Chicago Bulls: 8 Biggest Surprises in Store for the 2012-13 Season
Carlos Boozer will deliver the Chicago Bulls to a top four seed in the playoffs by leading them in scoring—thus justifying why he will not be an amnesty cut victim. This is just one of eight things that will surprise you about the Bulls in the upcoming 2012-13 NBA season.
We all left the Bulls for dead after Derrick Rose tore his ACL in the playoffs versus the Philadelphia 76ers. To make matters worse, the Bulls also parted ways with Omer Asik, C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and the “White Mamba” Brian Scalabrine.
That was, according to my recollection, every member of the beloved “Bench Mob” except for Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler.
It is easy to write off the Bulls with as many players as they have let go.
The Bulls opted to sign players to one and two-year deals in order to replace the departed free agents.
Names such as Nazr Mohammed and Vladimir Radmanovic may not inspire confidence, but they are solid NBA veterans. Those veterans signed for a fraction of the cost that the original “Bench Mob” earned.
The veterans' impact is the first of many big surprises the Bulls will have in store for the 2012-13 season.
The Contributions from Mohammed and Radmanovic Will Be Better Than Expected
Nazr Mohammed and Vladimir Radmanovic do not offer the same sets of skills that Omer Asik and Brian Scalabrine did. However, for a big reason, that is just fine.
In Mohammed’s case, think about the impact that Kurt Thomas had in his season with the Bulls. Thomas was not a shot-blocker, nor did he alter many layups. What he provided was tough, man-to-man defense.
I must admit that I was not a fan of the Mohammed signing. Actually, still, I am lukewarm about it. I do believe that, defensively, Mohammed will make us forget about Asik.
Mohammed is an upgrade in every facet except for youth and shot-blocking ability. We will see his impact immediately.
The wildcard of the Bulls' free-agent signings is Radmanovic.
He may not turn out to be as popular as Scalabrine, but ask yourself this, why did we fall in love with him in the first place?
It was Scalabrine’s hustle and defense. It will be hustle and offense for Radmanovic, who has the potential to not only replace Scalabrine’s output, but Kyle Korver’s as well.
Jimmy Butler Is Ready to Have a Huge Season
After averaging 20.8 PPG and 6.5 RPG in the NBA Summer League, Jimmy Butler will play in the Rising Stars Challenge.
Butler will make everyone forget about Ronnie Brewer.
As a fan, I will miss Brewer. His impact on the team went beyond scoring and defense. His professionalism was admirable. However, Butler is a better player for what the Bulls need.
When Butler finds his shooting stroke, it will be tough to keep him out of the lineup. As tight as Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was with his substitutions, I can see Butler subbing in for Richard Hamilton and Luol Deng.
Butler’s performance in the Summer League was just a sign of things to come. He will be the dual-threat that Brewer could not be. Double-digit scoring is in Butler’s future.
The Luvabulls Will Continue to Entertain Packed Crowds at the United Center
Bulls fans are loyal.
Although Derrick Rose will miss most of the 2012-13 season, his injury status will not prevent crowds from flooding the arena. Last season the Bulls were tops in attendance, with an average of 22,161 fans going through the turnstiles each game.
First off, a Bulls ticket is hard to come by—a Bulls game is an experience that many fans cannot refuse. Even if the fans do not go to watch the basketball game.
The in-game entertainment is exciting as well.
From the Matadors to Benny the Bull, the fans are always waiting for sights to see.
And if that is not enough to convince fans to come to the games, the Luvabulls are a beautiful sight to behold. Just don't let your wife or girlfriend catch you salivating too much over them.
Coach Thibodeau Will Have the Best Coaching Performance of His Career
If you believe that you have seen the best of Tom Thibodeau, you haven't seen anything yet.
Thibodeau is one of the top five coaches in the NBA. His coaching record proves it.
He may not be the flashiest coach, or even the most quote-worthy coach, but he is great at what he does.
Many experts are uncertain as to whether or not the Bulls can compete with the top-tier teams of the NBA. Do not tell that to Thibodeau. He will have the Bulls ready to play in every contest.
Thibodeau has every reason to deliver his best-ever coaching performance. He is coaching for a new contract.
If that is not enough reason, Thibodeau is also coaching for pride.
On a side note, maybe this is the season that Thibodeau finds a love outside of basketball to help him forget about any tough times.
Nate Robinson Will Entertain Us, But...
Nate Robinson will not enter the Slam Dunk Contest.
Robinson is a three-time slam-dunk champion. Without being disrespectful to Spud Webb, Robinson proved he was no fluke.
When the Bulls signed Robinson to a one-year deal, I am certain there were many fans that saw him as the first to win the slam-dunk title since Michael Jordan.
That is not such a lofty expectation. After all, Robinson is one of the best dunkers of the last decade. For further proof, watch his top 10 dunks here.
He will wow us with his scoring abilities more than his dunking, but I would love to see him dunk on LeBron James just once, as revenge for abusing John Lucas III the way he did last season.
Either way, Robinson will become a fan-favorite in Chicago.
Three-Times a Charm: Triple-Doubles for Hinrich, Deng and Noah
Kirk Hinrich, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng will all register triple-doubles this season.
The strength of the Bulls' way is versatility. They have players who can fill in as many spots as possible.
With Hinrich, they have a player who can effectively play and guard three positions. You can say the same for Deng. They can score, rebound and pass well for their positions.
We do not see them consistently score in great volume, but the occasional 20-25 points helps.
They are also both going to rebound well enough to take the pressure off Noah.
Speaking of Noah, he is the best passing center in the NBA. His assists are a thing of beauty. He sets his Bulls’ teammates up by putting the ball in places where they can score with ease.
Noah is a point guard in a center’s body in many aspects. When was the last time we saw a center handle the ball as well?
As a collective, given what they bring to the Bulls, the trio of Hinrich, Deng and Noah will pick up the slack until Derrick Rose returns. What better way to do it than triple-doubles for each of them?
Carlos Boozer Will Become the Bulls' Leading Scorer
Carlos Boozer will lead the Bulls in scoring and help lead the Bulls to a top-four seed in the NBA Playoffs.
Last season, Rose did not look for Boozer as much as he could. For that reason, you did not see Boozer at his full potential.
Even with his struggles, Boozer is a double-double waiting to happen every time he steps on the basketball court. The Boozer we were waiting for when the Bulls signed him to a five-year contract in 2010 will return this season. He will save the Bulls’ season.
On top of leading the Bulls in scoring, Boozer will finally become one of the leaders of the team. I think the playoff loss to the 76ers is eating away at him. The loss should allow him to refocus and get back to what he does best: scoring and rebounding.
I also see Boozer with a little more of a defensive mindset. His lateral footwork is what prevented him from being more effective on that end of the floor. Knowing that he can be an amnesty cut victim at season’s end, Boozer will come out with a vigor not yet seen from him in a Chicago Bulls uniform.
The NBA Eastern Conference is officially on notice.
The Wait for a Shooting Guard Will Come to an End
The Bulls will finally pull the trigger on a major trade.
Everybody knows that the Bulls have long needed a shooting guard. That has been a sore spot for them since Ben Gordon signed with Detroit three seasons ago.
This time, after a ton of haggling, the Bulls will identify a target and get him. The real question is, what player can they target?
Tyreke Evans will perhaps be available. Maybe Arron Afflalo, Wesley Mathews, or James Harden will be on the trading block as well.
A better question is, can they afford to lose him for nothing?
A package including first-round picks, Richard Hamilton and Marquis Teague can get a trade done. That may sound like a lot to give up, but how much is a starting shooting guard worth these days? Is that package worth a shooting guard with all-star potential?
I believe so. The Bulls’ management understands that this season will be the best time to get a shooting guard. They will not miss this opportunity.
We will witness the highs and lows of the Bulls this season. There will be more highs, however, as the Bulls will be better than most of us imagine.
Fans of the Bulls' opponents will leave with their heads sunk low this season.
I will refrain from making any predictions on their total wins for a later date. The Bulls will be very competitive and will be one of the top teams in the NBA despite the injury to Rose and the revamping of the “Bench Mob.”
Inspired by those circumstances, the Bulls will rally together to surprise the casual NBA fan and become a dark-horse in the NBA championship picture.