Bulls Roster Breakdown and Season Preview: Reasons for Optimism

For the past three seasons, the Chicago Bulls have been one of the league’s best teams. For two of those seasons, they had the best record in the NBA. Then, in the 2012 playoffs, their superstar, Derrick Rose, tore his ACL. Last season, playing without Rose all year, they still managed the 5th seed and advanced to the 2nd round of the playoffs before losing to the eventual-champion Miami Heat. They showed all the heart that a Tom Thibodeau-coached team should have. They showed toughness, played great defense, and even without an elite scorer, they kept themselves in every game. They’ve proven to be one of the few teams that can push the Heat. So now, with Rose back leading the team, there is every reason to be excited about this season. All they have to do is stay healthy.

Rose’s Return

Prior to tearing his ACL, Rose was one of the best players in the NBA. His explosiveness is unrivaled, he can create his own shot, and he is arguably the best closer in the game. His well-deserved MVP award is indicative of these abilities. With Rose on the floor, no lead is safe for any opponent. We’ve seen him put away countless games. This is the one thing the Bulls lacked last season – someone to take over and finish in the fourth quarter.After not playing a competitive game for over a year and a half, Rose is back, fully healthy, and according to many who have seen him up close this preseason, he looks better than ever. He doesn’t appear to have lost any of his explosiveness (according to him, he’s even improved his vertical leap by several inches), and he’s also worked hard on his jump shot. There is every reason to believe that we will see Rose in near-MVP form, and if he stays healthy, he could easily compete for that award. But the health concern is there. It has always been there, given his style of play. And now, returning from ACL surgery, it is there more than ever. The coaching staff will likely be a bit conservative with him this year, so we might see him in only 70 games or so. It would be safe to assume he won’t see much action in those stretches of schedule which include three games in four nights.

Now let’s take a look at the rest of the Bulls Roster:

Jimmy Butler

Following a breakout season last year, the 3rd-year player has now earned himself a starting gig at the 2. His ideal position might be small forward, but that’s currently locked up by Luol Deng, and the Bulls have lacked a productive shooting guard for several years. Butler is known for his defense, but his offense is developing nicely. When Deng is finally gone, fans may not notice. Butler’s playoff performance only strengthened the case for letting Deng go.

Luol Deng

The aforementioned Deng is in the final year of his contract, and assuming he doesn’t take a pay cut, this should be his final season in a Bulls uniform. This, combined with the emergence of Butler, makes Deng the subject of many trade rumors. That will surely continue this year, but I won’t get into that here. Deng is very productive on both ends of the floor, and this year should be more of the same. He decided against surgery for torn ligaments in his wrist, but he’s been playing through that for over a year, and it doesn’t seem to affect him much. When Rose was out, Deng was the #1 guy, but was a bit overmatched in that role. Having Rose back should take a load off his shoulders, and actually help his numbers.

To read the rest of Steve Graham's preview, click here:

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