After four games of preseason action, the Chicago Bulls have shown fans that even without their big offseason acquisition, Carlos Boozer, they will still be a team that will compete against good teams in the NBA, thanks to their depth, size, and an offense based on movement.
Fans will expect a basketball team that can compete for a championship, but that may not be the case.
Here's a look at the Chicago Bulls heading into the 2010-11 NBA season.
2009-10 Season Record: 41-41
Key Losses: Kirk Hinrich, Brad Miller
Key Acquisitions: Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Keith Bogans, Ronnie Brewer, Omer Asik(draft pick who was playing in Europe the past two seasons)
Questions Heading Into the Season:
Will the Bulls stay healthy?
Every team in the NBA has a goal of staying healthy throughout the season. However, the Bulls lost Carlos Boozer, who was signed to a five-year, $80 million deal, to a broken right pinkie two days before the first preseason game.
Which team will win the Central divison this season?
The Bulls needed the preseason to gain team chemistry, on and off the court, with eight new players on the roster heading into the season.
Staying healthy was tough for the Bulls last season. A couple key players who missed some time were Joakim Noah, who missed 18 games, and Luol Deng, who missed a dozen games.
Health is tough to predict in any pro sport, but for the Bulls, it will be essential that the core of their team stays healthy and will be able to produce come playoff time.
Will C.J. Watson and Omer Asik fill in as adequate backups to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, respectively?
By all accounts, seven-foot center Omer Asik has been coming along quite nicely, and according to coach Tom Thibodeau, he is improving daily.
"Basically, that's what we're seeing in practice," Thibodeau said after a recent practice. "From the start of each practice, he gets better and better. I think he's getting more comfortable in the games. We love his size, his toughness. He plays smart, physical, he's on the boards, he sets great picks ... he does all the things that help the team play better."
Asik, 24, is still very young and has a lot of learning to do at the NBA level, but Noah claims Asik is a listener and works hard at his craft.
"He's doing a lot of things that can really help our team," said Noah "He's very good at closing down the middle. I think his best asset is that he wants to work and wants to get better.
"You can't teach that size he has. That's a big body, and he can really move for his size. He puts in a lot of extra work before and after practice. He's hungry to become a big-time player in this league. As long as he stays humble and hungry and driven, he's going to be real scary."
Asik is leaning the NBA on the fly, and will be asked to produce well with Boozer missing at least the first month of the season.
However, the guard who was signed to be Rose's backup, C.J. Watson, has struggled to run the offense during the two games he has played.
Nevertheless, Watson's best game came Tuesday night when he put up 12 points on 5-7 shooting and 2-2 from the three-point line.
One thing that needs definite improvement is Watson's 3:2 assist to turnover ratio, which as a point guard, is sub-par to say the least.
X-Factor: Luol Deng
For a team with eight new faces, defining an X-factor this early in preseason is a bit difficult and bold.
However, for the Bulls to be a championship contending team, one player who needs to show up night in, night out, is small forward Luol Deng.
After a 2006-07 season in which he averaged 18.8 points per game, 7.1 rebounds per game, many thought Deng would be a rising star in the NBA.
Many things have derailed Deng's rise to stardom, from the Kobe Bryant rumors before the 2007-8 season, to the several injuries that have led him to miss 64 games the past three seasons.
The 2009-10 season was somewhat of a revival year for Deng, as he averaged 17.6 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game(career high), and nearly a block per game.
Deng was usually asked to be the number two scorer last season behind Derrick Rose, however, this season, after acquiring Boozer and several players to add depth, the Bulls will look for Deng to be a solid number three scorer for them.
Deng won't be asked to score 18 points every night since the Bulls acquired a good scoring big man in Boozer, but his presence on the floor, whether it be rebounding or scoring, will be needed if the Bulls want to reach their goal: a championship.
Team to fear in the Central Division: Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks are coming off a 46 win season, with another year of growth from star point guard Brandon Jennings, a full season from midseason acquisition John Salmons, and a healthy Andrew Bogut. This team is truly capable to winning over 50 games next season.
With the Cleveland Cavaliers losing one of the best players in the NBA, LeBron James, the powerhouse in the division has fallen, leaving the door open for the Bucks or Bulls to win the division crown.
The Pacers have a solid core, especially after acquiring Darren Collison, but they don't have the talent to compete with teams like the Bulls or Bucks.
According to a recent poll of 28 NBA General Managers, 82 percent think the Chicago Bulls will win the Central division this upcoming season.
While nothing is won on paper, the Bulls have plenty to look up to this season.
However, nothing should be taken lightly, especially not a team like the Bucks, who also have young, up-and-coming talent of their own.
How many wins should fans expect from the 2010-11 Chicago Bulls?
Bulls fans should be expecting any where from 45 wins to 52+ wins. With eight new faces, including one, Boozer, who will miss at least the first month of the season, it could take some time for the 2010-11 edition of the Bulls to mesh.
The Bucks will only improve off their 46-win season, so the Bulls will have to win around 50 games in order to take home the Central division.
Final thoughts and predictions:
The Bulls are the early favorites to win the Central division, but Bulls fans won't get a complete read of the team until their prized offseason acquisition, Carlos Boozer, is back on the court and healthy.
It will be interesting to see how the Bulls fare without Boozer, but GM Gar Forman did a tremendous job getting depth on the team; with players such as Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, Kurt Thomas and Brian Scalabrine.
The loss of Boozer for the first month of the season will certainly hurt their win total, but it will give players—such as Taj Gibson, Omer Asik, Kurt Thomas, and Brian Scalabrine—an opportunity to make their mark on the coaching staff and earn playing time even when Boozer comes back.