With the NBA offseason activity beginning to wane heavily this week, albeit for a few signings still up in the air- Brandon Jennings/Nikola Pekovic notably. And on the eve of the NFL and college football's annual takeover of all things media, I think it's finally time to make some predictions for the upcoming NBA season given that the majority of rosters are somewhere between working rough draft and fixed. Now before reading this column, I need you guys to realize a few things: 1) I'm making NBA predictions in JULY and literally ANYTHING can happen before the season to derail these predictions. 2) These are 100% serious. I am not here to troll or make fun of anybody. That would be churlish and a waste of time. 3) I encourage you to respond with how you feel about my predictions. So without further ado, I present to you a running column that will include a Fanpost for each and every NBA team, "The Flagrantly Early, Incredibly Half-Baked NBA Predictions Series."
No. 1: Derrick Rose makes these Bulls a title team
These past few years the Bulls have been really good. Tom Thibadeau's a marvelous coach, they have a stupendous collection of talent, and they develop players extremely well (see Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler). Yet, the issue is that standing in their way 2/3 postseasons has been 3-time Eastern Conference champ Miami Heat who have played some tremendous ball versus the Bulls and made all the right adjustments squeak out series victories. But as we view the Heat in the present state, somehow they seem vulnerable- they seem complacent, it's hard to peg them as hungry, they almost feel immortal to themselves given the relative lack of offseason activity. They are at precisely the right place to get gut punched by the pesky, little brother Bulls who've been bullied out of the playoffs by them twice in the past few years- years in which the Bulls have dealt with substantial injuries.
So throw Rose into the mix. Our 2011 MVP (although that trophy remains slightly marred by The Decision backlash making everybody hate LeBron) is back and hungrier than ever. He's the one player who can go toe-to-toe with Lebron in the playoffs and live to tell the tale. His speed, his game-changing, play making ability will be the difference against the Heat this year should they face in the postseason. Most importantly Rose should keep Carlos Boozer from chucking 80 shots per series. Yet, just because the Bulls will finally be a title caliber team again, I don't think they will be. Too much has to happen for the Bulls to make the Finals, and as it stands right now it's not as if they've been getting the lucky breaks the past few seasons. One thing to learn is that you never bet on bad luck.
Having watched Marco Belinelli for two seasons in New Orleans, I can attest that their are few players less deserving of their reputation. Marco's described on ESPN as "sweet-shooting" and a mediocre defender. Both are lies; mediocre is how I'd describe a cafeteria custard, Marco is a freaking terrible defender in every capacity. He can't even defend in a great scheme like Thibadeaus that hides bad defenders; Marco was absolutely abused by Dwyane Wade's corpse in the playoffs. And to say Marco is "sweet shooting" is to say that hummus is sweet. Belinelli shot 35% from deep last season, which is awful for a shooting guard- especially one who's known as a "shooting specialist." Marco averaged a 9/2/2 split (p/r/a), was mid 50's PER amongst shooting guards, and added -1.9 value/-0.1 wins to last year's Chicago Bulls according to John Hollinger.
Now turn to Dunleavy, who may be 5 years older than Marco, but shot an astounding 43% from downtown last season. He averaged a 10/2/4 split despite being on the outskirts of his prime. Dunleavy was 28th in PER amongst shooting guards, added 90.9 value/3 wins to last year's Milwaukee Bucks. Statistics aside, Mike is so much better than Marco, and the Bulls are so lucky to have upgraded from a fraud to a pro in the sharpshooter department.
No. 3: Gar Forman, Tom Thibadeau will kiss and make up
As my late grandfather always said, "You gotta know when you're sitting on a gold mine." Following the dismissal of Bulls top assistant Ron Adams, Tom Thibadeau was said to have been very upset. The decision triggered considerable discord between Bulls GM Gar Forman and Thibadeau, who believed he did not have a considerable voice in this decision. If there's one thing that can screw up a franchise it's when there's disagreement between the front office, coach, and/or owner. That's when important people get fired, organizations change direction, and cultures get shocked. Events like Ron Adams firing are precisely the type that throw a wrench into things. But if Tom Thibadeau is smart, he will kiss and make up with Forman, patch their relationship together, and move forward like men. These guys are sitting on a goldmine of talent with a unique chance to be something special this season. There's no reason to screw that up.