And to think this all started with a stroke of luck—the 2008 NBA Draft Lottery. The Bulls were projected to have the ninth pick in the 08' draft, so their odds of landing the top selection were slim...and then none. But somehow, some way, the Bulls came away with the top pick and point guard Derrick Rose, thus beginning their return to Eastern Conference Prominence.
Along with Rose, the Bulls hit it big in the 2007 lottery with center Joakim Noah, and when healthy have one of the league's best spot shooters in Luol Deng, whom they acquired in the 2004 draft from Phoenix. To go along with those three, the Bulls found a gem late in the first round of the 2009 draft in All-Rookie forward Taj Gibson.
With those building blocks in place, the Bulls approached this offseason as well as any team in the NBA, and prepared themselves to sign two max contracts on the free agent market. When that plan fell to the wayside, the Bulls turned their attention to the next best thing—All-Star power forward Carlos Boozer.
The Bulls have made the playoffs each of the last two years, only to exit in the first round. This offseason was full of change for the Bulls, who have a new coach, a transformed roster, and a giddy fan base.
The big question is, "Can the Bulls take down the other Eastern Conference powers?" Is this team good enough? Can they overcome Miami Thrice? Will they get the best of a rejeuvinated Celtics squad? Will Orlando be too much to handle?
There are many questions facing the Bulls this year, a year that will feature some of the best competition the Eastern Conference has seen in decades.
Tom Thibodeau-Head Coach (Celtics)
Carlos Boozer-PF (Jazz)
Kyle Korver-SG/SF (Jazz)
Ronnie Brewer-SG (Jazz/Grizzlies)
CJ Watson-PG (Warriors)
Kurt Thomas-PF/C (Bucks)
Keith Bogans-G (Spurs)
Omer Asik-C (Turkey)
Kyle Weaver-G (Thunder)
Brian Scalabrine-F (Celtics)
Point Guard (Grade: 9.5/10)
The Bulls have an elite point guard in Derrick Rose. Some feel he may be a bit overrated, but he is a multi-dimensional player. Rose is faster and stronger than many point guards in the league, and his mid-range shooting is absolutely deadly. Over the summer, Rose worked on creating a three point shot, and by all reports, he is looking great.
Rose is the Bulls' best player, and a budding superstar in this league. He has great athleticism, and sees the floor well. With his speed and athletic ability, he should be able to be a great defensive player under head coach Tom Thibodeau.
Like the last two years when he had Kirk Hinrich to spot him, Rose will not have to play 40 or more minutes for the Bulls. The team signed guard C.J. Watson in the offseason, and while Watson will certainly not be able to replace the defensive prowess of Hinrich, he will provide an offensive spark off the bench.
I love the addition of Watson to the backcourt. He averaged 10 points in over 27 minutes per game last year, and he's not likely to see that playing time this year as deep as the Bulls are at the guard positions, but he can come off the bench on a given night and absolutely torture opposing defenses.
He is a nice change of pace from Derrick Rose, and at only 26, I think he has some upside as a rotation man going forward. A very nice addition for the Bulls.
The Bulls also added John Lucas III from their summer league squad, a guy who was shooting lights out from beyond the arc. This team definitely could use some three points shooting, so he will be a nice camp body at the very least, and a guy who likely will not get a ton of minutes if he makes the team.
Shooting Guard (Grade: 7.5)
This is a question area for the Bulls. Obviously, they were unable to land LeBron James or Dwyane Wade this offseason, two guys who could have filled this area. They also were unable to pry J.J. Redick away from the Orlando Magic, despite offering him a ridiculous amount of money.
So, instead of getting a sharp-shooter, the Bulls picked up the extremely athletic Ronnie Brewer. Brewer is a 6'7" shooting guard, and will be very effective in guarding the top shooting guards in the Eastern Conference. He is a good mid-short range shooter but has little skills from outside the arc.
Brewer comes to the Bulls after spending time in Utah and Memphis last season, and he is still recovering from an injury he suffered last year. He was one of the better young options available on the free agent market, and he will most likely start for the Bulls in the coming season.
To compensate for Brewer's lack of outside shooting ability, the Bulls made a move for forward/guard Kyle Korver, also formerly of the Jazz.
Korver holds the NBA record for three point percentage in a season, and he set that mark just last year. The Bulls really have lacked in the three point shooting area, and you have seen both Derrick Rose and even Taj Gibson start working on developing that shot. Korver needs no development.
The Bulls got arguably the best three point shooter in the game today, and he will double as a shooting guard and small forward. He's not the best defender, but he holds his own. His mark for the Bulls will be made beyond the arc, where he is absolutely deadly.
The Bulls signed another defensive specialist in Keith Bogans, a 6'5" veteran who started 50 games for the San Antonio Spurs last season. He can occasionally shoot the three ball, and will provide a nice spark off the bench, but he is simply a rotational player, and a solid one at that.
C.J. Watson could definitely play some shooting guard in sets with Rose at the point if the Bulls want to go with a scoring unit while sacrificing some size.
Another underrated addition was that of Kyle Weaver, who was most recently with the extremely talented Oklahoma City Thunder. Weaver has some skill, and was invited to Bulls camp in hopes of making that final roster spot. I think he has a good shot at it.
Small Forward (Grade: 8)
Luol Deng needs to stay healthy and find the fight inside. If he could channel some of Joakim Noah's emotion, he'd be as good if not better a player than Carmelo Anthony. Problem is, Deng too often plays soft, but he has one of the best skill sets of any player at this position.
Deng has a fantastic mid-range shot, and he can be a deadly slasher when he wants to be. He's not the best defender, but he has great length and is a solid rebounder. This is a guy who just needs to stay healthy for a full season. He has all the skill in the world, and should be a huge key for the Bulls this season. I want to see more emotion out of Deng, though. If anyone can light a fire under this guy, it's Tom Thibodeau.
The Bulls will rotate in Korver, Brewer, and even Bogans in this spot here. That's not good news for second year player James Johnson, who has been a huge disappointment since being drafted in the first round last year.
The best plan of action for Johnson would be to send him to the developmental league, and let him get some playing time over the course of the year where he can actually develop his skills rather than rot at the end of Chicago's bench, which he undoubtedly would. I definitely think you will see Johnson in the D-League at some point or another this year.
Johnson lost a lot of weight over the offseason, but didn't gain a ton of extra ability. He has good skills, he just needs to put it all together. A year in the D-League will do wonders for him.
Power Forward (Grade: 9)
The Bulls have a very good frontcourt rotation, and it got a huge bump in the right direction when the team spent $80 million on All-Star Carlos Boozer, formerly of the Utah Jazz.
Boozer is the Bulls' first legitimate scoring threat in the low post in who knows how long, and he couldn't be more excited to be a Chicago Bull. Boozer won't help the Bulls much in low post defense, but he won't need to. He is going to have one job, and that is going to be to score the basketball.
He opens up the pick and roll game for Derrick Rose, which is a huge boost for this offense. Boozer was a great addition by Chicago despite all that went on this offseason, and if they are going to hang with the big teams in the East, he will be a big reason why.
The Bulls also return second year player Taj Gibson, the first team All-Rookie selection. Gibson displayed a great skill set throughout the course of the year, and I love what he brings to the table. He is a very good defender who has shot blocking ability, good rebounding skills, and who had a surprisingly good offensive game. That is only going to improve.
Gibson reportedly is working on developing a three point shot, which he says will be ready to unveil next year. Bulls fans have to be excited about that. This guy is putting in a ton of work, and already has the feel of a veteran player. A nice late first round find by the Bulls last year.
I also think the Bulls got a bargain in Kurt Thomas, who is definitely past his prime, but is still a solid defender and rebounder. Thomas is another big body for Chicago down low and gives them a lot of flexibility at the power forward position.
Center (Grade: 8)
There's only so much that can be said about Joakim Noah. He is the heart and soul of this team, and is ready to break out as one of the elite centers in the NBA.
Noah is an athletic defender who is a rebounding machine, and while he is known for his defensive prowess, his offensive game is improving significantly, and he should break out this year as a serious force on the interior. He has added some muscle weight to his frame, he can run the floor, and despite a wacky delivery, he is actually a solid free throw shooter.
Noah should be a lock to average a double double this season, and will be a huge part of the Bulls' success. He rounds out what is the best frontcourt the Bulls have possibly ever had.
He will be spotted by newcomer Omer Asik, a draft pick from Turkey who is the team's only legitimate seven footer. Asik has a good low post offensive repertoire, and he gets to the free throw line a lot. Problem is, he might be worse than Shaq when it comes to shooting free throws. Possibly even worse than Ben Wallace. That is something he will need to place a huge emphasis on if he is going to make it as an NBA player.
The Bulls have great confidence in Asik, who was the only true center the Bulls brought in to back up Noah this offseason.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the addition of veteran Brian Scalabrine, who has played under head coach Tom Thibodeau and likely will round out the Bulls' bench. He can play either center or forward in garbage action, and knock down the occasional three pointer.
Overall (Grade: 9)
This is undoubtedly one of the top three or four most talented teams in the Eastern conference, and I love what they did this offseason despite not being able to haul in one of the big three free agents. I think the most underrated move this team made was hiring Tom Thibodeau as the head coach, and he will implement a strong defensive game plan for this team.
The Bulls have a ton of potential this season, and I think they have a chance to win 50-55 games this year. I think they will win the Central division, and likely will be the 2nd-5th seed in the East.
Final Prediction: 55-27, First place Central Division, Third seed Eastern Conference