Immediate Hurdles the Chicago Bulls Will Face This Season
Powered by Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, Chicago has a realistic shot at capturing a title. But in order to do so, it must get past elite Eastern Conference clubs like the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets. And a dangerous squad like the Oklahoma City Thunder or Los Angeles Clippers will be waiting out west if the Bulls reach the NBA Finals.
Winning a championship cannot take place until next June. That's a long time away, so let's focus more on immediate hurdles instead.
Chemistry is a great example. Will it take Rose, who missed all of last season recovering from knee surgery, a while to get on the same page as his teammates?
Scoring could be a challenge as well. The Bulls averaged just 93.2 points per game last season (29th in the league). Rose, one of the most unstoppable scorers on the planet when healthy, is back. It's unclear, though, how much help he'll get from Carlos Boozer and Co.
What are some other obstacles?
Tough Early-Season Schedule
The Bulls' early-season schedule isn't too kind. During the first 12 games, they'll face the Heat, New York Knicks, Pacers (twice) and the Clippers. That's tough, to say the least.
Chicago opens the season in Miami before a home contest versus the Knicks. The Heat, arguably the league's best team, could very well win a third consecutive championship. And the Knicks are primed for another great season. So it's quite possible that an 0-2 start is in the Bulls' future. With back-to-back games against LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, Chicago's defense must be on point.
Indiana was a great team last season, scaring Miami during the Eastern Conference Finals. Now, they're even more dangerous, with Danny Granger's return as well as solid additions like Luis Scola and C.J. Watson. Bulls vs. Pacers should prove to be a heated rivalry this year, and it will start in November.
Chicago's matchup with the Clippers should be exciting, as point guards Rose and Chris Paul square off out west. Will D-Rose get the best of CP3?
Let's hope that Rose isn't too rusty and is able have a major impact early on in the season. The Bulls are definitely going to need his A-game.
Getting Quality Bench Production
Losing reserve Nate Robinson, who signed this summer with the Denver Nuggets, hurts the Bulls. He provided energy and a great deal of scoring punch last season. He'll be missed, and so will Marco Belinelli, who took his talents to the San Antonio Spurs.
Life, however, will go on without those two.
The Bulls' new "Bench Mob" consists of holdovers Taj Gibson, Kirk Hinrich (who started in place of Rose last season), Nazr Mohammed, Marquis Teague and Mike Dunleavy. Rookies Tony Snell and Erik Murphy could also see action if they have spectacular training camps.
Guys like Gibson and Hinrich play sensational defense, while Dunleavy is a lights-out shooter. Dunleavy hit nearly 43 percent from downtown last season. Here's a video of him drilling six threes versus the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Teague, who rarely played as a rookie, could have a terrific sophomore campaign as Rose's backup. It'll be interesting to see how he performs with increased playing time.
Can Chicago's bench get the job done? We'll find out.
Players have control over committing hard fouls and making foolish passes. Unfortunately, though, no one can stop the injury bug. Chicago's roster is stocked full of injury-prone players. Rose, Noah, Deng, Hinrich, Gibson and Richard Hamilton all missed time last season.
What's the Bulls' biggest hurdle?
Rose, of course, hasn't logged a single minute since tearing his ACL in April 2012. He could have returned for last season's playoffs but decided against it. Whether you liked it or not, that was a wise choice. Why risk getting re-injured if you're not 100 percent?
Last season, Noah battled plantar fasciitis, a very painful foot condition. Everybody in Chicago will be crossing their fingers, hoping he doesn't miss a significant amount of time this year.
During the playoffs, Hinrich missed eight games, while Deng was out of action for seven contests. The Bulls still would've lost to Miami with those two in the lineup. But they likely would've had a better series.
The injury bug is a major hurdle for the Bulls. If they can mange to shake it off, look out. They'll be able to beat anybody in the league, even LeBron James' South Beach crew.
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