This is an odd season for the Bulls fans. First, the Bulls are coming off a season that saw them post the best record in the league. Before last season, that had not happened in a while.
Second, the Bulls got rocked in the Eastern Conference Finals by a team they swept in the regular season. A team that, no less, has Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, two players the Bulls were favored to get last offseason.
The NBA is also going through a shortened training camp to make way for a Christmas Day start, which means the Bulls aren't going to have a lot of time to build chemistry before a sprint of a season.
But, finally, the Bulls did not make nearly the kind of splash they did last offseason in the free agency period. They watched Kurt Thomas walk after a remarkable season last year filling in for Joakim Noah (who only played 48 games), and they released Keith Bogans who, regardless of the scrutiny he has received, started every single game for the Bulls last season.
The one real move they did make, however, was sign Rip Hamilton after the Pistons bought out his contract. The question many want an answer to is will Hamilton deliver and make these Bulls NBA champions. I can tell you that I can not answer that question, but I can predict how the Bulls season will play out.
Bold or not, here are six predictions for the Bulls 2011-12 season.
The Lakers will have a hurt Kobe, but Kobe knows how to play hurt. The problem is if he misses the game altogether, the Lakers are basically doomed.
Assuming he plays, however, the Lakers are still without Bynum, who will be suspended. They are also coming off an offseason where they traded away Lamar Odom for nothing and pissed off Pau Gasol by trying to trade him and having that backfire.
Mike Brown has got to do a good job this season managing his team, and while he probably can, he still is in his first year as the Lakers head coach and will be going up against a tough Bulls team who will be trying to give their new shooting guard a good debut.
Look, I don't need good reasoning to make this pick because this game could go either way. However, with Kobe hurt and Bynum out, the Bulls are in a great position to start the season 1-0.
Don't forget, though, that the Bulls lost in the season opener last year to the Thunder. I think Derrick Rose will want to get off to a better start this time than he did last season, for he scored 28 points on 31 shots in the opener last year.
Carlos Boozer is 20 pounds lighter and is coming off a great preseason, so a lot of people in Chicago are hoping for great things from him this year. While I wish Boozer would have a great year, I still see Boozer as a phony for what he did last season in the playoffs, and even late in the season.
However, Boozer looks healthy, fresh, and more athletic than he ever has in a Bulls uniform. I think Carlos will come out of the gates strongly and look like he looked in the middle of last season when he was putting up 25 points or more consistently.
But he'll probably look better than that, and he should this season.
Boozer will never receive praise as a defender, and he shouldn't for he is pathetic down there, but he should score a lot of points this season. I believe Boozer will score 23 points per game or more for an extended period of time this season.
But, alas, I also believe that will not last all season. Boozer averaged 12.6 points per game in the playoffs last season, and I believe he'll drop off this year as well. While it may not be 12.6, he won't average more than 16 points per game in the post season. And I'm not saying that will derail the Bulls either because they did beat the Pacers and the Hawks with Boozer playing below par last season.
I think Boozer will be in the All-Star game next season, and he may even be starting alongside Derrick Rose.
A lot of people are saying Derrick Rose will benefit from Rip Hamilton, but I think that's a given. Having a guy known for scoring would help any MVP type player who previously had a guy known for not being able to score at the same position.
And maybe saying Rip will benefit from Rose is also obvious, but I'm saying it anyway. Rip won't average 20 points per game, but he might average closer to his 17.7 points per game career average than some might think. Hamilton will get a lot of easy baskets and fast breaks with Rose as his point guard, and if he can knock down his shots this season, he'll surprise a lot of people with his numbers.
Hamilton won't make the All-Star team this year, but Bulls fans will be putting his name in the discussion. Rip should be an efficient scorer this year as well as a good distributor. He is known for his ability to pass as well as score, and being on this talented Bulls roster will give him plenty of oppurtunities for assists as well as buckets.
Expect Hamilton to average around 15 ppg and 4 apg.
Luol Deng played 82 games last season and played the most minutes out of anyone on the Bulls roster. I was surprised by Deng's play all season, for he looked remarkable on both ends of the floor.
Yet, I was even more surprised that he was able to play all those minutes without an injury. Last year, Deng had been coming off two straight years of missing time due to injury.
Look, Deng had some bad breaks early in his career, but the odds are he won't play another full season back to back. And besides, do you really think nobody on the Bulls is going to get hurt this year? I'm not saying you do, but Boozer, Noah, Gibson, and Brewer all either missed time or played hurt last year. Deng is one of the few who survived, and he was one of the least likely candidates to do so.
Deng hopefully won't miss the playoffs, but I'm betting he will miss an extended period of time this year, and it will probably cost him an All-Star appearance that he would have otherwise contended for.
Derrick Rose won the MVP last season, and deservedly so. The Bulls had the best record in the NBA, and Rose played out of his mind all season long.
I originally thought Rose's scoring numbers would only get higher as he became more efficient, got to the line more, and his three point shot got stronger. However, I think with the addition of Hamilton and Boozer getting back on track, Rose will see more nights where he doesn't need to score as much.
Also, Rose will most likely sit on the bench more so than usual, and definitely in games against weaker competition and in blowouts. Due to the rapid schedule, Rose will need all the rest he will need in order to dominate in the fourth quarter on a consistent basis and be strong for the playoffs.
I'm not saying Rose will go back to 20 points per game and play 25 minutes every night. I'm saying Rose's averages will go down because some games he will not be as aggressive and some games he will be on the bench in the fourth quarter or longer going into the second quarter. These games will affect his averages, especially in the shortened season. I actually think he might be more efficient this season than last, but he might only average 21-23 points per game. Maybe. He could average 30 for all I know, but I doubt it.
I like Rose to average 22 points and 9 assists per game. He could still win the MVP with those numbers, but I'm picking LeBron James to win the award. I think the Bulls will finish second in the East behind the Heat, and with LeBron averaging high totals in points, rebounds, and assists, I like him to win the MVP.
Kevin Durant's not a bad option either.
Everyone said last year before the playoffs that the Bulls were not ready for an NBA title. They said they needed heartbreak before the reward. Well, they broke Bulls fans hearts last year when the Heat shredded them in the Eastern Finals.
Now with Rip Hamilton and the heartbreak taken care of, I think the Bulls will beat the Heat this year in, I don't know, let's say 7 games. They'll have to do it without home court advantage because I already predicted the Heat to win the East, but I believe the Bulls can do it.
Hamilton will have a huge series and Rose will make a couple plays in the fourth quarter to win a game as well. LeBron James should still do a good job defending Rose, but the Bulls should be better equipped to let other players make some plays down the stretch as well.
But, having said all that, the Bulls still have to beat whichever team comes out of the West. I would love for the Bulls to win it all this year, and I think they have a team that can, but I'm going with the Mavericks. I think Nowitzki will have another great year and post season, and will simply eat up Carlos Boozer. Lamar Odom will also be a strong piece for the Mavericks next year and will surprise many fans with his play.
The Mavericks still have another run in them, and if they're mad that they weren't talked about enough this past off season, they still have a chance to be talked about more than anyone could have imagined if they win another title this year.
I'll still believe the Bulls can win a title when the playoffs come around, but if by no fault by themselves, the Mavericks may just be too much if they get to the Finals.