15 Bold Predictions for Chicago Bulls
What are some bold predictions for the Bulls' upcoming season?
Coach Tom Thibodeau will always make this team competitive, but the re-emergence of Rose is what classifies this bunch as a championship contender.
Rose's recent 32-point, nine-assist outburst in just 31 minutes against the Indiana Pacers verifies that he's finding his old form.
This is scary for the Eastern Conference. A healthy Rose and steady contributions from a quality assemblage of talent around him should establish the Bulls as an elite threat.
Let's highlight 15 bold predictions for Chicago's title quest.
Taj Gibson Wins Sixth Man of the Year
Taj Gibson has been a core contributor for numerous years, but his recent performances indicate that 2013-14 will be his best season yet.
During the preseason, Gibson is averaging 15.0 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in just 28.6 minutes per outing. He's also shooting a noteworthy 62 percent from the field.
Yes, it's just the preseason, but in watching Gibson, it's clear there is now more aggression and skilled post moves near the rim.
According to ESPN's Nick Friedell, Gibson added 15 pounds of muscle in the offseason. He has always been a superb defender, but his game appears more powerful and smooth as he begins his fifth season.
One thing is for sure: Gibson will likely eat into Carlos Boozer's minutes more than he ever has.
If this happens and Gibson continues to assert himself, then he could very well be taking home the Sixth Man of the Year hardware.
Jimmy Butler Makes the All-Defensive First Team
This is what Jimmy Butler's opponent counterpart PER was at the shooting guard slot during 2012-13, according to 82games.com.
This is an almost comically low rate, as he limited opposing shooting guards to just 14.8 points and 3.5 assists per game (per 48 minutes). This counterpart PER was better than some notoriously effective wing defenders, including Tony Allen, Paul George and Andre Iguodala.
Butler emerged in the second half of 2012-13, and he should exhibit a well-rounded 2013-14 season from start to finish. He should contribute in a serviceable manner offensively, but he'll be most vital to Chicago's schemes defensively.
If his suffocating defense is on consistent display, then his name should deservedly appear on the All-Defensive First Team list.
Luol Deng Is Traded Before Christmas
The Bulls and Luol Deng have yet to agree on an extension, and this inevitably causes one to wonder if Deng could be dealt in the coming days.
Come next summer, Deng's asking price could be more than what Chicago can afford, so the Bulls may trade him while they can at least gain something in return.
Ideally, they should target a draft pick and/or a quality young player for him. For instance, a three-way deal with the Golden State Warriors that would net the Bulls Harrison Barnes would be compelling.
For a blockbuster trade to occur (in which the Bulls receive a player like Barnes and potentially another piece), the Bulls would likely have to include the first-round pick they possess from the Charlotte Bobcats. They may even have to throw in Carlos Boozer so finances work.
At any rate, Deng's tenure in the Windy City has likely run its course. The Bulls would be wise to proactively examine trade scenarios, and they may even pull the trigger on an offer before Christmas.
Derrick Rose Plays in 80 Games
Derrick Rose's last two preseason appearances have been convincing in numerous ways.
First of all, D-Rose is back. He looks like his old self. His athleticism is once again ridiculous, and he is scoring in an array of ways.
This was surely a precautionary measure, and his two games since then (22 points in 22 minutes, 32 points in 31 minutes) assure us of this.
Rose is fully recovered, and his new stretching routine should enhance his long-term well-being. This should lead to not only his most efficient season yet, but also his healthiest.
Expect him to be on the hardwood for around 80 games.
Tony Snell Makes All-Rookie Second Team
Tony Snell was a mystery pick, but the Bulls seem to have found a player who fits their approach as a three-and-D player.
His length (6'7") and agility already make him a competent perimeter defender, and his shooting touch from distance could become an integral asset to Chicago's second unit.
Snell could even log time alongside Rose, spacing the floor for him effectively.
Snell's jumper has been fairly inconsistent during the preseason, but that's typical for a 21-year-old rookie.
In time, he should showcase more outings like the one he had against the Detroit Pistons, when he notched 12 points (5-of-8 field goals, 3-of-4 from long range) and four assists in 25 minutes.
Once he gains confidence, he could find himself in coach Tom Thibodeau's regular rotation (especially if Deng is dealt) while also raising eyebrows enough to warrant a spot on the All-Rookie Second Team.
Marquis Teague Is Traded Before Bulls' 1st Regular-Season Game
With Rose and Kirk Hinrich ahead of Marquis Teague on the depth chart, it's hard to envision the 20-year-old Teague having an involved role.
Bulls management could come to the conclusion that Teague is simply not the right fit in Chicago, and this decision could come extremely soon.
As a result, the Bulls could be doing some wheeling and dealing before their opener at the Miami Heat on October 29.
Truthfully, the Bulls would be wise to cut ties with Teague since they have not only Rose and Hinrich, but also veteran Mike James, who would readily accept a little-used third-string point guard role.
Mike James Plays Significant Minutes at Some Point
Mike James has always impressed Coach Thibs, so it wouldn't be shocking if he does more than earn a roster spot.
If Teague is traded and Rose or Hinrich encounters an injury, James could play significant minutes.
Due to Hinrich's frequent struggle with injuries, this could very easily happen at some point, and James is more than capable of filling in adequately.
He even started 23 games last season with the Dallas Mavericks, and he also appeared in 11 contests during 2011-12 with the Bulls.
James epitomizes a "good locker room guy," so that alone could make him worth stashing on the bench.
However, anticipate him supplying worthwhile minutes at some point. Trading Teague and losing Rose or Hinrich to injury could suddenly place James in an important niche.
Erik Murphy Is an X-Factor in Numerous Games
Rookie Erik Murphy shouldn't see much action, but since the Bulls are limited in their frontcourt depth, there should be times when his services are needed.
Foul trouble or injuries could thrust the second-round pick into 10-20 minutes off the bench.
In these opportunities, Murphy will presumably have stretches where he looks unfit for NBA competition.
Although, there should also be stints in which his assets, namely his three-point shooting, are valuable.
Murphy could hit a couple timely threes that prove to be the difference on a given night. This shouldn't happen with regularity, but Murphy should be an X-factor in numerous games.
Jimmy Butler Leads the Team in Minutes Played
Jimmy Butler became an iron man during last year's playoffs, logging excessive minutes due to numerous injuries in Chicago's backcourt.
He should continue this type of effort in 2013-14. The Bulls' starting shooting guard figures to play hefty minutes, and his minutes-per-game tally could be in the 35-40 range.
Deng will also notch heavy playing time (but he could be traded), Noah will likely see his minutes restricted (due to his bout with plantar fasciitis), and the Bulls should also cautiously handle Rose (playing him in the 30-35-minute range, at least initially).
This means Butler could top Chicago in minutes played over the course of the season.
This isn't a bad thing for Bulls fans. Butler's defense is phenomenal, and his offense is inserting new layers at a rampant pace.
Joakim Noah Plays 30 Minutes or Less a Game
He should be available by the regular-season opener, but Noah has frequently met injuries in the past. His lingering plantar fasciitis will always be a concern.
Bulls management and Thibodeau both must grasp that Noah should not be playing more than 35 minutes an outing. If they don't, you can bet on Noah being hobbled come the spring.
The Bulls should learn from their past couple seasons, in which they entered the playoffs battered and bruised.
They should thus be cautious with Noah and only play him 30 minutes or less a game, hopefully ensuring that he'll be healthy come the playoffs.
Tom Thibodeau Wins Coach of the Year
Thibodeau garnered the Coach of the Year award for his 2010-11 exploits, and he's poised to achieve the award for the second time in four years.
If the Bulls return to winning the most regular-season games, like they did in 2010-11 and 2011-12, then Thibs is as good of a candidate as anybody.
His intellect on the defensive side of the ball is always apparent, and Rose's return should help the Bulls offense rank in the upper tier.
Thibs will always field above-average squads because of his grit and constant desire for improvements, but in 2013-14, he has a healthy Rose and an improved core.
His wisdom as a coach coupled with a top-notch roster should lead to Thibs' best work yet.
The Bulls Lead the League in Wins
Assuming the Bulls are healthy, they should compile an outstanding winning percentage.
However, the Eastern Conference is now deeper, and the Miami Heat, Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers should each gather 50-60 wins.
The Bulls' unchanging, tenacious defense should spark Chicago to more wins than anyone, though.
This foundation and a more efficient offense should enable the Bulls to crack the 60-win mark.
Chicago Holds Opponents Under 90 Points per Game
The Bulls held opponents to 92.9 points per game in 2012-13.
Regaining Rose and having an effective Butler for the whole season should help the Bulls chip away at that tally. More minutes from Gibson should also shed a point or two.
When Chicago plays Rose, Butler, Deng (if he remains in Chi-town), Gibson and Noah, it'll arguably showcase the best five-man defensive unit in the league.
This group will share the floor regularly, especially late in contests when defensive stops are imperative.
When the regular season ends, the Bulls should unsurprisingly top the NBA in numerous defensive categories.
Derrick Rose Wins the MVP
Rose's recent preseason performances magnify that his athleticism remains a key component to his game.
Plus, he should demonstrate a more patient and mature approach in terms of shot selection and distributing.
This could culminate in Rose's best season yet, landing him his second MVP trophy.
LeBron James and Kevin Durant will certainly put up a fight, but if Rose not only pieces together a remarkable individual campaign, but also guides the Bulls to the most wins, then he could slip past King James and KD.
25 points and eight assists per game is very much within reason for Rose, and so is an improved field-goal percentage and decreased turnover rate.
A banner season such as this would unquestionably situate him in the thick of the MVP race.
The Bulls Win the NBA Championship
The road is tough, but it's more than possible that the Bulls bring the Larry O'Brien Trophy to Chicago.
The Bulls have the appropriate mix to dethrone Miami, and their defense provides them with ingredients to oust seemingly any other title threat.
Their biggest concern is health, but if this is a nonissue, the Bulls should set their sights on reaching the NBA pinnacle next June.
In fact, this is a reasonable hope since the Heat are vulnerable and the championship door is open.
D-Rose and company have a prime opportunity before them. Bulls fans shouldn't be satisfied with anything less than a championship as they ponder this team's 2013-14 ceiling.