Chicago Bulls Season Preview: What To Watch for and Expect This NBA Season

Eddie PryceCorrespondent IDecember 27, 2011

Chicago Bulls Season Preview: What To Watch for and Expect This NBA Season

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    The Chicago Bulls are coming off of a great season last year in which they had a league-high 62 wins and got to the Eastern Conference finals.  Expectations are high this season, and the Miami Heat production is a year older now. 

    What can we expect from the Bulls this year?  Can Derrick Rose repeat his brilliance in his fourth year in the league?  Can coach Tom Thibodeau repeat his masterful coaching performance from last year?  Can the Bulls handle being the hunted? 

    We'll just have to see.

1. The Bulls Will Remain a Top-Three Defense in the League

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    The Bulls were as stingy and sound a defensive team as there was in the league last year.  Coach Tom Thibodeau brought his defensive genius from Boston over to the Bulls as their head coach and made it clear that defense would be a priority.  Little has changed since last year, so expect this team, as the season goes on, to be just as smothering and in sync on the defensive end as they were a year ago. 

    There has been some concern about Rip Hamilton but he has played for great defensive teams in the past and bought into their philosophies.  He should not limit this team at all on the defensive end.  Look for this team to compete with the elite defenses in the league again for supremacy in all statistical categories.

2. Derrick Rose’s Scoring Stats Will Go Down, While Percentages and Assists Go Up

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    Derrick Rose learned a lot of lessons from his magnificent offensive season last year.  While he was able to put up unbelievable numbers, he took a beating as the season went on and was fatigued when it mattered most deep into the playoffs.  With the addition of Rip Hamilton and hopefully the resurgence of Carlos Boozer, less pressure will be put on Derrick to be unbelievable (scoring-wise) every night. 

    In Game 1, Derrick seemed to be more patient, willing to set others up and pick and choose his spots to attack.  If he holds true to form, Derrick should still be great, but his scoring numbers should go down while his shooting percentages and assists will go up this year.  This would be a good thing for the Bulls.

3. Rip Hamilton Will Take Some Pressure off of Rose

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    While Luol Deng should remain the second-leading scorer on this team, followed by Carlos Boozer, the addition of Rip Hamilton will help them out tremendously when the team needs a bucket down the stretch or whenever else the Bulls need a bucket.  Rip is mostly a catch-and-shoot scorer, but he does have the ability to create his own shot and has proven on multiple occasions that he can average 20 points per game over the course of a year. 

    This is going to be key if the Bulls want to make that next step and get past the Miami Heat or whoever else gets in their way deep in the East playoffs.

4. Luol Deng Will Average 20 Points Per Game

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    Luol Deng has always thrived as a second or third scoring option.  He’s as good a third scoring option as you will find in the league.  His struggle, however, has been that he cannot get his own shot consistently. 

    This year, with Rip Hamilton being on the team, Boozer being healthy and Luol continuing to improve his game and being more confident, look for him to average 20 points per game.  He has an awesome midrange shot, and has continued to take it stronger and stronger to the hole the last couple years.  Look for him to have a big year.

5. Bulls Will Finish as No. 2 Seed Behind the Heat

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    There is no doubt the Heat look like they are poised and ready to have a dominant regular season this year. 

    Also, the Bulls are widely respected as one of the top teams in the NBA.  There is no more talk of them being an upstart team led by their young MVP.  Now they are a team that is coming off a 60-plus-win season and the best record in the NBA last year led by Derrick Rose.  Teams are going to get geared up for them and continue to come up with different ways to contain Rose, and counteract Joakim Noah’s boundless energy. 

    With that said, the Bulls are well-coached enough and steady with their play that they should still be expected to pull a No. 2 seed over the older Boston Celtics and surging New York Knicks

6. Boozer Will Bounce Back with at Least 17 and Eight

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    Carlos Boozer was not fully healthy last year, as he had a turf toe, and it limited his play down the stretch.  If this is the case, look for Boozer to play more like he did in Utah for most of his time there, and how he played the first half of his first season as a Bull. 

    He struggled down the stretch to be effective on the court at the same time Noah was out there, and especially in the playoffs when he struggled to make layups and play with any type of athleticism.  If his issues were in fact health-related, then look for Boozer to come back with at least 17 and eight this year. 

    Ideally, I think the Bulls would like to see his more characteristic 20 and 10, but 17 and eight would suffice for this season.

7. Omer Asik Will Have a Breakout Season and Give a Consistent Lift off Bench

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    Omer Asik is entering his second year in the league.  He has played a good amount of ball with the Turkish team, and he got valuable experience with the Bulls last year.  He has the athleticism and skills to become an absolute beast down low for the Bulls.  If he can come off the bench for Boozer and Noah, and provide them with a consistent effort on the offensive end with energy, hustle plays and a few scoring plays in the post, he should be able to come pretty close to 10 points per game. 

    This should take some of the pressure off of the rest of the team from Derrick Rose all the way down.  The second unit was great for the Bulls last year, and his contributions are needed to keep them at that level during the regular season and put them over the top during the playoffs.

8. Win Percentage Will Go Down as Teams Start To Target the Bulls and Teams Adjust

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    I don’t expect the Bulls to win at the same .750 win percentage that they did last year.  Teams will adjust to them, they are the “hunted” and it’s hard to expect the same type of magic that Derrick Rose and many other Bulls were able to provide last year.

    Also taken into consideration is the fact that Tom Thibodeau’s first-year magic will wear off some.  I’m not sure they suffer the Scott Skiles fatigue that his teams often suffer from after a couple great years due to how hard he drives his teams, but everything was new last year.  This year, people will get more used to him and it may not have the same drastic effect on the team that it did last year. 

    He is a good coach and not exactly out of touch with his players, so I don’t think he will lose effectiveness, but his style just seemed to be just what the doctor ordered after a disappointing 2009-10 season.   This year, like a girl you’ve been dating for a while, it won’t be quite as new. 

9. Joakim Noah Will Stay Healthy and Have an All-Star-Caliber Season This Year

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    Noah has had the worst of luck with different freak injuries that have prevented him from playing full seasons.  He played in 48 and 64 games respectively the last two years.  This year, however, I have a feeling that he will play out the season and thus provide the Bulls with the energy that they need on a nightly basis to win in big chunks.

    It was a struggle at times for Noah and Boozer to mesh together, especially for Carlos, but I think that this year, after a year of playing together they will learn to play off of each other in the paint and not fight each other for rebounds.  Noah has continued to work at his game on offense, and I am confident that he will be able to provide double figures on a nightly basis just through his sheer hustle alone.  If he can approach All-Star levels of play, which is possible, because he is now highly regarded as a player around the league, the Bulls will be well-positioned to make that next step.