The Bulls are about to head into a very tough stretch of games.
Starting with their home opener on New Years Day, they will play 12 games in 17 nights. Talk about brutal.
While their 5-1 record looks pretty good so far, there is a lot they need to fix going forward.
Going 3-1 to start the season on the road was nice. Against the Lakers they had a great come-from-behind win while the next night against Golden State was a let down. They then finished the road trip strong, easily handling the Kings and Clippers.
Just between those two sets of games we saw improvements.
Now, like I said, there have been some improvements, but some bigger concerns have yet to be resolved and might, in fact, be turning into bigger issues.
So, here is my list of things coach Tom Thibodeau and company need to fix quickly.
The Bulls need Rip Hamilton. There is just no way around it.
No matter how well Ronnie Brewer plays, he isn't the same threat as Hamilton.
Hamilton has missed the last two games due to a groin injury.
However, against Sacramento and the Clippers we saw exactly how dangerous he can be. In both games he scored 16 points while shooting just under 50 percent from the field.
The one thing Hamilton has failed to do so far is shoot well from beyond the arc.
While it is still early and he has only played in four games, the Bulls need him to shoot better then 17 percent from three-point land.
It is hard to be hard on Derrick Rose, but there is one thing he has to fix.
While he averages over eight assists a game, he also gives the ball away nearly four times a game. A two-to-one ratio is not good enough.
It might be a problem he is already correcting. Over these last three games he has had 27 assists to only eight turnovers. That is a big change over the first three games, where he had 21 assists to 14 turnovers.
If Rose really wants to be viewed as the best point guard in the league, this is the one thing he truly needs to work on.
There is something just not right with Joakim Noah.
His rebounding is down, and that might have something to do with his fouls being way up.
So far this season he has had three games where he had five fouls, and one game in which he ended the night with four.
To go along with that, he has only had a single game with double-digit rebounds.
Before the season, I wrote a piece about why the Bulls should trade Noah to upgrade the shooting guard spot. I wonder how many people were changing their tunes as Omer Asik closed things out against Atlanta on Tuesday instead of Noah.
Noah reminds me a lot of Tyson Chandler back when he was with the Bulls. He had all the talent, but his foul trouble kept him off the floor.
The Bulls need Noah to be the guy to defend the Dwight Howards and Chris Boshes of the world. If he is getting in foul trouble now, how long will he last against the likes of them?
It seems like the only way the Bulls score in the lane is if Derrick Rose is driving and dishing.
Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah average 21 points combined and seem very content shooting 15-17 footers instead of posting up.
Having someone willing to work the post on nights like Tuesday when shooters are cold would help a lot.
If the Bulls are going to have any hope of beating the Miami Heat, they need both Boozer and Noah working down low in the paint. They need Boozer and Noah to combine for 30 points nightly.
As I pointed out before, Noah doesn't seem to be himself, so really this has to fall on Boozer or he will continue to see his playing time decrease.
The Bulls are willing to tolerate Boozer's lack of defense but only if he is scoring. Right now he isn't doing much of either.
Through the first five games the only player I was really concerned about was Luol Deng.
He was averaging over 38 minutes a night.
Then came an injury to C.J. Watson, and now we have to be concerned about Derrick Rose's minutes as well.
On Wednesday night against the Hawks both Rose and Deng played the entire second half, which lead to a 44-minute night for each of them.
That game was the start of four games in a five-night stretch and 11 games in the next 14 days.
Tom Thibodeau needs to have faith in his bench—guys like John Lucas III and Jimmy Butler—because there is no way Rose and Deng will be able to last the season let a lone a long playoff run playing these kind of minutes so early in the year.