The youngest MVP in league history returns with the same core that had the best record in the NBA last season, and will look to step his game up to yet another level. Will his teammates pick up their play and help their young leader reach the NBA Finals?
Derrick Rose has improved noticeably in each of his first three NBA seasons. After being named the youngest MVP in NBA history, taking his game up to another level is a tall order.
The key to Rose's progression has been his brutal off-season workouts. In his first two seasons, his primary task was improving his jump shot. Last season his mid-range J was at times automatic, while he was respectable from three-point land.
Expect his jumper to make more improvement, but this off-season he had another focus: improve his post game. For all the warranted hype around his freakish athleticism, Rose is also one of the strongest point guards in the league. Adding a post-up game would allow him to bully smaller guards, while preserving his body from those ferocious drives to the basket.
Expect similar statistics from Rose, but all around better efficiency. No player among the NBA's final four teams carried more of a burden than Rose, and he wore down noticeably in the playoffs. The shortened schedule could help Rose stay fresh come playoff time.
Projected stats: 25.5 points, nine assists, 48 and 35 percent from the field and three.
Carlos Boozer was supposed to be the Chicago Bulls' best back-to-the-basket scorer since the team traded away Elton Brand. Instead, he broke his hand before the season started and never really got on track.
Brought in to be a 20/10 guy and take some of the scoring burden off of Derrick Rose, Boozer has failed to average a double-double since 2005. His scoring average and shooting percentages were both below his standards and, in short, he was one of the biggest free agent busts of last season.
It is not too late for Boozer to turn things around in Chicago, but his career is at a crossroads. Boozer will either be the player Chicago thought they were signing for, or public enemy number one and a prime candidate for the new amnesty clause. Provided he can stay healthy (a big if), I say Boozer can turn it around.
Projected stats: 19 points, 11 rebounds per game on 54 percent shooting.
Luol Deng had one of the best seasons of his career last year, but has probably reached his ceiling. There was a time when some thought Deng had perennial all star potential. He is not quite there, but is a very good player.
At best, Deng is a third scorer on a good team and a lock-down defender. He does a lot of things that do not show up on a box score, and is a consummate professional anyone would want to play with. Deng is a fringe all star, and should be selected once or twice before his career is done.
Projected stats: 17 points, 6.5 rebounds, one steal and one block per game, 48 percent from the field.
I have to say I was not a fan of Joakim Noah as a lottery pick for the Chicago Bulls. Now the only thing stopping him from being one of the NBA's premier centers is injuries.
Noah was leading the NBA in rebounds before his first injury. A couple more led to him playing in only 48 games, a career low. Noah's energy and tenacity set the tone for this Bulls' team. He has the potential to be every bit this team's defensive MVP that Derrick Rose is on offense.
Noah will make an all star game before his career is through. All he needs to do is stay healthy.
Projected stats: 12 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks per games, 56 games played.
Ronnie Brewer was signed to be the Chicago Bulls' starting shooting guard. An injury prevented that from the start of the season. For a team built on chemistry, he never got the starter's job back.
Coach Tom Thibedeau values defensive effort and overall energy, two things Brewer has in spades. If the Bulls do not make a move at shooting guard, Brewer will get his job back and run with it. He certainly can approach the level he had with the Utah Jazz, when he averaged 14 and four for the playoff team.
Projected stats: 10 points, four rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game.
Taj Gibson's stats dropped across the board last season. That had to do with the signing of Carlos Boozer more than any loss in skill for the third-year power forward.
Gibson still did a lot of the little things for the Bulls to win. He would often come off the bench at the end of games in the closer's role, as he is a much better defender than Boozer. Expect a similar role this season unless Boozer struggles again. I expect him to have a much shorter leash in his second season in Chicago.
Projected stats: 8 points, six rebounds, 1.5 blocks per game.
Kyle Korver will be the offensive switch with Ronnie Brewer and do what he does best: nail three pointers for the Chicago Bulls.
Thibedeau's loyalty to Keith Bogans made for a funky rotation at shooting guard earlier, but it will be more of the Korver/Brewer show in Chicago this year.
Projected stats: Nine points per game, 44 percent from three.
It was clear Omer Asik got better with every game he played for the Chicago Bulls. Some day the Turkish big man will be a dominant factor on the defensive side of the ball.
Asik is a poor-man's Joakim Noah and has Noah's athleticism and tenacity. Expect more development from their project.
Projected Stats: Five points, five rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.
C.J. Watson went from an explosive bench scorer in Golden State to a seldom-used guard with the Chicago Bulls. Unless Derrick Rose goes down with an injury, do not expect his role to change.
There has been some talk about using Watson more often as a combo-guard in the shooting guard's role. I think that situation will work itself out better than last year, and Watson will continue to be Rose's primary backup.
Projected stats: 5 points, 2 assists per game.
Provided Keith Bogans remains on the Chicago Bulls' roster (the team holds an option for 1.7 million) he will be the odd-man-out of the shooting guard rotation.
Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer are just better players. If Brewer had not gotten injured in the preseason, Bogans likely would have never earned the starter's spot he has held on to all year. If Chicago does not upgrade at shooting guard, a two-man offense-defense rotation between Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer will lead to more production.
Projected stats: Two points per game, demoted to 10th man status.
Kurt Thomas may get slightly more minutes in the rotation, especially in the four-game weeks. For the most part, he will be a 'break glass in case of emergency' option off the bench.
Thomas will continue to lend a veteran voice in the playoffs, and be ready for duty if called upon.
Projected stats: Three points, five rebounds per game.
Brian Scalabrine will continue to lead the Bulls in cheers and chants led by fans during blowouts. He will be a good locker room guy and an extension of coach Tom Thibedeau.
Projected stats: Number one high-fiver, tops in garbage time threes.