* This post is part of our NBA week series, where we explore all things NBA leading up to opening night on October 30th*
This will be an interesting season for the Chicago Bulls. I took a look at the 5 Burning Questions for their offseason. Now I will take a look at the questions for the upcoming season:
5) Without Omer Asik, Kyle Korver, and CJ Watson how will the new “bench mob” perform: One of the most underrated factors in the Bulls success in recent years has been the Bulls big advantage over other teams when their opponents went to the second unit. The Bulls were able to turn to the “Bench Mob” to come in and hold a lead, grow a lead, or keep the team in the game. Those players that they lost individually are not great talents but as a unit, they understood their roles and knew what contributions they had to make in order for the team to be successful.
The team will be counting on new aquisitions, Marco Belinelli, Kirk Hinrich, Nazr Mohammed, Vladimir Radmonovic, Nate Robinson to provide that spark off the bench. In my opinion they not only downgraded in talent with this new group, but that chemistry the old unit had can’t be overlooked. A huge question for the Bulls success will be: Can the new role players step up and become the “Bench Mob 2.0″ or will they be the “Bench Sob?”
4) Will Joakim Noah and Luol Deng stay injury free: Deng is coming off a wrist injury that he did not get surgery for and played with through the Olympics. He admits that he was planning on having surgery to fix the torn ligament in his left wrist last season, but after the rehab program he put himself through this summer he feels confident he can contribute at a high level. Noah is coming off an ankle injury and has been banged up throughout his career but here is the quote from him on the ankle:
“My ankle is really good. I spent a lot of time just rehabbing this offseason. I had a very hard decision to make in not playing in the Olympics. That was very difficult for me just having to say no to that because I knew I wasn’t 100 percent yet. I know a lot of people were disappointed, especially in France, but I feel like I made the right decision. Just to be 100 percent and be ready for this moment for when the season started. I knew a lot would be expected from me and I feel pretty ready.”
Both of these guys have been injury prone through their careers so you can assume they will get banged up this year at some point. They are both saying the right things at this point and will be ready to start the season however, both are now going to be looked at to carry the scoring load. The problem with that is neither of them are big time scorers. Deng had a great year last year and was a first time All-Star. He had a career best 18.0 ppg, but will he be able to repeat that? Even if he does have the season he did last year, will that be enough to carry the team?
3) Can Tom Thibodeau work some coaching magic:With a rebuilt roster, will Thibodeau’s defense first, every night a new player steps up philosophy be worth additional wins? Can his style be worth 10 wins for this team? The Bulls may have to count on that. We know that the players that have been around for a while like Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Rip Hamilton and Taj Gibson will be reliable (to various degrees and yes I’m looking at you Carlos Boozer) but what we don’t know if can Tom get the new players to buy into his system quickly and be efficient doing so. Last season the Bulls were 28-14 when holding opponents under 100 points. That is the formula they will have to use to grind out wins and make their way into the playoffs.
2) How will the Bulls handle the Carlos Boozer/Taj Gibson situation: If I told you a starting player averaged 14.9 points per game, 8.7 rebounds per game, and 2 assists per game at the power forward position, would you take that on your team? What is that guy makes 15 million dollars this year, 15.3 million next year, and 16.8 million the year after that? That is how you get to the difficult relationship Bulls fans have with Carlos Boozer. Boozer is viewed largely as overpaid and under-performing but can you justify using the amnesty on a player and still owing him $32.1 million dollars after this year?
In most observers of the game mind’s it is time for the Bulls to lock up Taj Gibson and be done with the Boozer experiment. The problem for the Bulls is they are said to be $8 million dollars from where Taj wants his new contract to be. Ironically, Taj has said to be using the Thunder’s Serge Ibaka’s contract as a model for his own and the Thunder had to trade away James Harden because of cap concerns. The Bulls could look to trade Gibson if they can’t get a deal done by the Wednesday deadline, considering they will likely not want to pay him more if he becomes a restricted free agent after this year Will the team want to pay another guy $10 millions plus when they are already paying Rose, Deng, Boozer, and Noah that much?
1) How will the Bulls handle the return of Derrick Rose: You didn’t think I could talk Bulls without mentioning their MVP coming off a major knee injury did you? I have said all along that the Bulls should rest Derrick Rose the entire season. I was very worried yet entertained by #thereturn videos from Adidas. Then Derrick said this in an interview with ESPN:
“Everybody has their own opinions,” Rose said in an interview Oct. 1 with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. “When the time comes I just have to be ready and prove to the people here that I am ready to play. Who knows when that time is? If it’s all year I might wait the whole year, so what? If I come back at the All-Star (break), so what?
“If anything, I think I’ve learned it’s going to help me with my patience. I think I’m way more patient.”
I hope that Rose and the Bulls have come to their senses and will take a patient approach. I know that Bulls fans are clamoring for him to come back using Adrian Peterson as a model, but AD is the exception not the rule. Derrick is the face of the franchise and honestly the city of Chicago when it comes to sports so it will be hard to keep him from pushing it and coming back too soon. I think with him coming back around the All-Star break, the Bulls are a 6 seed. Without him this year, the Bulls can be the sacrificial lamb to the Heat in Round 1 or just miss the playoffs. Either way, this team will not win a championship this year.
(h/t to NBA.com for the video)