What can be said about the Chicago Bulls and their upcoming season?
Optimists say they are a potential dark-horse for the eastern conference finals, pessimists say they might miss the playoffs. It seems though, that everyone agrees that the Bulls are in control of their own destiny this year.
The Bulls have been predicted to be as high as the 3rd seed in the playoffs. The things that need to happen for this prediction to come true are not going to come easy to the Bulls. They will need a couple of lucky breaks and for everyone to earn their paycheck.
Especially Luol Deng. He has constantly been marked as a "potential future all-star" but has not broken though yet. The pressure to succeed and lead the Bulls is off of his shoulders and on Derrick Rose's now so he can focus on being the talented small forward we all know and love. Everyone on the team needs to pick up some of the missing scoring slack now that Ben Gordon is a Piston, but Deng needs to pick up the most of it and earn all the money he signed for just last year.
While Deng is the X-factor, Salmons, Hinrich, Noah, Thomas, and Miller are the players that need to step up and show the fire and passion they did against the Celtics. This whole article could be on the lessons the Bulls all learned against Boston, but it is imperative for those 5 key players to apply what they learned in the greatest first round series ever.
Which head coach will we see? The rookie Vinny D who didn't know when to call a time-out? or the mature and crafty Del Negro who ran the Celtics to the brink of elimination?
As for Derrick Rose, he can make or break the entire season on his own. Cliche or not, he is the best rookie to put on a Bulls uniform since Jordan. His game will have to undergo multiple tests and transformations as he matures as an NBA player and defeating the "Sophomore Slump" is the next big test for the 2009 Rookie of the Year. Whether or not Rose can adapt further and keep increasing in talent and skill will be the true question of how the Chicago Bulls do this season. If he hits the sophomore wall, it will be up to the rest of the team to pick him up and get him past that wall. If he jumps clear over that wall (no pun intended), the Bulls have a great shot at becoming a top 5 eastern conference team.
There is something exciting about the Bulls this year. Maybe it is because of the fantastic seven game series against the Celtics, maybe it is because this team is now another year older and can finally shake the nickname of the Baby Bulls, but odds are that the Bulls' upcoming season is so exciting because no one knows what to expect from them.
My Prediction: 48-34, #4 seed in the playoffs.