The Chicago Bulls ended the 2008-2009 NBA Season with a bang. The Bulls, led by Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose, forced the defending champion Boston Celtics to 7 games in what was arguably the best playoff series in recent memory, if not of all time. This upcoming season looks to be just as promising.
Derrick Rose gave fans every indication he will continue to improve and blossom into a superstar. Rose was one of the best point guards in the NBA last season, and most likely he will continue to get better. It's his supporting cast that will need to improve along with him.
Although, their success last year may lead you to believe they will improve, the Bulls did suffer a key loss. Their most consistent scorer, Ben Gordon left for Detroit in the off season. It was reported that Chicago didn't make him an offer. One reason the Bulls may have done this is they expect the return of a healthy Luol Deng. This would allow John Salmons, who displayed a coming-out party in the series against the Celtics averaging 18 points per game. The Bulls key to this season may be the play of John Salmons, as they need someone to fill the void left by the departure of Ben Gordon.
Joakim Noah also improved his play last year, and many would anticipate he continues to improve this season. In the playoffs, Noah really stepped up his play averaging 10 points per game and 13 rebounds per game as well as 2 blocks. Noah also gave the Bulls great energy on both ends of the floor which gave them extra possessions due to his hustle.
Kirk Hinrich will also be a key option off the bench during the upcoming season, as he did very well defensively in the playoffs last year. He could really be a vital cog in giving the Bulls some scoring off the bench as well as some defensive stops.
The two rookies Taj Gibson, and James Johnson could also be intrical parts in defining the Bulls success this season. James Johnson will need to give the Bulls some help on the inside to spell Joakim Noah, Tyrus Thomas, and Brad Miller, but he may also be asked to play some Small Forward due to his athleticism and ability to make mid-range shots.
Taj Gibson on the other hand, is a very similar player to Tyrus Thomas. He can hit the occasional mid-range shots, but his athleticism is the main reason the Bulls were so high on him. He could definitely be used to give the bulls some depth inside, but his athleticism on defense and rebounding could really give the Bulls some more options in the paint.
Jannero Pargo was another acquisition that was in order to try to replace the scoring void left by Ben Gordon. In years past, Pargo, has shown the ability to get hot and hit big shots. At times, Pargo has looked like a Leandro Barbosa type of player, but for his career has really just been a role-player and I imagine that is how he will play.
One thing the Bulls didn't address in the offseason is to get a player who they can count on to score inside. The Bulls post-players really consist of athletic guys who can score off rebounds and being set-up by Derrick Rose or Kirk Hinrich on alley oops. But aside from Brad Miller, who at times can score inside for you, the Bulls, just don't have a reliable option in the post. This could be the Achilles heel, of this athletic and exciting Bulls team.
I'd look for the Bulls to have a similar record to last year. My prediction is that they will improve a bit and finish just ahead of the Pistons at 45-37, but the Bulls may be looking at a first round exit, unless they acquire someone who can score in the post such as a Carlos Boozer, Amare Stoudemire, or Chris Bosh. It should be an exciting year, and we will see where it leads.