The Chicago Bulls could compete for a title next season, but they'll need a few players to step up to the plate.
This season we saw Joakim Noah elevate his game, leading to his first All-Star selection. Luol Deng continued his stellar all-around game as well, earning himself a second consecutive trip to the All-Star game.
There was also the emergence of second-year forward Jimmy Butler later in the season and throughout the playoffs.
Chicago will need bigger contributions from some of its key role players in order to make a deep playoff run.
Hinrich was expected to come in and be part of the second unit, but due to Rose's injury, he was forced into the starting lineup.
As a backup, Hinrich will be able to have a bigger impact. He's capable of running the offense and is a very versatile defender, both of which were Nate Robinson's weaknesses.
What Hinrich will have to do is improve his shooting. His three-point shooting got better as the season went on. He finished the year as a 39-percent shooter from deep.
However, his field-goal percentage was the lowest of his career (37.7 percent).
If Hinrich can improve his shooting and increase his scoring to somewhere between eight and 10 points, the Bulls will have a solid replacement for Rose when he gets a rest.
Butler must also take on a bigger scoring role.
Butler's minutes figure to go down some from the 40-plus he played at the end of the season and during the playoffs. He'll probably be somewhere around 32 and 36 minutes, though, so he'll still have plenty of time to put up some good numbers.
His per 36 minute stats have him at 12 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. However, he'll need to increase his scoring, especially if he remains the Bulls' starter. Butler's shown that he's capable of attacking the rim, and his three-point shot drastically improved as the season progressed.
Ideally, Butler will average 14 or 16 points with five-plus rebounds per game.
If he can consistently get to the line as well as improve his mid-range jumper, the Bulls will finally have the 2-guard they've been searching for.
Gibson has to become a more consistent shooter.
According to basketball-reference.com, on all shots three feet and further from the rim (excluding three-pointers), he shot just 37 percent.
Gibson has shown that he can score. As a starter this year, he averaged 16 points and just under 12 rebounds per game while shooting 59.7 percent.
Now, he won't play 43 minutes per game, but if he can play between 25 and 30 minutes, his production should go up. During his rookie season, Gibson played 26 minutes per game and had the best scoring and rebounding averages of his career.
If Gibson can improve his jump shot, having him in late during tight games when his defense is needed won't hurt the Bulls offensively.
For the Bulls to get to the finals, these three players must take on a bigger role. They'll have Rose back in the lineup, making them title contenders.
It might take some games before Rose is back in rhythm (it will have been over a year since he played an NBA game), but once he is, Chicago should be dominant. The Bulls held the league's best record in 2010-11 and 2011-12 and could compete for the East crown once again.
Once Hinrich, Butler and Gibson accept their bigger roles, the Bulls' road to the finals will be a little smoother.
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