In this article, I will discuss how the Chicago Bulls can dethrone the Cleveland Cavaliers, lead by LeBron James, and reach the NBA finals. Chicago has a lot of question marks going into the season, and those questions will be answered in this article.
Chicago finished third in the Eastern Conference this past season, behind the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers. The Hawks should not be as big of an issue this upcoming season, as they lost DeMarre Carroll, and did not get a scorer to replace him, along with the other rising talent within the conference to replace them. Cleveland however has brought back the same roster that Chicago was unable to handle, not to mention Cleveland’s line-up was without Kevin Love. J.R. Smith is the only member with question marks to whether he will be back or not, but if he does come back, how will Chicago stand a chance at beating Cleveland?
The answer is in the rotation of new head coach, Fred Hoiberg. Hoiberg’s main problem will be in the frontcourt area. What is the best pairing? Is Mirotic going to play small forward or power forward? Is it time to trade Taj Gibson? Can Bobby Portis contribute good minutes as a rookie? All of these questions are what separates Chicago from toppling Cleveland.
Let’s look at the first question, who is the best pairing for the starting frontcourt. Some say either Noah or Gasol needs to come off the bench, but why not have those two start, as a back-up combination of Portis and Gibson provides the same offensive and defensive potential. Gasol brings to the table the ability to stretch the floor from mid-range, and open the lane for Butler and Rose to drive, while also allowing Noah to stay closer to the basket, where he is more comfortable. Noah in the starting line-up is critical, as he is the cliche “heart of the team” guy. Noah brings tremendous work ethic, energy, and the needed hatred of LeBron needed for Chicago to finally beat him. With Gasol and Noah in the starting line-up, you have Gibson and Portis to be their back-ups. Although Portis is a rookie, he brings a great skill set to this team. His ability to stretch the floor, just as well as Gasol, will allow Gibson to stay down low, and get his famous Gibson dunks. These dunks may not be highlight reel, but for any Bull’s fans, they know how great they are. Beating Cleveland is all about balance, as Golden State showed us. Golden State was able to use two different types of offensive big men in David Lee and Draymond Green in order to beat Cleveland. Gasol and Portis bring this same type of ability, and this is why Portis will be so leaned upon, as he maybe their secret weapon, if only weapon to beating them.
What is Mirotic going to be used as? Is he a small forward or power forward? While Mirotic might not have the speed to guard the small forward position, but using him as a back-up for this position to start the season would be the most beneficial to Chicago. Mirotic has the ability to become a star this season, and I think he will, as you were shown glimpses of what he can do last season when he would break out for 20+ points on any given night. Although Mirotic is a typical stretch-four, Chicago’s crowded frontcourt may force Mirotic to small forward, but with his size and athleticism, Mirotic can generate nightmare match-ups for opposing teams. If Mirotic can become the starting small forward it would give Chicago a great marksmen off the bench in Mike Dunleavy. Dunleavy is getting up there in age, so allowing for him to get more rest and save himself for the playoffs is what is needed for Chicago, as they will need his leadership, defense, and shooting, if they want any chance of beating Cleveland.
Should Taj Gibson be traded? Unless the answer is for an electric sixth man, I would say no for now. Gibson has expressed his wants to be a starting player in this league, and last season, Gibson’s frustrations seemed to cause his play to slip. Gibson provides a unique skill set to Chicago, but unless his attitude changes, he could become cancerous to this team. If Gibson does become cancerous, he would provide good trade bait for Chicago to acquire another scoring guard. The main trade destination would be Los Angeles, as the Clippers lack frontcourt depth, and Chicago would love to add Crawford for bench scoring. This trade has been talked about for the past couple of weeks, but with nothing happening, one has to expect this type of trade would not happen till later in the season. If Chicago did end up trading Gibson, they would have to rely on Cameron Bairstow for their back-up center, who is a major downgrade.
Bobby Portis contributing as a rookie is not as far-fetched as it sounds. With the new hustle stats beginning this year, Portis will greatly benefit from those, as well as being able to use his versatile offensive game, rebounding abilities, and active defensive play style. Those three attributes coming off the bench will be huge for Chicago, and they would have their man to battle Tristian Thompson, and create the necessary mismatches they need. With Portis at the back-up power forward spot, you allow for the combination of Mirotic and Dunleavy at the small forward position, with both being able to stretch the floor, and generate mismatches.
Chicago has the better combination of starting guards over Cleveland, and now with a head coach, who will actually know how to use his offensive big man to their best potential, Chicago has a great chance of beating Cleveland in the playoffs. Although it may seemed harsh of what I said of Chicago in this article, they have let down their fans year after year, and with their front office believing in the current roster, which was unable to beat a hobbled Cleveland team last year, one has to believe if Chicago does not make it over the hump this year, whether or not this team will get blown up. I do believe Chicago has the best chance to beat Cleveland this next season, and will be a top two team in the Eastern Conference. Miami is a dark horse contender to beat out both of these teams, but they will need to build their chemistry, as both Cleveland and Chicago have established chemistry, as well as good overall depth. Chicago can win this conference, but their rotation will have to be used to the fullest ability, as well as everyone staying healthy. I am excited to watch this team under their new coach, and see what he brings to the professional level.
By: Mac Crowe, @Mac_Truck17