Apart from a hiccup against the Golden State Warriors, there are plenty of things to be be encouraged about. The Bulls are getting things going in a major way.
They've won their last three games by a combined total of 63 points. It's hard to look at that and not feel at least a little bit encouraged.
Here are five encouraging signs the Bulls are even better than they were last year.
Why does it seem that every picture of Carlos Boozer has him yelling? He really does like to yell, doesn't he?
Boozer shed 20 pounds in the offseason and it's evident just looking at him. It's also evident watching him play. We've seen him getting to the rim again and doing crazy things, like occasionally being in position on defense, getting a steal or even a block.
Boozer's numbers are a bit down, but his play is up. His numbers being down is more a product of his usage being down from 26.8 percent to 19.2 percent. The primary reason for that is the addition of Rip Hamilton.
The bottom line is that there's hustle in Boozer's bustle and that's a a great sign.
Richard Hamilton has been a valuable addition to the Bulls, although his effect isn't readily visible if you look at his numbers.
His 12.0 points and 2.5 assists aren't striking fear in the hearts of opponents, but the effect those points and passing have is hard to overlook.
Last year the Bulls offense was pretty much Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer. Their combined usage was 59.1. Granted they weren't always on the floor together, but roughly that means that the Bulls were having 40 percent of their players use 60 percent of their possessions.
This year that's down to 45.1 percent combined. Rose's usage percentage is down nearly 10 points.
This means the offense is much more diverse than last year. The only rotation player not scoring in double figures per 36 minutes is Omer Asik. This offense is much more diverse than last year and much of this is the Rip Effect.
Having that outlet pass that can score or pass and facilitate the ball movement makes everyone better.
Last season Ronnie Brewer made six three-point shots. So far this year, he's made four. Better yet, he's made four on four attempts.
Now, I'm not going to project Brewer to make 60 three-point shots without missing any this year, but you have appreciate that he's worked on it.
His offense is just visibly better. His shooting, his ball handling—he's even put an occasional crazy move on opponents here and there, such as that crazy bounce-pass-to-himself-dribble thing he did from the corner before setting himself up for a three.
For those who didn't see it, Brewer caught the ball and went up for the three when the defender came at him. Brewer alertly dribbled the ball to himself before his feet came down, caught the dribble and went back up and sank the three, while the confused defender was trying to figure out what had just happened.
He's added the three, but he's also been putting the ball on the floor better, adding about one more unassisted field goal per game to last year's total.
Is it any wonder his scoring per 36 minutes is up 6.2 points and his PER is up from 6.9 to 20.7?
Don't look now, but Luol Deng's pulling a Gilbert Arenas. He's bringing some guns into the locker room. Have you noticed those things?
I haven't noticed many people talking about this, but Deng has obviously added some muscle in the offseason.
As a result, Deng's defense is even better than last year, giving up just .72 points per play (which is getting into LeBron James-type numbers). Deng could easily emerge as an All-Defense candidate this year.
On top of that, he's upped his offensive game as well. He's much more confident moving with the ball and he's been cutting to the basket and muscling in the scores. He's pulling in boards at a career-high rate of 7.6 and his PER is the best it's been since 2007.
The Bulls have been looking for a "second star" and Deng looks like he might be ready to stop into that role.
Derrick Rose was re-upped for the next half decade in the most surprising move in the NBA since the sun rose that day. That's encouraging.
What's more encouraging is that Rose is still growing.
There are two things from the first week that are tremendously encouraging. First, in the Lakers game, Rose hit the first game-winner of his career. Last season in the Finals, it would have been good for him to have that one under his belt, if for no other reason but the confidence it brings.
The other thing is seeing how much better Rose has gotten at passing out of the paint and at recognizing when to do so. His passing game has upped another notch.
The game against the Clippers—where he scored 29 points and added 16 assists—was an indication of how good he can be at his best. He made the game effortless for his teammates. It's little wonder that over the last three games the Bulls have an offensive rating of 115.0.
Rose is making it happen.