Chicago Bulls fans have had a rough year. Derrick Rose had an injury-plagued season, but the team still wound up tied for the best record in the NBA at 50-16. The bench was one of the strongest in the league, and the team was beating Miami with John Lucas III at the helm.
Going into the playoffs, the Bulls were a legitimate title contender with Rose healthy. Unfortunately, that didn't last very long as Rose tore his ACL in Game 1 against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Since that game, fans had to endure a heartbreaking Game 6 loss and elimination at the hands of the Sixers. We had to watch the Heat squeak by the aging Boston Celtics. Surely the Bulls could have ousted LeBron and company this year.
Now that the NBA Finals have begun, it's hard to think about what could have been, but it's time to put this past season behind us and look ahead to next year.
There are many aspects of this year's NBA Finals that Bulls fans can take note of for next year. Seeing that the Celtics, Lakers, Mavericks, and Spurs are aging teams past their prime, we can expect the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder to be the top title contenders for the next several years.
Watching the NBA Finals so far has been exciting, but has highlighted some major flaws for both teams. For Bulls fans, it's hard not to be optimistic about next year. The future looks bright.
Though Derrick Rose will be out until at least early next year, last month's surgery was a success. Dr. Brian Cole had this to say about Rose's talent level when he returns:
"The surgery went extremely well. Really no surprises." He added, "It’s impossible to predict tomorrow. Statistically, he should be that player and then some. That doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed.”
With Rose's youth and work ethic on his side, he will do everything in his power to get back on the court and be the MVP-caliber player he's been for the Bulls in recent years. He may not come back until late next season, but if the Bulls can just secure at least a low playoff spot, anything can happen in the postseason.
Being the Bulls' top Eastern Conference nemesis, the Heat have shown that they aren't a step above everyone else and can be beaten in these playoffs, though no team has done it four out of seven games thus far.
Dwyane Wade has gotten worse as the playoffs have progressed. The 30 year old still puts up numbers, but his shooting percentage has taken a hit with each round the Heat have advanced. He's also turning the ball over more and making LeBron carry this team on his back.
Wade is just 25-61 (41%) from the field and has 11 turnovers in the three games so far this series. Chris Bosh isn't helping much either. He's a putrid 13-36 (36%) from the floor.
The moral of the story is that the Big Three can't win on their own. Even with LeBron James playing the best basketball of his career, they need someone else to step up. The real key to the 2012 NBA Finals? Shane Battier.
He's 14-19 from the field including 11-15 from behind the arc. There's always a role player that steps up in Heat wins. Bosh and Wade aren't the players they once were.
Why is this good for Bulls fans? The Bulls have completely oppressed Heat role players in the four games they've played this past year. Mario Chalmers scored 16 points in an April win over the Rose-less Bulls. In the other three games, no Miami player other than James, Wade, and Bosh scored more than six points.
The Bulls were 2-1 in those games, with the loss coming in that controversial 97-93 loss in Miami in January. The team has a blueprint for beating the Heat, and it's exciting to think about the possibility of a playoff match-up in 2013.
The Heat aren't the only team showing major flaws this series, as the inexperienced Thunder have missed key free throws, turned the ball over late and squandered big leads. Westbrook jacks up too many shots — 44 in his last two games while making only 18 of them.
Now, it's too early to look ahead to a possible championship next season, but a healthy Bulls team with Rose at point looks like it could beat anyone with the way the Heat and Thunder are playing this year.
There are many variables going into next year, but the sub-par play by star-studded teams in these NBA Finals brings hope to Bulls fans about the 2012-2013 season.