Is this the Bulls best shot at a title?

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.


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  • I would say that this season is probably this Bulls team best shot to win a title, although me personally don't look for them to get that far especially with LeBron looking more and more indestructible and the Pacers whom everyone is sleeping on looking very strong with their up and coming team. I'm not going to leave out Brooklyn either with their veteran studded all star team. The Bulls imo have and need to remain healthy all season long to even be considered as title contenders. There's barely any room for error for the Bulls this season with so many decisions to be made after the season is over with Dengs contract coming to its end.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    And the Clippers are looking really good on paper to come outof the west, just have to see how that plays out. It would be very strange and different seeing the Clippers in the Finals after years of losing.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    Of course, Reese 1, Miami is the team to beat, plus Indy and Brooklyn may show up too.

    However, you wrote, "The Bulls imo have and need to remain healthy all season long to even be considered as title contenders." I am not convinced about that. IMO, they need to be healthy for the playoffs! And bring their best game. During the regular season, they need to develop the kids and not overwork the starters, which everyone seems to recognize except perhaps Thibs.

    There are a lot of unknowns this season.
    1) Thibs has said he will balance playing time, but will he actually live up to the resolve? Can he?
    2) Will Rose be a better shooter? And a bit less aggressive?
    3) Will Butler take the next step up?
    I would say those are all likely. But then,
    4) Will Deng and Noah bring their "A" game throughout the playoffs?
    5) Will Taj improve over last year?
    6) Will Dunleavy mesh with the team and open the floor with his skills?
    7) Will a backup big man help for 15 to 20 minutes a night?
    8) Will Boozers skills hold up?
    I would say, Maybe. And finally,
    9) Will Teague and Snell, and maybe even Murray, become NBA players this season?
    That one is the biggest unknown.

    So, if most of the above happen, the Bulls will contend at a high level. But there are a lot of IFs. They will be good regardless, but that is not what we want.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    Ummm....when I said the Bulls need to stay healthy for the entire season, of course I meant the playoffs as well. Stop knit picking dude, I'm just stating a fact, I want the Bulls to do well this season too. Stop being so SENSITIVE...LOL...

  • I disagree with your assertion that Chicago was annihilated by Miami in the semis. That distinction went to Milwaukee who was swept.

    The Bulls have a lot to look forward to. I hope that Joakim was truly working Olajuwon, Taj was working on his game with somebody and Booger. ...??? Whatever.

    Hey Doug, Why doesn't the FO have someone to work with the Bulls bigs to give some offensive flexibility? Our bigs seem to be feeders for the cutters and in the end of the shot clock elbow jumpers. That's predictable and very one dimensional.

    Inside of Ed Pinkney (who wasn't a big option on offense either) coaching our bigs, why not Artis Gilmore, or Adrian Danley or someone who's had a post game iq? It would only serve to round out the offense, we would improve on the inside rather than hoping someone would come in and save us-which ain't gonna happen.

  • In reply to mummuhwalde:

    I think the big man coach is vastly overrated. It's more important to know positioning, footwork, and what to do then it is to actually have played as a big man in the NBA.

    I also think that you see very few big men ever really develop tremendous post games that don't have it in college. Much of post play comes down to strength, length, weight, and athleticism. Boozer's tremendously skilled in the post and has little room to improve skills, he just doesn't have the physicals. Noah/Gibson have improved their post games but both lack ideal physicals as well, they could probably improve skill level some, but neither is likely to ever be a stud.

  • In reply to mummuhwalde:

    Good point mummuhwalde, "annihilated" is definitely too strong of a word.

    We won Game 1, we were tied heading into the 4th quarter of Game 3, and we were up by 8 points heading into the 4th quarter of Game 5.

    Considering we were missing Rose, Deng and Hinrich, I'd say we gave the Heat as good a series as could have been reasonably expected.

  • Ummm....when I said the Bulls need to stay healthy for the entire season, of course I meant the playoffs as well. Stop knit picking dude, I'm just stating a fact, I want the Bulls to do well this season too. Stop being so SENSITIVE...LOL...

  • I think this team might have a better offense compared to 10-11 and 11-12 teams. The first two years had great defense and rebounding with good 3 point shooting but lacking at the 2 guard and ball handling. This year's team has Jimmy Butler who pretty much is in a contract year(his 3rd year) and veterans like Deng and Boozer who will get 15-17 pts per game. Basically the wild cards/xfactor are how well Jimmy Butler and Dunleavy fit into the mix and if they can make the Bulls a more high power offense then it was the first two years, this might be something special this year. Dunleavy's savy veteran play should lessen the minutes on both Deng and Butler which should help keep the Bulls fresh when the playoffs begin. Can't wait for the preseason, Dexter Pittman time !!!

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    Yes, Dunleavy and Butler meshing is a HUGE x-factor. Two other x-factors are Rose coming back and Snell/Teauge improvement. I think that of the 4, 3 could be a positive for the Bulls. I think Teague is the least important since Hinrich is around this season. Rose, Dunleavy and Butler are huge. Snell may have to provide some minutes, but I doubt he'll get much floor time in the playoffs this season.

    Overall, I'm in Vegas Oct 5th before the 1st preseason game. If I'm hearing good vibes from Chicago about Rose, etc.... I'm betting on them either getting out of the East or winning it all. I just think Miami won't 3-peat and I can see it coming down to Indy, Chicago and 3-4 teams out west: SA, OKC, LAC, possibly Memphis or possibly Houston.

  • What about Gasol after this season? There is no reason for him to stay in LA with an up-tempo coach and an aging Kobe.

    What if the Bulls:
    1. Let Deng go
    2. Amnesty Booz
    3. Sign Gasol for $6-10 mil per season for 2-3 years
    4. Bring over Mirotic for the full MLE
    5. Possibly sign a bench player or two for slightly more than the min since there should be a couple mil left over, depending on what Gasol is signed for.

    While this season is a great shot at the title, a team with the following core should have a nice shot as long as Gasol holds up:
    Snell (or other SF signed for relatively cheap)

    Bench: Mirotic, Gibson, Dunleavy, Teague

    Provides much better offense and floor spacing. Mirotic as the 6th man would be nice. Gasol would get the ball plenty in the post to be happy and he'd have attractive matchups with Noah on the floor. Perhaps Gasol could be 6th man and we can run the offense through him when Rose sits. I'd be shocked if Gasol was not at least interested in such an opportunity because outside of a team with LeBron, what would be better constructed than this potential team?

    Depends on how healthy Gasol is.

    Doug - Do you think this is part of the 2014 offseason plan? Because outside of LeBron, none of the FAs are all that exciting to me. Many are superstars on the back 9. Gasol fits perfectly with Rose and Noah. Imagine the pick and roll/pops with Rose/Gasol and Rose/Mirotic and the shooters that we'd have on the perimeter... of course, Mirotic, Dunleavy and Gasol are not plus defenders, but we still have Butler and Snell and Noah and Gibson.

  • Yes, the Bulls need to be healthy in the playoffs in order to contend for a title.

    Just like Miami, Indy, and Brooklyn. The Clippers, Spurs, Rockets, Grizzlies.

    Every team needs to be healthy come playoff time if they are going to be champions, that's pretty much a given.

    But I certainly don't think this is the Bulls best chance at winning a championship. Rose is only 25, while LeFlop turns 29 in Dec, Wade 32 in Jan, and Bosh 30 in March.

    Rose should just be entering his prime at about the same time that LeFlop and Bosh are leaving theirs. Wade is already starting to slip a little. They also have no young up-and-coming talent.

    Out of their top-12 in minutes last season, only Chalmers (turned 27 in May) and Cole (turns 25 in Oct) are under 30.

    The Bulls, in addition to Rose only being 25, still have Mirotic coming over (who will be 23 in January) plus the lottery gift from MJ. Jimmy turns 24 next week. Not to mention Snell- if he can shoot 3's on offense, the combo of Rose/Butler/Snell will give us a combination of speed, length, and athleticism the likes of which most teams only dream of.

    If Teague can just dribble the ball and shoot a little bit, our small-ball lineup of Teague/Rose/Snell/Butler might just be the quickest ever.

    Give me a young core of Rose/Butler/Mirotic/MJ pick over any in the NBA.

    The Nets are already ancient, and while the Pacers have George and (the overrated) Hibbert, Granger just turned 30, and West and Scola are 33.

    Thankfully, GarPax are building this team the right way- being patient and putting players around Rose who fit his style of play, and players who fit perfectly into Thibs' system.

    I'm sure Pax remembers Krause building the right way around Jordan- adding players who fit in around him, guys who played great defense. Not rushing into anything by trading Pippen or Grant for 30-somethings in search of a quick fix.

    If this was 1990, there would be lots of Bulls fan screaming for Krause to trade Pippen and Grant because they kept coming up small in big moments in the playoffs. And they obviously couldn't beat the Pistons with the roster they had, they had lost to them 3 years in a row in the postseason.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    And just like the current Luol Deng, Pippen wouldn't have been a "legitimate" All-Star in 1990 because he only had a 16.3 PER and a .528TS%. And he wasn't even All-Defense...

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    In the summer of 1990 Scottie had just completed his 3rd season, and he still had a statistically better season(16.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg, and 5.4 apg, 49% shooting) than Luol Deng had this past season his 9th. and if that PER is correct @ 16.3 it is over one point higher than Dengs 15.12. If the numbers are even close, I think the intelligent basketball mind takes the guy entering his 4rth season over the guy entering his 10th every single time.

    Convenient of you to pick 1990 the season before Scottie because all defense for 10 consecutive years, including 8 straight first team, as well as a year before he became all nba for 7 straight years(3 1rst, 2 2nd team, 2 3rd team)

    Not really sure how you figure that it is legitimate to call Lebron, LeFlop. At this point he has earned his place in the game as a top 10-15 player alltime, I would hardly call that a flop. If you go by cherry picked stats only, he is top 5-10, maybe already challenging Jordan, Wilt and maybe Kareem as the GOAT.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Usually "LOL" is just an internet thingy, but reading that literally made me laugh out loud. Literally.

    No matter what is posted here, for certain people (who could remain nameless, except that everyone already knows who they are) it boils down to "Deng and Boozer suck. Must say Deng and/or Boozer suck in every post". It is funny, though.

    I'm sure everyone else figured it out, but my point was that Pippen had almost identical stats to Deng, and his PER and TS% certainly weren't worthy of a "legitimate" All-Star. But you didn't bother addressing that at all.

    Yes, we would all take the guy in his 4th year over the guy in his 10th, but since that had less than nothing to do with what I wrote, I really don't see the point.

    Just like what Scottie went on to accomplish over the rest of his career has NOTHING to do with his 1990 numbers. Pippen had a better career than Deng? Well thank you for that, Captain Obvious.

    LD 2013: 16.5 pts, 6.3 reb, 3.0 ast, 15.1 PER, .508 TS%
    SP 1990: 16.5 pts, 6.7 reb, 5.4 ast, 16.3 PER, .528 TS%

    I could be wrong, are you saying that if Deng would have grabbed 0.4 more rebounds, dished out 2.4 more assists, and increased his PER by 1.2 and his TS% by .02, you'd consider him to be a "legitimate All-Star"? If that's the case, I apologize.

    But we all know that's not the case, or you simply would have said "no, Deng would be a legitimate All-Star with those numbers".

    Since you completely ignored what I actually wrote- that people who say Deng isn't a "legitimate" All-Star would have said the exact same thing about Pippen during the summer of 1990- we'll all just assume that you agreed with me 100% and that's why you went on to completely change the subject.

    If you would have actually read what I wrote, you'd know that I picked 1990 because when Scottie was an All-Star from 1992-1997, he was also All-NBA and All-Defense in each of those 6 years. He put up blatant All-Star numbers in those years.

    As for LeFlop- he flops. A lot. A hell of a lot. If he isn't the most blatant and most frequent flopper in the NBA, he is certainly 1st-Team.

    Each and every at-least-semi-serious NBA fan on the planet knows that he's a huge flopper.

    Well, at least I thought so, until now. But here's a nice video for you of "LeBron James, King of the Flops".

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    Pippen and Grant were kids just getting ready to enter their primes, Deng and Boozer, their counterparts today, are past their primes or entering the past their primes years. So comparing this years Bulls to 1990 bulls isn't particularly relevant, never mind that Rose isn't Jordan and almost certainly never will be.

    Now if this years Bulls had 1990 Scottie and Horace I'd be pretty darn happy to play out this season and looking forward to next year and beyond, without any calls for getting rid of them(as we need to do with Deng and Boozer).

    Comparing a pair of 25 years olds with a pair of 30 year olds as the cornerstones of a future champion is sort like cherry picking your stats. By why let the facts get in the way of another rant against no one in particular. Never mind the fact that comparing Deng and Boozer to Pippen and Grant is ludicrous, certainly in retrospect.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    "Comparing a pair of 25 years olds with a pair of 30 year olds as the cornerstones of a future champion is sort like cherry picking your stats. By why let the facts get in the way of another rant against no one in particular. Never mind the fact that comparing Deng and Boozer to Pippen and Grant is ludicrous, certainly in retrospect."

    That's too funny, since YOU are the only one here comparing a pair of 25 year olds with a pair of 30 year olds.

    But I have to admit, it's not that your rant is "against no one in particular"- it's against Deng and Boozer, we all know that.

    And again, YOU are the only one comparing Pippen and Grant to Deng and Boozer. I agree with you that it is ludicrous to compare them, I'm just curious as to why you keep doing it?

    You replied to my post, maybe you made a mistake and meant to say that someone else is being ludicrous by talking about Boozer and Deng being "the cornerstones of a future champion"??? I've already made it very clear on more than one occasion that to me, our cornerstones with Rose are Mirotic and Butler.

    I don't see any way that Boozer isn't gone next summer, either amnestied or traded to a team with cap space that won't require us taking back any salary (or at least very little salary, or non-guaranteed salary).

    I wouldn't mind keeping Deng for a few more years, but he'll have to take a hell of a pay cut to do so. I don't have any problem with him being the last guy to sign next summer and giving him a 1-year deal that puts us right up next to the Luxury Tax. But for 3 years, though, he'll have to be willing to give the Bulls a very nice hometown discount, something like Ginobili's 2 year, $14.5 million he signed for this summer.

    He can either stay in CHI and compete for a ring every season, or he can go elsewhere and get paid big money with little to no chance of winning.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    Don - Totally agree. LeBron is a HUGE flopper... just embarrassing for an elite player.

    Bigway - since you ask, he is NOT talking about LeBron choking in the clutch, like he does so often, including this year's Finals where he looked confused due to the frightening Boris Diaw. Even game 6, where LeBron lit it up in the 4th, he was absolutely horrible for 3 quarters. It took an insane 24 second comeback in game 6, or else people would be questioning LeBron's leadership and clutchness again.

  • I don't know if this is the best cast Rose has played with but is looking like it will be one of the best. I don't think we matchup with Miami as well as say the Pacers do. If I had to put odds on Bulls Championship Probably be in the 5% range. It could happen if they were fully healthy for the playoffs but even so they would be underdogs in probably 2-3 playoff rounds. There are just too many "ifs" to say they are serious threats.

    They will still suffer from the shut down Rose you shut down the Bulls offense. Once Miami cranked up that half court double team on Rose the series was over. It was even effective against lil Nate and after they started that we didn't win another game. It is a major flaw which any great defensive team will exploit every chance they get.

  • In reply to Chad:

    Im glad to see someone else has noticed that. Shut down Rose and the Bulls offense shuts down unless someone else can step up this season.

  • While my gut feeling is to agree that this is the Bulls best team of the Rose era, I am a bit surprised that so many feel this way, given the sentiments expressed over the past 2 offseasons. Rose's MVP year was probably the best shot at the Heat, as it was their first year together, so they hadn't gelled yet and weren't able to add the veteran ring chasers yet.

    First and foremost we have our best player coming off as big of an injury as a player can have, plus everybody seems to think that we have downgraded our bench in each successive year. from the entire bench mob in year 1, to Nate and Belli in year 2 to just Dunleavy in year 3. Internal growth is limited to Butler's ascendence and maybe Noah is better now than then, but I'm not sure by how much. Deng and the BozoHole are clearly worse than they were 3 years ago and that is 40% of your starting lineup, as well as your 2nd and 3rd scoring options.

    Also, it seems to me that the competition outside of Miami, especially in the east, is far stronger than it has been at any time in the Rose era. In the playoffs against either Indy or Brooklyn, I'd say the Bulls are 50/50 just to get to Miami.

    I suppose if everybody is fully healthy for the entirety of the playoffs, then yea, this should be our best shot at the Heat, but what are the realistic chances of that happening given the track record of the bodies on this team. Heck, if Asik hadn't gotten injured in the ECF against Miami, I still think that he would have made enough of a difference to change 2 games, which puts us up 3-2 instead of down and out at 4-1.

    My heart tells me to be optimistic about this season, but my mind is telling me that we are pissing into the wind.

  • What a difference a few years makes? 2010 we were ranked below Milwaukee and the Heat was already anointed. Then... Rose the MVPshowed up and Mr Thibs COY.Then, we really dared to dream. MJ himself said that that cast was capable of multiple championships. Finally the ECF and a let down from the hangover. ....

    I don't wanna be a homer, but Miamis chances don't bode well due to a less than dominant defense of their title in the 2012-2013 playoffs. 2 game sevens aided by bone headed coaching in the waning seconds of pivotal games and less than stellar play from both Wade and Bosh consistently. The more I mentioned this, the East might not even be as strong as we think.

  • In reply to mummuhwalde:

    The Bulls as a team have so many variables and the wrinkles may just be too many to iron out in a year.Frankly speaking it may be a year or two for this squad to jell.

    Now just to piss somebody off- theClippers might have the edge with competent coaching and stockpiled talent. Well... no.... hell just called. .. they said cut the heat back on.

  • I like Deng. I recall multiple regular season games where he won the games in the 4th quarter. Unfortunately, since Skiles was coaching the Bulls, I do not recall a dominant playoff series by Deng.

    So the problem is, will there be a favorable cost/benefit to resigning Deng? I do not think so. For example, if the Bulls get Mirotic over for $5 million, even if he is not quite so good as Deng, he will be costing $8 million or so less for the season! Which is a much better cost to value ratio. That money might go to extend Butler or for an FA.

    Don Ellis and BigWay each made some good points in their Deng debate, but it’s probably moot. Unless Deng is dynamite in the playoffs this season, it’s time for a change at his position, and I believe the FO will make it.

    BTW, I agree that LeBron is the King Flopper. In the ECF two years ago he even flopped, got a charge on Rose, and walked up the court laughing his tail off at the refs. If the refs really respected the game, he would never have gotten another flop call the rest of his career, but it turns out that the refs have their biased leanings like the rest of us.

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