Last season, the Chicago Bulls met their expectations during the regular season and exceeded them during the playoffs. They finished as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, which is a far cry from being the top seed for two straight years prior to that, but the loss of Derrick Rose for the season served as a valid excuse for the drop.
By the beginning of the upcoming season, Rose will be ready to play (via ESPN) and everyone on the team should be healthy. The team also saw growth and development in the young Jimmy Butler near the end of last season, so they have even more to look forward to in 2013-14.
Obviously, expectations for the Bulls in 2013-14 will be much higher than they were last season. With this roster, the Bulls should regain their status as one of the elite teams in the NBA.
Return of Rose
As everybody knows, Derrick Rose missed the entire 2012-13 season and postseason and, for most of the season, the Bulls didn't look like themselves.
However, Rose will make his return next season and his presence will be felt immediately. In the 2010-11 regular season, in which was Rose was named league MVP, he yielded a net rating of plus-2.7. In the 2011 playoffs, he turned it up even more and helped his team with a net plus-8.1 offensive rating (per Basketball Reference).
Additionally, the Bulls have been significantly better on offense with Rose on the court. It's been proven statistically for the past few years. The Bulls were just 24th in the league in offensive efficiency in the 2012-13 season (per Hollinger's Team Stats), but they were 12th in 2010-11 and sixth in 2011-12, when Rose was active in the lineup.
Although the Bulls are still a great team—with or without Rose—they will not be able to contend for a title without him. Tom Thibodeau has emerged as one of the best defensive-minded coaches in the league, turning mediocre defenders like Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson into respectable ones with his system.
With Rose back and healthy, the Bulls are expected to contend for a title not just this year, but for years to come.
Healthy, Improved Lineup
Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah round out the rest of the Bulls' core. While Boozer finds himself on the wrong side of 30 and is already past his prime days with the Utah Jazz, Deng and Noah are both in the midst of their primes and coming off of All-Star seasons.
Butler, as mentioned earlier, secured the starting shooting guard spot toward the end of the season and started in all 12 playoff games in the postseason, while averaging over 40 minutes per contest.
Butler's game improved drastically from a year before, and he is expected to form a young, potent backcourt duo with Rose. He fills a crucial void at the starting shooting guard spot that the Bulls were missing for the past few seasons, as experiments with Keith Bogans and Richard Hamilton never panned out.
With all five roster spots set for the foreseeable future and most of the players in their primes or entering them, the Bulls are prepared for a deep playoff run next season.
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