Chicago Bulls finally have more than enough to win

Chicago Bulls finally have more than enough to win

The Chicago Bulls concluded an off-season that disappointed many. They weren't able to bring in a second star or a dynamic scorer/shot creator after a frenzied chase for Carmelo Anthony and Cleveland's willingness to give up Wiggins ended any hope of the Bulls pursuit of Kevin Love.

They were able to add a crapload of depth and significantly improve the shooting. They added two rookies and a season vet whom all look to add significant offensive skill to the table even if they aren't shot creators. According to John Schuhmann's initial power rankings, they're also the favorite to come out of the East.

He has the top 10 looking like this:
1: Spurs
2: OKC
3: Clippers
4: Mavericks
5: Golden State
6: Bulls
7: Cavs
8: Blazers
9: Rockets
10: Raptors

It's tough to write overall rankings, so I won't quibble overly much or rip on a writer for throwing his opinion out there. It's my personal belief that that the Mavs and Warriors are too high on this list, but I'd probably also put the Cavs ahead of the Bulls given the significant risk of Rose's health poses.

However if everyone's healthy? It's hard not to pick Chicago to come out of the East. An interesting result in an off-season many wanted to fire the front office over.

Sure, they backed into that role by Miami splitting apart and Indiana likely coming back weaker, but here they are, and if Derrick Rose stays healthy the Bulls are still likely on top even with a Kevin Love trade for Cleveland as Love wouldn't answer their interior defensive problems, and Miami's already proven you can't get good big men at the minimum.

The Pacers/Wizards don't look stronger to me, the other teams that improved don't seem like they did so enough to make any legitimate run at the top. Cleveland looks like it's going to need at least one year to add the pieces it needs giving the Bulls at least a one year window to take the East and make it to the NBA finals.

While I don't think it was designed to take advantage of Cleveland's time to build up the proper pieces, the Bulls off-season is still set to win now.

Pau Gasol just turned 34. He's clearly on the downside of his career. The Bulls signed him for the next three seasons, and he's likely to get notably worse in each of those given his age. This single season though, Pau still has a pretty good chance of making a major impact on this team and playing at a true secondary star type level.

It's not overly likely that he can hit that peak, but he's done it before, and he's probably better suited to do it, even at 34, than anyone else Derrick Rose has played with previously except possibly Carlos Boozer his first season with the Bulls.

Beyond Gasol, Mirotic and McDermott should add the kind of offensive firepower that Rose has never had next to him in the past. While they're both rookies, they're both heavily experienced rookies. McDermott's played four years in college and Mirotic has been playing at the highest level in Europe on one of the best teams for the past few seasons.

I've expressed my serious doubts about Derrick's ability to stay healthy, but should he return to his former self, an offensive lineup of Rose, McDermott, Dunleavy, Mirotic, and Gasol would leave Derrick with a whole crapload of driving lanes.

Jimmy Butler's offensive numbers plummeted last season, but he's got a tremendous chance to kick the NBA in the ass this season. Butler doesn't have the ball handling or shooting skills to dominate on offense in a crowd, but there are enough offensive players around him now that there won't be much crowd.

I expect Jimmy to have a resurgent offensive season as well playing alongside Rose and hopefully getting meaningful minutes next to McDermott and Mirotic at times too. The Bulls should engage in extension talks with him now if they want to keep him for the long haul, because I'd bet his pricetag goes up considerably next season.

I'd really love to see Tom Thibodeau use the flexibility he has this season. I think Tom's done a great job being flexible with his offensive and defensive sets, but he hasn't been all that flexible with switching his lineups around to play match ups. He definitely played his depth in Derrick's first two seasons when he had depth, but he was still very rigid in the lineups he used.

In those two years, the Bulls weren't running guys into the ground so much, but he still basically played only a few rotations. The starting five, the bench five, and the finishing five. Every once in awhile one guy would stay in as the hot hand a bit, but you'd rarely see him mix and match guys even when it was painfully obvious he should (like removing Bogans from the starting lineup and playing Korver alongside Rose more).

The worst thing the Bulls could do this year is to get trapped in a few set rotations, especially if there's too much offense or too much defense in either group and not a good match. The Bulls have the depth and talent at more or less every position to put an offensive or defensive threat on the floor to attack opponents at their weak points and defend their strengths.

To put it bluntly, Tom Thibodeau, this year, actually has more than enough to win. Chicago is easily the deepest team in East and is in the running for deepest team in the league. What they lack in star power they make up in quality depth, and for the first time that depth has the varied skill set to make a bigger impact.

It will take brilliant coaching by Thibodeau, as well as stepping out of his comfort zones, but if he delivers it then Chicago has a legitimate chance to win the NBA championship this season if the roster can stay healthy and are likely the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference.

That's an awfully good spot to be in for a team that many felt didn't have a very good off-season.

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  • Thibs needs to keep minutes down. Period.

    Who cares if Bulls get #1 seed in the east. #2 will do and there is no way this team is worse than that unless there are major injury problems with key components - Gasol, Rose, Noah. (Not buying Toronto, Indy lost Stephenson + West aging, DC could have been a top 3 team, IMO, but lost Ariza and he was huge for them.)

    Keep guys under 35mpg, including Rose. In big games, when guys are dominating, sure, let them play 38 or 40mpg. But, rest them accordingly thereafter. Sam Smith will say that Jordan played nearly 40mpg all the time, but not everyone is Michael Jordan.

    Why are Duncan and Ginobli still playing at a somewhat high level on the other side of 35? Minutes. They keep coming back for more because they know they will sit on the bench for around 20 mpg in the regular season. If you're Duncan, why retire under those conditions? Keep the team together and extend your career.

    This is the formula to extend the careers of all these guys, including Gasol, Noah, Gibson and Rose.

    This is why signing Butler to a team-friendly deal (if possible) this summer is key. For depth. IMO, the single best wing defender in the game and does not kill you offensively. I think his outside shooting can improve.

    As Doug stated, his value is not all that high right now. I think he likes Chicago and will appreciate the security of a 4-year $16 mil deal. Or, 4 for $20 mil... something like that. The way he played 2 years ago, he would get Ariza type money... (4/$32).

  • Serious question, Bulls fans: Would you rather have Taj for $8MM or Love at the max? Taj plus Gasol for $15MM, or Love at the max?

  • In reply to Roman F:

    If Gasol fits well, it could be a push given how Gibson played late last year.

    If you are talking trade, the Bulls would have to throw in other picks, too. So, it's not straight up.

    Love is great offensively, but below ave defensively.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    I was just wondering with all this new found depth the bulls have and kevin love still in Minnesota will the bulls try once again make an offer for kevin love...?!! Cleveland reportedly will include Wiggins but there are some reports stating otherwise. .draft picks can't be traded in til 30 days after they have signed I think...Warriors won't include k. Thompson. ..Bulls should definitely still try to trade for him..

  • In reply to bullzfan:

    So you would rather have Love at the max than Gibson + Gasol?

    Bulls are not getting Love. They never had the assets, and now they've committed to Gasol. Unless you're willing to trade Noah.

  • Even with that offensive lineup you mentioned, the Rose/Doug Mc/Dunleavy/Mirotic/Gasol lineup, there's only one ballhandler there. Yes, it's a better situation than the Bulls have been in offensively in Rose healthy seasons' past, but I think the evidence still shows you can stop a team if you gameplan for them when they only have one ballhandler out on the floor. At the end of the day, even if it works out, it's still a lot of pressure to place on Derrick's shaky knees.

    Another thing I worry about is that the odds are probably one of Doug Mc or Mirotic is going to be a bust. Can we expect both guys who've never played against NBA competition to be hits? That's a little much. Now the Bulls obviously believe highly in Mirotic to give him the contract they did, but the things I've heard from his last season with Real Madrid weren't all that promising. Rudy Fernandez usurped his role as go-to-scorer. Rudy Fernandez. Honestly I'll be thrilled if either Doug Mc or Mirotic is a real, genuine homerun.

    Lastly, what the hell is Minnesota thinking with reportedly prizing Klay Thompson over Andrew Wiggins? They prefer the right to overpay Thompsons at the max, overpay David Lee, and hope Harrison Barnes looks like a rotation player again over a No. 1 overall pick with superstar potential just starting a rookie contract, another No. 1 pick and a first-rounder. Thompson is really good, we know that, but we also may know his ceiling, and we know he wants a max extension. It's an easy decision to me if the Cavs are really offering up Wiggins. That's a guy you can bring back to your fanbase and say, "We got this guy for the guy that was leaving anyway after this year."

  • In reply to Hunter:

    I don't get it, people act like McDermott and Dunleavy can't dribble the ball. You're certainly not the only one so I'm not calling you out or anything, but we have the two best ball-handling big men in the league, and McDoug and Dunleavy aren't incompetents.

  • In reply to Hunter:

    Well, McDermott and Mirotic are not 18 and 19-year-olds with a very small sample size eval period.

    Mirotic has been a professional for years and a great all-around player in a league that is probably better than the NCAA. McDermott played 4 years of college and was his teams go-to guy with one of the highest usage rates in all of college basketball.

    Yes, they could bust. But, there is a lower chance that they are busts given their age and experience and larger sample size of solid performance. Plus, shooting is a trait that often carries over from league-to-league.

    Are they going to be superstars? Probably not. But, nobody thought Love was going to be a superstar and I think most would categorize him as just that at this point.

  • With a bunch of shooters and an elite low post, we only need Rose as a ball handler. If you dare to double Rose, you will pay for it. If you don't, Rose or Gasol will kill you either on the dribble or on the low post. That's the reason why I totally agree with Doug that the Bulls this coming season have more than enough to win with.


  • After this year's less then stellar offense, I would just be happy with a fun team to watch again. After seeing Mirotic's press conf. and McDermott they seem like two quality guys, hopefully with some serious offensive talent that translates to the NBA. Gasol should be that as well.

    If Derrick is healthy and his shot returns(along with his good sense) it's "possible" the Bulls could vault into legit contenders, but even if everything falls into place I would think one year to gel and gain necessary playoff experience as a team would be realistic and hope Gasol has two good years left.

    One problem maybe(?) with the way things stand now Noah and Gasol occupying legit starter minutes that would leave a Taj like slot of 28 minutes. If you add role player Naz 7 minutes per game that's 35 minutes. Do you really parcel that out between Taj and Nikola, or does somebody have to go? Is the writing on the wall if Mirotic proves ready to be a starting caliber contributor? Is that Gar/Pax's "plan"(god forbid they should have one)? A Taj(and a first or Jimmy Butler) package for an Aaron Afflalo(potent SG/wing) would seem to be that final piece of the playoff puzzle.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    Gibson is better than Afflalo - even with the crowd we have at the 4 and 5. There will be injuries and I'd rather manage minutes. I think McDermott can be Afflalo - better offensively, but not so good defensively, however. McDermott (possibly Snell, too) can hold down the 2 with Butler at the 3 guarding the better offensive player. Bulls have sufficient shooting and enough defenders - thus, Afflalo does not add as much value.

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