With training camp and preseason fast approaching on the NBA calendar, teams are analyzing current rosters, playbooks and schedules to best prepare for success during the 2012-2013 season. The Chicago Bulls are not the same team they were last year, and several uncertainties exist surrounding their current situation.
Here are six questions Chicago is asking before heading into training camp.
Nate Robinson looks to be the sixth man in Chicago, and the Bulls hope to see everything he can provide during training camp.
Kirk Hinrich is expected to fill the starting PG spot while Derrick Rose is out, and Robinson is slated to come off the bench. Robinson stands a solid chance of proving himself as the next best thing while in training camp.
Chicago lost several of its valuable bench players via free agency, and there are openings to be filled. The second unit needs someone to provide a scoring punch, and Robinson should be that that guy.
Last season, he scored 11.2 points per game in addition to dishing out 4.5 assists. During his time with Golden State, he proved he can step up when it counts. When Stephen Curry was sidelined, Robinson delivered several above-average games. Curry's absence also gave Robinson a chance to serve as starting point guard.
If all goes well during training camp, Robinson will hopefully answer some of Chicago's point guard questions.
Last season, the power forward averaged 15 points and 8.5 boards per game. These numbers in themselves are not bad, but Boozer struggles during the times the squad needs him most.
He tends to falter during clutch times, and his worst performances are against teams holding winning records. Boozer has 23 games with 20 points and 10 boards. Of those, 18 have been against teams with losing records. Consequently, head coach Tom Thibodeau decreases his minutes at the ends of games. This doesn't seem right for someone making $15 million a year.
If Boozer doesn't step it up this season, Chicago will have to have a Plan B for those crucial situations in ball games.
It looked as if Luol Deng would be just another Chicago player sidelined by injury, but he announced a few weeks ago that he has been cleared to play the season without undergoing wrist surgery.
That's good news for Bulls teammates and fans alike, as long as the forward stays healthy and is able to play the season. Deng may not be the biggest scorer on the squad, but he's a solid veteran presence on the team and plays aggressive defense.
Deng averaged 15.3 points and 6.5 rebounds last year, and Chicago will need to him to hit numbers at least this high going into a fresh season.
The Chicago Bulls were known last season for their "Bench Mob," a strong set of reserves ready to come in and play hard when needed.
Coming off last year, however, Chicago was forced to make some cutbacks. The team lost some core bench guys, including C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver, Omer Asik and John Lucas III.
The Bulls need a solid bench squad this season more than ever, and only time will tell if the new group of players will be as efficient as the old crew.
Aside from Derrick Rose's recovery timeline, Joakim Noah's health is probably the biggest concern for Chicago in anticipating the upcoming NBA season. Without Noah, the team will undoubtedly struggle in its already short-staffed run at the postseason.
Noah may not be the star in Chicago—we'll leave that role to Rose—but he is a role player and a crucial guy to have beneath the basket. Prior to injuring his ankle in the playoffs, Noah posted averages of 10.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
He's especially agile for a big man, and losing him immediately after Rose was a huge blow to the Bulls. His aggressiveness and blocking ability is also invaluable, and it would be nearly impossible for Chicago to make this year's playoffs if Noah doesn't stay healthy.
According to Noah, the ankle is not yet 100 percent.
"My ankle is feeling a lot better," Noah said (via ESPN). "It's not 100 percent. I'm rehabbing it in NYC. It's one of the reasons that I'm not playing in the Olympics this year, to make sure it's 100 percent for the NBA season."
Training camp will be a good test of Noah's current condition and hopefully give Chicago a more exact time frame for a complete recovery.
The No. 1 question facing the Chicago Bulls before training camp is this: when will Derrick Rose make his return to the floor?
According to Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, Rose will not be rushed back in any way:
"I'm not going to let him back until the doctors tell me that it's absolutely safe for him to come back. I made that mistake with Michael Jordan years ago where I think we let him come back too soon. It worked out okay, but it might not have. This time I'm not going to make that mistake. Until the doctors say he's 100 percent and they put their reputations on the line, he's not coming back."
Doctors told Rose and the team that his recovery time would be anywhere from eight to 12 months from the time of surgery. That timeline puts Rose's return anytime between mid-January and missing the entire season.
Since this question will obviously not be answered before training camp, the Bulls must prepare for the worst-case scenario and build a strategy for remaining competitive without their All-Star point guard.