Chicago Bulls 2014-2015 Record: 50-32
2016 Free Agent Targets:
1. Dwyane Wade
2. Mike Conley
3. Jamal Crawford
X-Factor – Joakim Noah
Fun Fact – Fred Hoiberg is one of two NBA head coaches to be coaching a team he once played for (Byron Scott – Lakers).
After their thrilling series with the Cavs in last year’s semifinals, the Bulls enter this season with more continuity than most other teams in the league. Defensive ace Tom Thibodeau was let go as head coach, but they hired longtime franchise favorite Fred Hoiberg to replace him. He might not bring the same defensive pedigree to the table, but he will undoubtedly improve one of last season’s most generic offenses.
Jimmy Butler became a $100 million dollar man this past summer, meaning expectations for him will be higher than ever. But, he appears more than ready be the heir to Scottie Pippen as the next great defensive stopper for the Bulls.
Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah complement each other’s games nicely with their experience and creativity, which will expand even more under Hoiberg. Nikola Mirotic and Tony Snell showed some flashes of brilliance last season, and will serve as a necessary wave of young talent in Chicago.
The biggest question mark for the Bulls (as always), will be point guard Derrick Rose. Chicago goes as Rose goes this year.
Best Case Scenario
Rose plays more than half of the season. Noah also stays healthy and plays well enough to earn a max contract in 2016. Butler wins Defensive Player of the Year en route to All-NBA second team honors. Being the stand-up guy that he is, Gasol voluntarily comes off the bench, which allows Mirotic and Gibson to play more minutes. Hoiberg coaches well enough that the Bulls gain home-court advantage, but they still lose to LeBron in the Conference Finals.
Worst Case Scenario
Derrick Rose injures his arm/leg/hand/face or any other part of his body and is deemed unsafe to play basketball for the rest of his life. Kirk Hinrich and Aaron Brooks fail to adequately replace Rose in his absence. Noah battles injuries throughout the regular season and enters the playoffs as banged up as he was last year. Gasol’s athleticism takes another huge step backwards, and his resemblance to a gawky 7-foot flamingo becomes even more noticeable. The East is so putrid that the Bulls still find a way to make the postseason, but they lose to LeBron in the first round. Derrick Rose goes from getting his number retired to becoming the worst told bar joke in sports history. Fred Hoiberg pulls a Billy Donovan and heads back to Iowa State at the end of the year.
Prediction: 57-25 (2nd in the East)
Photo Credit: Forward Times