Once again I have decided to do a preview for the Chicago Bulls 2014-2015 season. I did this last year and my predictions were not too far off as a team but the 200 words I wrote about Derrick Rose staying healthy and his 26 points per game were obviously destroyed 10 games in. I will do my best to not be extremely giddy about his return (#TheReturn), as I was last year. However, I have looked at the roster moves that were made and I can’t help but feel excited. CARLOS BOOZER IS GONE!!! That alone makes watching the Bulls infinitely more enjoyable. I think they are a Top 2 team in the Eastern Conference and an overall Top 5 Team in the NBA. That makes me excited because they should be competing for an NBA title this year. I will do my best here to break down why. Enjoy.
Pau Gasol via Free Agency– I love this move. After watching him playing for Spain in the World Championships and for the Bulls pre-season, I think he will have a great season. He brings an entirely new element that the Bulls haven’t had in the Derrick Rose era: low-post scoring. He is a legitimate low scoring threat. Boozer was supposed to be, but has we found out, that turned into fall away jumpers. They are not asking Pau to carry the offense or defense, he just needs to be an upgrade from Boozer. He had around 10 blocks in the first 5 pre-season games. Joakim is a great defender, but not necessarily a rim protector. Hopefully Gasol can bring that even if it is in on a limited basis. Offensively, he has slowed, but he is another great passer in an offense that needs to move the ball to score and be successful.
Prediction: 16 ppg 8 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.5 blkpg
Doug McDermott – Rookie/Creighton – As the pick was being made, I was a little disappointed because I love Gary Harris from Michigan State and thought they could get him and another decent player, instead of just one guy. However, I see why they did it. One of the reasons was money and taking on two rookie contracts would have hurt their chances in getting a free agent to sign. The other reason is, they think they have found a knockdown shooter that can play that position for long time. Luol Deng is gone and Jimmy Butler was not a good enough scorer last year. They are hoping Doug is the answer. My opinion is that he will struggle to get minutes early on, until Thibs can trust him. But, I think he has a chance to contribute on this team. The Bulls have made an effort to get shooters in the last couple of years. (Dunleavy, Snell, Mirotic, McDermott) His shot is quick enough to get it off in the NBA. That part of it does not worry me. However, he himself, is not all that quick. I don’t think he will ever be a star in the NBA, but I do think he will have a long career. Hopefully his ability to hit a shot will get him on the court where he should contribute to the Bulls bench scoring.
Prediction: 9 ppg 3 rpg
Nikola Mirotic via Draft and Real Madrid via “What about dat Mirotic guy, when does he comes here? via “How about dat Bobcats pick? via “What about Danks?”– Mirotic seems to be a hard worker and has a willingness to get better. I think he knows that he needs to improve and get stronger, quicker, and more comfortable. Too many times this preseason I saw him pass up open shots and get silly fouls. This will not make Thibs happy. However, I did see signs of why everyone is high on him. He can shoot, he can pass, and he works hard on defense. I don’t know exactly what to expect this season, but in the future I think he could be a really nice piece for the Bulls. Best case scenario, he comes off the bench in the second group and contributes to the scoring. Worst case scenario, he gets buried on the bench and takes a “red –shirt” year. I don’t think they would have brought him over if he wasn’t going to play. I hope I’m right.
Prediction: 6 ppg 4 rpg
Aaron Brooks via Free Agency– Second unit point guard. They played him at the point and Kirk Hinrich off the ball for extended periods of time this preseason. That makes the lineup small but it also puts some pace on at the point guard position offensively going against backup point guards. They might have done this just to see what it looks like, or it is going to be a reoccurring thing. He is not D.J. Augustine or Nate Robinson, but he similar. He is a streaky shooter who has been in the league for a while. I like the signing and Thibs loves guys who are good with the pick and roll. He seems to fit that mold. Again, if Derrick is healthy all year, all he will be is a second unit point guard. Let’s hope that remains the case.
Prediction: 8 ppg 2 apg
E’Twaun Moore via Free Agency via Purdue via East Chicago Central High School– E’Twaun is a local kid who played for my alma mater (I was lucky to be at his 38 pt game against Ohio State, which was one highlights of my sports watching career. Thanks Matt). I wish him the best and hope it works out for him. But, he did not get any time in the preseason and his position is deep on the team.
Prediction: He could be a guy at the end of the bench in case of emergency. Or, he could be cut.
Let’s take a moment to watch some highlights from that amazing game. Purdue alums pay attention.
Cameron Bairstow Rookie/ New Mexico – Bairstow will not contribute and should be a D-League level player. I just don’t see how they keep him around. Great hair, but they just don’t have the minutes for him to play enough and develop.
Joakim Noah’s health – I wrote about this last year and he ended up staying relatively healthy. Changing his shoes from Diadora to Adidas seemed to have done the trick. (It is ridiculous that a professional basketball was wearing Diadora shoes) I am concerned with his health because he had offseason knee surgery and said that it is going to continue to be a nagging injury. I hope Thibodeau is true to his word on limiting his minutes. If the Bulls want to beat the Cavs in the East, they will need Joakim to neutralize some of their bigs and be better than them.
The East is Better – Easy wins are still there to be had but the Raptors, Wizards, Nets, Hornets, Heat, Pacers, Cavs and Pistons are all pretty good teams. The Raptors surprised a lot of people last year and I love what they’ve done with their young talent. They’ve drafted fairly well and signed guys that want to be there. They need to cut ties with Drake, but everything else has been handled well.
I think everyone has been impressed by the maturation of John Wall and the emergence of Bradley Beal for the Washington Wizards. They are a nice team whose big guys destroyed the Bulls last year in the playoffs. If healthy, I can see them as a top 3 team in the East.
The Pistons are my pick to be the surprise team of this year. Young talent and Stan Van Gundy coaching will be intriguing to watch. I expect his blood pressure to reach superhuman levels even if the team is less than super. I’m glad he’s back. SVG > Dwight Howard
The Charlotte Hornets are going to be much improved as well. Signing a crazy person, Lance Stephenson, will at least make them interesting. They hit a home run with Al Jefferson and I think Steve Clifford has them playing hard. Stephenson will be a huge factor in their team’s success or failure. MJ might actually be in possession of a good team (How he will mess this up? I don’t know). I love that they are back to The Hornets name and colors.
The Cleveland Cavaliers – The King is back. LeBron James is the best player in the league and has put himself into a situation where the team around him is pretty damn good (again). The Cavs went from being a dysfunctional mess who underachieved to winning the sports and NBA lottery and turning it around in one year. I was shocked when LeBron decided to come back. But, you have to give him credit when it is due. He saw an aging team and what Dwyane Wade had become. He knew that having a huge amount of money being tied up in Wade and Bosh would limit their ability to surround that big three with the pieces needed to win another title or sustain future success.
I think the Cavs have the players, on paper, to be awesome. But, I also think that it is on paper. We saw how Heat struggled out of the gates 2010-2011, but were still good enough when it mattered to win the East. I can see that exact same thing happening again. I am not sold on Kyrie Irving as a star player just yet. He killed it at the World Championships but the competition was obviously lower than in the NBA. I have seen him be selfish and streaky. I just haven’t seen enough of Kevin Love to make a judgment. Numbers usually don’t lie, but being the best player on a terrible can sometimes be misleading. Again, on paper, they should be good.
What has to happen for the Bulls to compete for a championship?
1. Derrick Rose stays healthy. (Same as last year)
2. The rest of the team is healthy for the playoffs. (Same as last year)
3. Jimmy Butler improves his shooting. He had an ok year. Defensively he is a stud. It would be great for him to be out there the entire game and be a threat from outside.
4. Pau Gasol needs to stay healthy and just put up the numbers he put up last year.
5. Derrick Rose has the ability to make winning plays in the playoffs.
6. McDermott and the rest of the shooters are on in the playoffs. If they can spread the floor and make room for Pau and Derrick, the offense will be hard to guard.
7. Taj Gibson leads the bench in scoring and is able to make the correct passes when he is double teamed. He’s got to get better at kicking it out to shooters. They have them, you have to find them.
8. Coach Thibodeau learns to manage the minutes of his stars. It has worked for other teams and it has to happen for them to be fresh in the playoffs.
1. Pau Gasol will be good. He looks healthy and rejuvenated. They aren’t going to ask him to play a huge amount of minutes so for him. He will not be an All-Star, but will be a solid contributor.
2. Taj Gibson will win the 6th Man of the Year Award. He got jobbed last year (losing to Jamaal Crawford).
3. Derrick Rose will not be an All-Star. But, he will be a good point guard (18 ppg 5 rebs 7 assists). I got so excited last year when he made his comeback. I am looking at it this time with some more reality. He will have flashes of old Derrick, like he has already had this preseason, but he is a different player. He has to be. After two knee surgeries he will have to change his game. The hope is that he can still be productive and positive this year and continue to improve.
4. You, as a Bulls fan, will never once think or say, “Man, if only they kept Carlos Boozer”. (This prediction is my lock. I guarantee this.)
5. Their record will be 60-22 – This will get them the 1 or 2 seed in the East.
6. They are going to lose in the NBA Championship to the San Antonio Spurs.
This season is welcomed because I am excited for Chicago Bulls basketball but I’m also excited for a post-Heat dominated NBA. There are a lot of exciting or interesting storylines throughout the league. How will the Cavs play? How bad will the Lakers be? Which rookies will shine? How great is Anthony Davis? How will all the young, first time coaches do? (Kerr/Fisher) How many more pounds will O.J. Mayo put on?
Which Gasol brother will Blake Griffin yoke on first?
How many times will Bill Simmons try and propose an outlandish future trade during a pregame show or podcast? How many times will Bill Simmons get suspended for saying honest things? Will the Spurs finally get old? Will the Bulls get back to competing at an elite level?
I am excited to find out the answers to all of these questions. Thanks for reading.
You can follow my thoughts on the games on Twitter @bojansayspotato throughout the season.