The last real memory most people have of the Bulls is bowing out to the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of a classic first-round playoff series. Although they came up short, fans around the league had new found respect for the team that pushed the defending champs to the limit. A new season is about to get underway, and some people couldn't be more confused on what type of Bulls team they'll see.
The first thing worth noting is that very few changes were made to the roster during the offseason. Besides drafting James Johnson and Taj Gibson and bringing back Jannero Pargo after three years away from the Bulls, no additions were made barring anyone who survived the preseason cut. It makes folks wonder if new general manager Gar Foreman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson have that much confidence in the team that no significant moves were needed, or maybe they're just waiting for next year's free agent class.
The biggest offseason news for the Bulls was the loss of leading scorer Ben Gordon to Detroit after five years of good service to the team. Some will argue that losing Gordon will be a big hit the Bulls offensively and the lack of of a player who had been their most clutch since his rookie year will lead to few victories. Others say that while their leading scorer is gone, he also shot the ball a lot, stupidly at times. They also say that not having Gordon will force coach Vinny Del Negro to have other players take the final shot in a game, and the Bulls had become very predictable in the final seconds of close contests.
Derrick Rose was last season's Rookie of the Year, and it's his time to lead the Bulls to victory. A lot of players on the team, like John Salmons, Brad Miller, and Tyrus Thomas, can score when they want to. With Salmons and Miller back for a full season, Rose needs to look to them a lot if he wants to prove he ranks up there with the Chris Pauls and Deron Williams of the world. If Luol Deng can stay healthy over the 82-game stretch, you can put him among those options too.
Everyone around the league will keep an eye on Rose, but the player to watch for the Bulls is Joakim Noah. An easy target for fans since he was drafted, Noah grew up during last year's playoffs, and it all culminated with a steal and subsequent dunk on Paul Pierce that helped push the series to a seventh game. If Noah can keep that maturity and hard play up from now until the middle of April, the Bulls will definitely be one of the 16 teams left standing.
The Eastern Conference is very difficult to predict this season. After Cleveland, Orlando, and Boston, most likely in that order, nobody really knows what other five teams will represent the East in the playoffs. In the NBA, no team without a Kobe, LeBron, or D-Wade gets anything handed to them, so the Bulls will have to earn a playoff spot by themselves.
Amazing happened with the Bulls last year. What about this time around?