The Chicago Bulls surprised many by winning the Eastern Conference's top seeded position in the 2011 NBA Playoffs last season.
Although they lost in five games to the Miami Heat, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and newly-signed Richard “Rip” Hamilton all have something to prove this upcoming season. Here are my four bold predictions for the Chicago Bulls in 2012.
1. 50 wins or better.
With just about everyone returning to the squad from last year's 61-win season, another successful campaign is expected from the Bulls.
The Heat, Magic, Hawks and Knicks will be their top competition, but with the addition of Rip Hamilton, who should greatly assist them on the perimeter, Chicago should have no problem easily running through the East.
2. Derrick Rose will increase his shooting percentage by making more and taking fewer shots.
Derrick Rose's three-point percentage increased nearly seven points from the previous season, but his field-goal percentage went down almost four points from the previous season and shot below 40 percent in the playoffs.
This was mainly because there wasn’t a true perimeter player who could create and shoot off the dribble; Chicago never possessed that.
With the signing of Rip Hamilton, this should help Chicago in many ways, especially Rose. Hamilton is that perimeter threat even though he is getting up there in age.
3. Carlos Boozer will average 20/10 and lose his inconsistency tag.
There are two reasons why Carlos Boozer should be a legit scoring option to complement the inside-outside combination that he and Rose should share.
First, his talent and scoring abilities are some of the more underrated in the league, and second, his five-year $75 million contract should motivate him enough to prove he was a smart investment for the team.
Last season in the playoffs, he averaged less than 13 points while shooting only 43 percent from the floor.
In Game 5 in the Eastern Conference finals, he only attempted six shots and made one basket. That’s not what the Bulls were looking for when the signed him in summer 2010.
He’s been hearing all summer how much he disappeared during the postseason, and I’m sure he’s destined to prove that he is a reliable player.
His stats of 17.5/9.6 points/rebounds in the regular season are decent but not good enough, so I believe that Boozer will have a monster year to help get Chicago over the hump.
4. Rip Hamilton and Luol Deng will be the X-factors Chicago need.
Rip Hamilton will be turning 34 next Valentines day, but he still can be a major contributor to Chicago this season.
I’m not sure if he will come off the bench or not, but he will be a third or fourth scoring option (between him or Luol Deng) and give Chicago the perimeter player it lacked last year.
Luol Deng scored many of his points because he relieved pressure whenever teams keyed in on Derrick Rose or Carlos Boozer. If you add Rip Hamilton to the mix, it will allow a balanced scoring attack and allow Rip and Luol to score easily because less pressure is on them.
If Chicago can use Derrick Rose for scoring, Carlos Boozer’s scoring potential and rebounds, bench factor, Joakim’s defense and Luol's and Rip's shooting to its potential, the Chicago Bull can easily win a championship in June.