The Chicago Bulls achieved something truly unique last season.
Despite taking a step backward in wins, they simultaneously had a disappointing season and exceeded expectations.
The obvious answer for this situation was the injury to Derrick Rose and the lowered expectations that that brought for this Bulls squad.
Essentially, the Bulls were given a pass for last year.
However, that free ride the fans gave them will certainly be revoked this season. This is a team, at least on paper, that is built to challenge anyone in the East—including the defending champion Miami Heat.
That being said, there are still some questions that need to be answered heading into next season.
Will Derrick Rose be given big minutes?
The biggest debate around the Bulls last year was the ongoing drama surrounding Rose's potential return.
The Bulls didn't do their star guard any favors by keeping the door open to a return during their series against the Heat.
It turned into an absolute soap opera, as fans were split into the "should he return?" and "could he return?" camps.
That debate is over, but a new one will emerge.
There is little doubt that Rose will be ready once the season begins in late October. The question becomes: How big of a role should he have initially?
There should be at least a couple of schools of thought on this topic. Some people will probably say that Rose needs to be babied. Bring him along slowly and let him get a feel for the game. Perhaps the biggest obstacle he faces in his return is mental, as he needs to know that his body won't fail him.
This certainly is a valid stance.
However, there should be another side of this debate.
Perhaps the best thing for Rose is to dive in. Let him come back strong and immediately get back into the groove. Obviously, he shouldn't be playing 40 minutes per game, but there is no reason that he can't play 30-32 right off the bat.
Right now, there are too many people questioning his toughness, both mentally and physically. Rose needs to answer these critics the best way he can—on the court.
Can Jimmy Butler handle the shooting guard role?
As of now, the Bulls really don't have a true shooting guard on the roster.
However, if you look around the league, shooting guards are starting to evolve somewhat in general. There are very few dominant shooting guards left.
And ironically, the team that sported the greatest shooting guard of all time heads into the season without one on the roster. That being said, Jimmy Butler likely will be handed the position now that the Richard Hamilton experiment is mercifully over.
Butler brings a lot to the table. However, one thing he does not bring is a ton of scoring.
To be fair, the Bulls don't really ask him to do that. His calling card is stellar defense and energy. The Bulls have plenty of other options to pick up the scoring slack.
But they do need Butler to be efficient. In a lot of ways, Butler could occupy a role similar to Thabo Sefolosha in Oklahoma City. Butler needs to be a shutdown defender who can also spot up and knock down triples.
The name of the game for Butler will be to avoid hurting the offense. They don't need him to score 20 points per game, but they do need him to take smart shots. Therefore, a lot of times the offense won't go through him, but it shouldn't stop at him either.
How big of a role can Tony Snell handle?
The Bulls aren't often a team that leans heavily on rookies.
To be fair, they usually don't draft high enough to have impact rookies on the roster to begin with. But this year, that could change with the Tony Snell pickup.
The book on Snell is that he's a shooter who didn't always play consistently at New Mexico.
He is long, lean and athletic but not overly strong.
He played mostly as a catch-and-shoot player in college yet his three-point percentage of 39 percent doesn't really fly off the screen.
For Snell to have value to the Bulls, he will need to make shots, plain and simple. They won't be asking him to play stellar defense or drive to the hoop. This is fortunate, as he will likely be overpowered by bigger guards and forwards, and his ball-handling needs work.
What will get Snell minutes will be if he can catch-and-shoot and provide a nice change of pace to Butler and Luol Deng off the bench.
However, the Mike Dunleavy signing likely will take some minutes away from the rookie.
This will be an interesting situation to keep tabs on.