Believe it or not, the NBA's regular season is three weeks away. To get you ready, Crossover Chronicles will be profiling a team each day for the next few weeks. This week is the Central Division. Today is the Chicago Bulls.
2011-12 Record: 50-16, lost First Round
Key Losses: C.J. Watson (signed with Nets), Kyle Korver (traded to Hawks), John Lucas (signed with Raptors)
Key Acquisitions: Kirk Hinrich (traded from Hawks), Marco Belinelli (signed from Hornets), Kyrylo Fesenko (signed from Pacers)
|Derrick Rose||Richard Hamilton||Luol Deng||Carlos Boozer||Joakim Noah|
|Kirk Hinrich||Marco Belinelli||Jimmy Butler||Taj Gibson||Kyrylo Fesenko|
|Marquis Teague||Nate Robinson||Vladimir Radmanovic||Nazr Mohammed|
The Bulls have a great foundation. The pieces seem to fit together perfectly and Tom Thibodeau is able to wield his weapons and employ his team in the most effective matter.
More importantly, Thibodeau has built his team's defense up and no matter who is in the game, Chicago should be able to defend well. That will be extremely important this season with Derrick Rose potentially out the entire year. That foundation will have to be as strong as ever.
Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer have proven to be a good tandem defensively, Luol Deng remains one of the top perimeter defenders in the league. The offseason acquisitions also seem to be made with an eye toward defense. This team will still be tough to score on.
It all goes back to the work that Thibodeau has done establishing this team's identity. And that will be as important as ever without Rose in the lineup.
Chicago can still be a good team. Boozer has carried the offensive load before and an offense more catered to him and Deng will serve him better than the Derrick Rose-dominated offense Chicago tends to run. He should be able to increase his production to help make up the difference.
How good of a season will rest on how good Chciago's defense plays without Rose. Thibodeau should make sure that the Bulls will succeed without him.
Rose is a big part of the offense. There is no getting around that. He averaged 21.8 points per game and 7.9 assists per game, posting a 23.0 PER. Even with Rose out, the Bulls were able to rally for the top overalh hied in the Playoffs. That will be tougher with his return uncertain.
Chicago 18th in the league in points per game and fifth in the league in offensive rating last year, according to Basketball-Reference. A lot of that will likely change without Rose, and his playmaking ability and 30.5 percent usage rate. There is a lot of slack to pick up.
The Bulls though are much more balanced than people give them credit for. Deng is capable of having big games and leading a team in scoring, as is Boozer. The problem is wondering how much of that Rose sets up with his driving threat. Manufacturing the same good looks and scoring opportunities and shifting the offense's focus will be a key thing for Thibodeau.
The bench too got gutted a bit as the Bulls ran up against the salary cap and needed. Omer Asik is gone, as is defensive ace Ronnie Brewer. The "bench mob" is feeling a little skinny. The new players — such as Kyrylo Fesenko, Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson, have to be integrated into the defense and that foundation very quickly for the Bulls to have success.
The Bulls are used to playing without one of their key players at any given time. Rose missed nearly 30 games in the 66-game schedule last year. Noah missed 44 games in 2010. Boozer missed 23 games in 2011. Deng missed 12 games last year and has missed time with injuries in the past.
Chicago has to avoid the injury bug with Rose on the shelf. Losing Boozer for an extended period of time, or Deng or even Noah could spell some very bad news for Chicago.
The Bulls offense will take a dive without Rose in there. It cannot afford to lose one of these pillars and consistent players too. The defense may not be able to withstand it either. There are just too many new pieces being added to this puzzle. It already seems like Chicago will take a bit of a step back anyway.
Have thoughts or predictions on the Bulls? Leave them in the comments below or drop us a line @CrossoverNBA on Twitter or join the discussion by using the hashtag #BullsDay. We will be back with a closer look at the Bulls throughout the day.