The stars aligned for several teams in the East this offseason. A lot of attention has gone to the efforts in South Beach but a certain team in Illinois has made a minor rumble that along with the growth of their young players will turn them into contenders this season.
Derrick Rose has yet to take the Bulls past the first round of the playoffs. Despite averaging nearly 27 points and 8 assists in the postseason, the Bulls have been unlucky enough to face the Celtics and the Cavs in the first round both times he has been to the playoffs. However, at only 22, this storied franchise is already his to lead.
This 2009 Rookie of the Year hasn’t even approached his prime yet but is already a threat. His growth will leap even more this season with him winning gold at the FIBA Championship with team USA this summer. We have seen what international play can do to young players and the trend wont stop with the Beijing Olympic team. Mike Krzyzewski has an effect on developing basketball players that builds teamwork play in the biggest egos.
This team has done a good job at bringing in other names that can carry the scoring load for an impressive season. Carlos Boozer is getting a little old but can still hang in the paint. Ronnie Brewer has nothing but ups from here and the same applies to C.J. Watson. Bringing in veterans from high-basketball I.Q. teams will really help in Chicago. Kurt Thomas has been in the league for a while and brings all sorts of leadership to the Bulls. Boozer is coming from the hard-nosed system under Jerry Sloan as is Brewer who played briefly in Memphis after leaving Utah. These players’ guidance and confidence will help this young Bulls team grow.
The head-coaching story in Chicago has been rough for the past few seasons with the exit of Scott Skiles and the disaster that was Vinny Del Negro. John Paxson seems to have landed the right man for the job in Tom Thibodeau. With the Celtics, Thibodeau helped turn the team into a defensively-minded squad with a little help from Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and the assortment of specialists in Boston. From 2006-07 to the following season, the Celtics lowered their points per game by opponents from 99 to just over 90 and decreased opponent’s shooting percentage to 41 percent a game. They have had a top-ranked defense the last three seasons with 2009-10 (fifth), 08-09 (second) and 07-08 (first).
Now, he still has a lot of different yet younger players to instill his defensive schemes with. Joakim Noah is proving to be a very formidable player and shouldn’t let that possible trade including him trip up his season. In addition, Luol Deng should be able to mold to a new system as well. The team was already first in the league in rebounding last year with 44 a game and Boozer will be able to lead and transform this frontcourt into a better unit with his veteran leadership. Loosing Hakim Warrick and Brad Miller will hurt that big-man situation but the players they have now will be able to step up. Also, do not count the Bulls out for midseason trades. They have done it before and they may do it again with several chips to throw on the table.
They lost some good players in Tyrus Thomas, John Salmons and Kirk Hinrich as well but they have taken some appropriate steps to replace them. Boozer has the inside skills that are far superior than Thomas’. Brewer has very well-rounded game like Salmons and Kyle Korver has the three than can fill the void left by Hinrich. He was supposed to be replaced by former Duke superstar J.J. Redick but if you haven’t figured it out by now, Otis Smith and the Orlando Magic don’t give up players very easily.
The division is a lot easier now that LeBron James has left town and they no longer need to dread road trips to Cleveland. The Pistons have also fallen completely off of the map. But the talented Bucks and young Pacers will keep the Bulls on their heels along with the rest of the Eastern Conference that just got a lot better this offseason.
It finally looks like Chicago is on the right path and hopefully no major snags will get in the way. They really have a chance of moving past being a bubble team to becoming a true contender with a better seeding in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. It’s scary since this team still has a lot of growing to do.