We've reached that point in the offseason where activity has mostly come to a screeching halt, outside of a few special circumstances. One of those is about to be resolved, with Greg Monroe reportedly set to accept the Pistons' one-year, $5.5 million qualifying offer. Eric Bledsoe remains unsigned and the Kevin Love trade still must officially go through, but other than that, the big moves are done and rosters are mostly set.
Because we have an idea about what the teams will look like next season, now is the time predictions for the coming year start to trickle in. ESPN has begun its annual Summer Forecast, and they have the Bulls finishing second in the Eastern Conference behind the Cavs. That will likely be a popular pick.
Across the SB Nation NBA network, we were tasked with making some predictions of our own. Where will the Bulls be 12 months from now? Will Derrick Rose be standing at the end of the season? Will the Bulls be holding a rally in Grant Park in June? What follows are some of my early sure-to-be-wrong predictions.
I'm going to take a mostly optimistic view on Rose and say he'll be coming off his healthiest season since his MVP year of 2010-11. Granted, that's a pretty low bar, but I'll say that Rose plays at least 70 games and will have an All-Star caliber season after some early struggles.
I believe the Bulls will, at the very least, know they have quality rotation players in Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic. I envision McDermott getting more minutes out of the gate, simply because of the Bulls' other studs in the frontcourt. But Mirotic will get his minutes, because I'm sure Pau Gasol and/or Joakim Noah will miss games at some point. Oh, and it also wouldn't surprise me if McDermott is starting by the end of the year or is slated to be the starter heading into 2015-16.
I believe Jimmy Butler will have a bounce back offensive season, and that will make for an interesting summer for him. That's because I'm not confident in the Bulls locking Butler up to an extension this offseason. After a disappointing offensive 2013-14 campaign, Butler might prefer having the chance to play himself into a larger deal next summer. I wouldn't blame him one bit considering the contracts Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons got. I'm not going to come out and say Butler will be playing elsewhere in 2015-16, but I won't say it's a 100 percent lock he stays in Chicago, although it does seem like he loves it here.
Other predictions: Tony Snell will have solidified a spot in the rotation, although he won't be in line for a starting spot the following year unless something drastic happens with Butler. Kirk Hinrich will be back for another year because of course he will be. Mike Dunleavy won't be a Bull. There won't be rampant rumors surrounding Tom Thibodeau's future in Chicago.
As for what happens with the actual team, I wish I could say the Bulls will still be celebrating a seventh NBA championship next August, but I just can't do it. The team, given good health, should be really damn good. I kind of expect them to get the No. 1 seed in the East. I expect them to reach the Eastern Conference Finals. But if the Love trade goes down, I don't expect them to beat the Cavs in a seven-game series.
The Bulls have the coaching and personnel to give the Cavs a run for their money. The Bulls CAN win it all if things go their way. But right now, I would bet on the sheer talent of the Cavs to win a playoff series, leaving the Bulls again trying to figure out how to "get over the top."
Given the Bulls' current salary situation, I wouldn't expect anything major to go down next offseason. Perhaps Butler goes elsewhere or the Bulls think about trading in some of their frontcourt depth for help on the wing, but I don't envision much changing heading into 2015-16. And honestly, that's not a huge deal. Natural improvement from Mirotic and McDermott, some shrewd additions with exceptions and Rose rounding fully back into form after a healthy season could be enough. I just really wish that whole LeBron/Love/Irving thing wasn't staring us in the face.