The Bulls are in a tough spot when it comes to winning a title. They don't quite match up talentwise with the Cavaliers and probably a couple teams out West. They'll need everything to go right in order to win. Much of that everything comes down to whether Tom Thibodeau can rectify some of his minor flaws.
Thibs is a great coach. There's no doubting that whatsoever. If the Bulls let him go, teams would be lining up to hire him and his salary would likely double. In fact, if the Bulls aren't in a championship window anymore when his contract is up then they'll probably struggle to retain him.
When he leaves things will almost certainly get worse as well.
However, despite all his strengths. His incredible defensive prowess and ability to get players to fully commit, sacrifice, work hard, and not hate him, he'll need a find a way to do even more.
Health is the most important thing for this team
There are certainly different views on health and how it can be maintained over an NBA season, but Gregg Popovich seems to have nailed it. He played Tim Duncan like a workhorse early in his career, but he started shifting his minutes considerably as Duncan aged.
He now incorporates regular rest days for his guys and does everything in his power to keep his team healthy. Thibodeau is blessed with what appears to be an extremely deep roster this season. He's also blessed with an Eastern Conference that has only one other competitor capable of winning 52 or more games.
His long standing philosophy of treating every game like game seven of the NBA finals needs to change if he wants to hit the playoffs without a group of broken down players.
Joakiam Noah recently said he hasn't been 100% in years and isn't 95% now. The Bulls have an incredibly deep front court rotation. The Bulls should consider putting Noah on a minute restriction with regular rest days.
Thibodeau recently said Pau was at his best under Phil Jackson when he played 38 minutes a game. He was also in his prime then. Thibs needs to dispel this notion as well.
Derrick Rose should be slowly worked up to a full load. I'm betting his knees can handle it just fine, but there's no reason to rush him to that point. Yes, playing him 38 minutes a night will get him into MVP form faster, but as long as he's there in May it really doesn't matter if it takes him all season to get there.
Rose is far more likely to experience a set back from a heavy load initially in an attempt to jump start the rust removal process than he is if slowly worked up to his full minute load.
What kind of offense can Tom Thibodeau bring to the table
I'm convinced that Tom Thibodeau might be an offensive genius as well as a defensive one. We just haven't seen the evidence yet.
Thibodeau has coached for four years with one dominant offensive player and either built an offense entirely designed around that point or just happened to have the most PG friendly offense ever. When Rose went down we saw Nate Robinson and D.J. Augustin look like offensive stars in his offense.
It shows just how much Thibodeau was able to cater to the talent around him.
The offense was a shit show last year, but Thibodeau lacked all three cornerstones of effective offense. No one who could break down the opponent off the dribble, a lack of shooters, and no post players. No one can create a good offense when you don't have anything to work with.
The Bulls enter this season with a group that looks like it will regularly have two of those three legs of offensive efficiency on the floor and frequently all three. We'll need to see how Mirotic and McDermott translate as well as how much they're used, but the Bulls figure to actually have three great shooters on the roster instead of capping it at one.
Pau Gasol is the first real post player he's ever gotten to coach, and his inside out approach has a chance of actually being effective compared to trying to play that way with Boozer whom was never truly effective in the low post and was at his best as a mid range jump shooter or roll guy.
This is easily the most dynamic offensive group the Bulls have ever had under Thibodeau, and now we'll get to find out if Tom's offensive mind is as great as his defensive mind, because this group should be able to do plenty of pretty special things.
I'm not so interested in the overall offensive efficiency as I am in the half court offensive efficiency. I expect Thibodeau to continue his trend of slowing down games and keeping opponents in low FG% situations which also puts his own team in tougher FG% situations as well.
He then counts on his group to out-execute the opponent. If the half court offensive efficiency rises considerably and the defensive efficiency stays the same, the Bulls will raise themselves back up to true contender level.
We count on young players to improve every season and take steps in their game. Tom Thibodeau isn't a young guy, but he's still early in his coaching development. He's got hall of fame type coaching potential, but he still needs a few tweeks to take his teams to the next level.