How Each New Acquisition Will Fit into Chicago Bulls 2012-13 Rotation
For one, there are reports by The Chicago Tribune (via CBSsports.com) that Derrick Rose will be out until March. While no one expected Rose to be ready for the opener, Bulls fans hoped that their best player would be able to make it back before the All-Star game.
If any team could weather the storm without their superstar, it is the Bulls, who focus on playing tough defense, which keeps them in games.
Unfortunately for the Bulls, there is no way that they will be able to maintain their level of defensive excellence next season.
Since they got knocked out of the playoffs in the first round, the Bulls have seen Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver and John Lucas III have leave the Windy City.
Brewer and Asik were key members of the Bulls' rotation and are among the best defenders at their positions in the entire NBA.
While the consensus is that the Bulls won't lead the league in victories next season—something they have done in each of the past two seasons—they still have the talent to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.
Here is a look at what the Bulls' rotation will look like next season.
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As stated earlier, Derrick Rose will miss at least the first half of the season so other players will need to step up. When Rose suffered injuries last year, Watson and Lucas III shouldered the load at point guard, doing so admirably in the regular season.
However, both Watson and Lucas III won't be with the team next season. In their place, the Bulls brought back Kirk Hinrich and drafted Marquis Teague in the first round.
Hinrich is a solid all-around player, who should be able to contribute on both ends of the floor. Although last season was the worst of his career, a return to the Windy City could spur a resurgence for the ex-Hawk.
One thing that Hinrich will certainly bring with him is his tough defense, which makes him a perfect fit in Tom Thibodeau's system.
In the draft, the Bulls selected Teague who is coming off a national championship at the University of Kentucky.
Teague was often overshadowed by his superb teammates as a Wildcat, but he has the potential to be better than his brother Jeff, who is the starting point guard for the Atlanta Hawks.
During his only year at Kentucky, he averaged 10 points and 4.8 assists on 41.2 percent shooting.
Unfortunately for the Bulls, Teague had a tough time transitioning to the speed of the NBA game and struggled in the Summer League. Regular season games are only going to be quicker, so things aren't going to get any easier for the 19-year-old.
Teague will get as many minutes as he earns, but the Bulls' insistence on playing consistent, tough defense may be hard for the rookie to handle at first.
Chicago will obviously miss Derrick Rose, but the play of Hinrich and Teague will determine just how much he is missed.
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The Bulls will start Richard Hamilton at shooting guard to begin the season, but second-year player Jimmy Butler will get more minutes this season.
One of the reasons for Butler's promotion is the departure of both Brewer and Korver. With the latter two out of the picture, Chicago will need production out of Butler off the bench.
Fortunately for them, Butler had a strong Summer League averaging 20.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and two assists per game.
I predict that Butler is going to have a break out season for the Bulls because his tough defense will earn him more time on the court. He has a knack for drawing fouls and is a good finisher around the basket. Also, it appeared as if he improved his jump shot during the Summer League.
It wouldn't surprise me in the least if Bulls fans quickly fall in love with Butler.
In free agency, the Bulls signed Marco Belinelli, who averaged 11.8 points per game for the New Orleans Hornets last season.
Belinelli is a solid three-point shooter, having shot 41.7 percent from behind the arc during the condensed season. He isn't the spot-up shooter that Korver is, but he will give them a little more on the defensive end of the floor.
Korver wouldn't have been as effective without Rose, who has the ability to break down any defense, and created a lot of open looks for Korver.
While there is no guarantee that Hamilton will be able to stay healthy, if he does manage to do so then next season's shooting guards could out-perform last year's trio.
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Luol Deng remains one of the most underrated players in the NBA. He is a threat from behind the arc and is one of the best wing defenders in the league.
However, he might not be ready to play when the season tips off, due to a wrist injury. Deng sustained the injury during the regular season, but chose to play through the pain for the entirety of the NBA schedule and the Olympics.
While it was once thought that Deng getting surgery was a sure thing, that may not be the case anymore. According to ESPNChicago.com, Deng might not need surgery after all.
If he does opt to have the surgery, then the Bulls will be paper-thin at small forward. If they had Rose to lean on, it would be a lot easier to survive during Deng's absence, but that won't be the case.
Whether Deng starts next season or not, Butler could also see time at small forward because the Bulls are void of other players who can play the position.
This is definitely the position where the Bulls have the least depth, which makes Deng even more crucial to the team's success.
If the Bulls manage to get off to quick start without Rose, then Deng may finally be recognized as the star that he has been for years.
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The Bulls return starting power forward Carlos Boozer and his backup, Taj Gibson.
Boozer is still a good scorer, especially against bad teams. On some nights, he is still good for 20 points and 10 rebounds—something you can't say about many players across the league.
While Boozer does struggle on defense against good teams, he will be an asset during the regular season and has been a critical member of the teams that finished with the league's best record over the past two years.
Gibson is entering the final year of his contract and will be a restricted free agent next summer. He has improved every season since entering the league and is already good enough to start for a few teams.
In free agency, the Bulls added 11-year veteran Vladimir Radmanovic, who averaged about 15 minutes per game last season for the Hawks. Not much should be expected from Radmanovic, who figures to add a little depth and to bring fresh legs off the bench when the schedule gets tough.
Chicago will need strong, consistent play from Boozer and Gibson, as the rest of the team is sure to be in a state of transition and flux at the beginning of next season.
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Joakim Noah remains one of the best defensive centers in the league and is also well above-average on the glass.
In fact, Noah gives the Bulls and advantage at center against most teams.
Backup center Omer Asik signed an offer sheet from the Houston Rockets that the Bulls chose not to match. Last season, the difference between Noah and Asik was almost unnoticeable on the defensive end of the floor.
The Bulls signed Nazr Mohammed to replace Asik but shouldn't expect the same level of play.
Mohammed did not have a good lockout-shortened season, as he averaged just 2.7 points and 2.7 rebounds while playing an average of 11 minutes a night.
All the Bulls can hope for is that Mohammed quickly picks up their defensive scheme and protects the paint well when Noah is on the bench.
The Bulls won't be as good next season because of the absence of Rose. Even when he does come back, there is no guarantee that he will be the same player right away.
Rose depends on his quickness and explosion, both of which could suffer due to his severe knee injury.
Teague has a long way to go before he is ready for the NBA, while Butler is on the cusp of proving that he is ready to contribute on the biggest stage.
If their recent draft picks mature this season, then the Bulls will be very dangerous in 2013-14.
Belinelli is an upgrade over Korver, but not enough so to make a difference against the league's elite.
Asik will be missed, but not enough to warrant matching the huge contract that Houston offered him.
The Bulls brass know that next season won't be their year, but have made the right moves to ensure that they will be back at their best in the seasons after.
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