulls need to improve from their last real run at the Heat two years ago:

    4- Hinrich needs to be effective in running the second team. I don't want to see him playing SG though I'm sure it will happen, I just hope he doesn't screw it up too bad when he does.

    5 Between Butler replacing Bogans and Dunleavy replacing Korver, the Bulls need to be better than they were last time they faced the Heat. I'd say they have to make up for Asik's loss except he didn't really play against the Heat. Butler is already better than Bogans but he needs to continue to progress.

    6 Ultimately, for the Bulls to beat the Heat, Rose has to play better against them, especially in the last 2 minutes no matter who is guarding him. That might be too much to ask, perhaps even in a year where he wasn't coming off an injury. Playing better can include better utilizing his teammates such as an improved Butler or Noah versus the last time they faced the Heat but even the Heat didn't win until Lebron took one more step as a player and became even better than he was, Rose needs to take a step like that for the Bulls to win. I wouldn't bet on it happening this year but here's to hoping!

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Err, that was 3 years ago now.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Everything that you said is valid, but #6 is really the whole kit and kaboodle.

    Rose has to become a Jordan like closer for this Bulls team to beat the Heat and win a title. Does he have it in him, is he physically big enough to be that kind of player, I still have my doubts.

    Maybe the events of the past 18 months will fuel him with the same fire that Jordan got from both of his major layoffs, the first due to injury and the second due to retirement/burnout.

    Really that is what I am looking for from Rose this season, signs that he has become a true superstar of the game, a AAA alpha dog. He has been talking a good game, now I want to see it on the court.

    If he is healthy, this is the year we find out what we really have in Rose, and consequently what we will need to do in the future.

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    I like your prediction of 61 wins. Personally, I have them going 63 - 19. But everything has to go right in order for this to happen. 1) I expect the Bulls to lose the 1st gm in Miami, so that leaves them with 18 more losses from Nov-Apr. Then there's the circus trip. The West is filled w/ run & gun, high scoring teams which always seems to give the Bulls problems. Add to that is the rust from Rose trying to readjust himself into the league. 3 more losses here. That leaves them w/ 15 losses from Dec - Apr. Finally, health to core players becomes critical to the teams success. If the team stays healthy and steady mins are given, the Bulls will finish w/ the best record and a num 1 seed in the East.
    Even though Miami Heat are champions, and more than a LeBron James & Co. team, it is extremely difficult for them to 3 peat. They may start off well, but by the time the playoffs start exhaustion from playing till June for the past 3 years will take it's toll on that team, giving the Bulls the perfect opportunity to beat the Heat in the Eastern Conf Finals.
    In the West I too have the Clippers as the top seed. But they don't have a decent shooting guard, and Blake Griffin, and D. Jordan are still unproven in the playoffs. They may use Thibs defensive philosophy but you never know how it goes out west. The Grizzlies, Spurs or even the Wolves may end up shocking them in a 7 yr series.

  • 60 wins seems like a stretch for just about anybody this season. The league as a whole seems much stronger, especially the east.

    The Bulls won at a 62 win pace in Rose's last 2 healthy seasons, but the eastern conference sucked, especially our division. Even if the bulls are better/more talented, so is the rest of the conference and especially our division.

    The top of the conference is much stronger with Indy and Brooklyn joining Miami and the bulls. and there are fewer gimme wins at the bottom, with only Philly, Orlando and maybe Charlotte in that category. The rest of the teams in our division project to be much tougher outs than they used to be with Detroit and Cleveland maybe even contending for the playoffs instead of being doormats. didn't the Bulls set some kind of record by going something like 15-1 against their own division, don't see that happening again.

    They may end up being a better team, although without you know who in the middle, I still think that front court depth is going to be a problem, and I am in the camp that both Deng and the Hole are in decline, even if not massive yet. So something in the mid fifties seems to be more realistic. Does Thibs still have it in him to drive them to overperform in the regular season, which is what it would take to get to 60 or more wins? Is that even what we want/need?

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I agree that the eastern conference has gotten better. Teams like Detroit, Cleveland and Toronto will no longer be a cake walk. Something like 55-57 wins seems more likely. To me it doesn't matter because its not about regular season championships which only get you the last draft pick. It's about entering the playoffs healthy and ready to roll. A good example is the 2009-10 Celtics that paced themselves to the playoffs, they were the 4th seed and were only a game away from a championship against the Lakers.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    Agree 100% - its about entering the playoffs healthy and rested.
    And just who was the top assistant coach to Doc Rivers for the 2009-10 Celtics?

  • So many good comments...

    Great over-under at 61. I like the over and think they can get around 66 and the #1 overall, like they have the last two years Rose played. Miami will not play hard for the top seed.

    Deng/Boozer have not regressed - technically. Deng has had two poor season's due to the wrist injury. I think if he's healed, he will have a season like his first year under thibs and he's playing for a contract.

    Yes, I too, mention the 85% winning % with the core 4. But, now with Butler at the 2 and perhaps the best bench, there is no reason for this team not to outpace the 2010-11 and 2011-12 regular season win totals. (62 wins and a pace of 62 wins in a short season. There were tons of injuries in both those seasons.)

    Bulls have to be the most improved team from last year with Rose back. Indy will be for real, with Granger back and they scare me. NJ will be interesting. Miami will be good, but nothing different from last year. LeBron looked shaky and lacked confidence in the Finals and they were lucky to pull it out. (See game 6 first 3 quarters and most of the preceding games... guarded by Diaw.)

    Bulls defense will be possibly best ever. If Rose plays hard on the defensive end and uses his freak athletic ability, Boozer is the only hole. Dunleavy is decent because of his size and length. Otherwise, you are talking about legit high-end defensive talents all around.

    Which brings me to Doug's biggest gripe so far for this team: 3 pt shooting. This team will win 70 games if Butler and Deng can sniff 37% from 3 on strong volume. And, Dunleavy can hit his 39% career 3 pt ave of the last 6 seasons. If Rose can improve on his shooting like he has in every year of his career and hit just 34% from 3. And, injuries are not severe - season-ending, or all at once.

    Dunleavy hoisted up 300 3's last year and shot 43%. He will gets tons of looks with Rose and I think he can shoot 40% easy. Butler shot nearly 50% from 3 after the all-star break and including the playoffs. Deng has averaged a tick under 35% the last 3 seasons from 3 pt range, half of which happened with his bad wrist. I think he can approach 37%. As for Rose, he's proven that he can shoot 33%. I think he can shoot 35% after working on it all last season.

    Regarding the rookies... They will add nothing this year. If Snell does anything it's a bonus. I think he has potential, but he may be a nice shooting role player to play alongside Rose in a few years. Not much more. Murphy is only on the team because he's CHEAP. The guy can shoot but that's all.

  • In reply to Granby:

    "Boozer is the only Hole" or the ultimate BozoHole.

    I admire your general state of optimism, but to say that Deng has not regressed "technically" is to ignore the empirical evidence.

    Has has been in a steady(some might say precipitous) state of decline since having the best season of his career in his 3rd year in the league, 2006-7, 6 years ago in what might have been his only legitimate "allstar" season.

    I suppose that you could chalk up his last 2 years to injuries, and hope that he returns to the form he displayed 2009-10-11, but even those season don't match the standard he set in 2006-07-08. Never mind the fact that offensively he is a shrinking violet when going up against Lebron while not even sniffing all 15th team all defense against him.

    If we had 2006-07 Deng and maybe even 2006-07 BozoHole we might actually be favored to beat the Heat(or the Pacers, or the Nets) especially if we had 2013-14 Asik.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I thought of you when I said that! He is a hole, but whether he's an A-hole or Bozohole, it's up for debate.

    I like the Booz Cruise. He brings interior toughness and rebounding and a lot of yelling "Gimmie dat!" and "Get dat Jo!" constantly.

    He may be the poster boy for one of those fake tough guys since he shrinks in big playoff games.

    Nevertheless, he can carry the scoring load in certain matchups still and the Bulls have an option on him due to the amnesty provision.

  • Honestly i could care less about the Bulls season record. I'll be happy if they can just make it to the playoffs healthy for a change with the team in tact. What good is having 61 wins if you can't make it past the 1st or 2nd? I'd rather see the Bulls finish with 39 wins for the season and at least make it to the Eastern Conference finals. All these 50 and 60 win seasons are doing is giving Reinsdorf more reasons to be cheap.

  • It might be a mistake for the Bulls to get over 60 wins this season. 55 wins with rested players entering the playoffs will be far more important.

    On paper, as many fans have analyzed, this team looks better than any of the past 4 years. The first 8 players seem to make for a top 5 team. So, will that be enough? If not, what else is needed? I see 4 possibilities, not all of which are likely:

    1) Thibs actually sticks to his stated resolve to play the starters less;

    2) Of course, this means playing the bench more. Dunleavy, Taj, and Kirk will get the bulk of those minutes, but Teague, Snell, and Murphy need some to develop - or not, and get replaced.
    The coaches need to tell Snell, 'Do you want to make a few million $ in your career, or would you prefer to earn tens of millions of $?!!! You are long and quick, a good defender, and can handle the ball. We need that, but primarily we drafted you to shoot! So, when you are open, unless someone has an open path to the rim, pull the doggone trigger!'
    How many minutes and games will it take Snell, if ever, to develop that? Impossible to know, but since it seems it's not instinctive, it will take a lot of repetition. The upside should be worth it;

    3) They need one or two more good role players. Of course, the backup C, and ideally either Teague or Snell for solid backups with eventual starter potential;

    4) Finally, it would be helpful in Miami declines some. That's it.

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