With the NBA tipping off in just four days' time and many teams wrapping up their abbreviated preseason schedules, now is the time to look at what these games have told us to expect from the 66 frantic games ahead.
The Chicago Bulls ended last season as the holders of the best record in the league, winning 62 before being eliminated in the Eastern conference finals.
The Bulls, like all 29 other teams, played just two preseason games this year. Both were against the Indiana Pacers, whom the Bulls defeated in the opening round of last year's playoffs.
With so little time to cram games into, will Carlos Boozer prove himself to the Chicago natives? Is Rip Hamilton the missing piece? When will we catch a glimpse of the man, the myth, the legend that is Brian Scalabrine?
Carlos Boozer was a let-down last season. He'll be the first to tell you that. He spent his extended summer heavily working out and turned up to training camp 20 pounds lighter. And he looks it.
Losing that weight hasn't made establishing a deep-post position harder, it's made it easier for Carlos. The leaner, trimmer version is more agile and able to get to places faster. That should also help him improve on defense, where all to often last season, he was blown past by attackers like he wasn't there.
Boozer's new figure, his potential defensive improvement and a burning want to prove himself to an indifferent Chicago fanbase combine to make him a very interesting proposition in this short season.
If Boozer can start averaging near his 20-point/10-rebound career numbers, Chicago will be a force to be reckoned with once again.
Let's establish this quickly. Rose is not winning back-to-back MVP awards.
This is not a bad thing; this is not because Rose is not as good or because he doesn't deserve it.
This is because he has a team and a system that takes so much pressure off his shoulders that he can score 14 or 15 points a night and still pick up a win. The addition of Richard "Rip" Hamilton makes it all possible as his scoring creates more space for Noah, Deng and Boozer to get their points.
The lower workload on Rose will allow him to stay fresher for those fourth-quarter one-man takeovers he is so good at. Not that he needs the rest, but in a season with just about four games per week, any rest is welcome.
He'll still be playing at an MVP level. He'll still be in the discussion, but he won't win it this year.
Be happy about it!
The Bulls made just one pickup this summer—acquiring Richard "Rip" Hamilton after he agreed to a buyout of his contract with the Detroit Pistons.
Hamilton already has the best NBA nickname for writers to make headlines with, and he will definitely be making headlines in the Windy City.
The Bulls lacked a true shooting guard last season; Keith Bogans started at the position but couldn't shoot, Ronnie Brewer could shoot but was more valuable off the bench, and Kyle Korver couldn't defend.
In Hamilton, they gain a player who averages a few under 20 points per game for his career, a player who has good length and great speed for a 12-year veteran at 34 years old.
His major asset, his scoring, will make life infinitely easier for Derrick Rose, who will no longer have to score 25 points every night. Hamilton can defend, too, another reason for his acquisition. He has the length and the know-how to really bother Dwyane Wade.
Yes, Wade. Let's be honest here, the Bulls are building to beat the Heat. That's the aim.
With Rip on the floor, the Bulls have added what could be the final piece to the championship puzzle.
New hair, a new look, confidence, swagger. That's what Luol Deng brought to these preseason games. It doesn't sound like much, but it's important to the Bulls. Losing in the playoffs after a season of getting everything you want creates a new mentality in players born to win.
Luol was, after Rose, the Bulls' most important player. He started all 82 games and was the team's leading scorer behind Rose. He was an ironman, locking down the league's top players on a nightly basis.
The respect and praise he gathered from his performances seem to have given him a huge boost in confidence. Playing as the leader of Great Britain Men's team also seems to have helped.
What does this mean going forward? It means Deng will not hesitate to shoot. His summer with the British team has developed his ball handling skills, as he was effectively playing point guard against some of the world's best talents.
Most importantly, he can lead this team when Rose goes to the bench both in spirit and in talent.
Last season, the Chicago Bulls gave their bench a name. The "Bench Mob" was born. It was a living thing with it's own identity. This wasn't just a fan-driven thing.
The Bulls bench was the best defensive unit in the NBA in 2011. With Ronnie Brewer, Omer Asik, Taj Gibson and CJ Watson on the floor, the Bulls gave up fewer points than any other four-player combination.
This year, that bench could be crucial in winning a large number of games since the games come so thick and fast that depth is a major plus to have.
Chicago has the deepest roster in the league. With players like Gibson and Asik, young and passionate, coming off the bench to shore up a lead, the Bulls can bank on their second unit to help out when the cramped schedule begins to take it's toll.
Rookie forward Jimmy Butler highlights this depth perfectly. All the way through camp he has impressed with his work ethic and relentless approach to both offense and defense. He performed brilliantly in both preseason games, scoring efficiently on his looks and defending very well for a rookie with little summer camp with the team.
Butler will hardly get a look in, despite being a player who could probably start for half the teams in the Eastern conference.