As a site, we ranked all the NBA teams from worst to best for our release of season previews. Day twenty-three’s release of a season preview ends up being the Chicago Bulls. Jordan Veloso will provide a recap of their past season, an offseason recap, and then finally the season preview all of us fans are eager for.
Last Season’s Record: 50-32
Playoff Status: Lost 4-2 in Conference Semifinals to the Cleveland Cavaliers
Heading into the 2015-16 season, the Chicago Bulls are giving last year’s roster one last chance to bring the Larry O’Brien Trophy back to the Windy City. Lingering health issues and inconsistency plagued the Bulls last season, while Tom Thibodeau’s future as head coach of the team became less likely. All of this led to yet another failed season for the Bulls, as many fans’ optimism melted into an all too familiar feeling of disappointment by season’s end. Many fans thought Chicago would be a force to be reckoned with, the starting five featuring Derrick Rose, returning from his second knee injury, then-reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Joakim Noah and former NBA champion, Pau Gasol manning the interior, and a deeper bench for Thibodeau to play with. The stars did not align for Chicago: Derrick Rose was wildly inconsistent and played 51 regular season games because of injuries, including another tear in his repaired meniscus. Joakim Noah was a hobbled mess all season long, looking like a completely different player than the one who finished fifth in MVP voting the year before. Despite trading up to acquire him, Doug McDermott did not contribute any meaningful minutes. The only bright spots for Bulls fans were the emergence’s of Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic as offensive forces, and the reemergence of Pau Gasol as an All-Star Center.
The Bulls surprised the league during the 2015 Draft when they selected Bobby Portis with the 22nd pick. The Arkansas product was the best player available at the time, but with the Chicago’s frontcourt already loaded, no one saw it coming. Still, Portis proved he could be a solid contributor in Fred Hoiberg’s rotation with his high energy, good all-around game, and ability to stretch the floor as a big man. After dominating summer league, Portis will likely see more minutes this season, than for previous Bull’s rookies. His minutes will likely be split between small forward and power forward. Portis helps give the Bulls a successful draft in their quest to knock off LeBron and return to the championship game.
Chicago has had as uneventful of a offseason as they get. It was not a failure though, as they resigned their biggest priority in Jimmy Butler, sharpshooter Mike Dunleavy, a solid veteran that will make the right plays, (who, interestingly, was garnering interest from Cleveland), and Aaron Brooks to provide a scoring spark off the bench. Although no big moves were made this offseason, the Bull’s front office is confident with a new coach, their roster is good enough for a championship.
With the majority of the roster from last season staying intact, the results of this season will depend on a few factors. Player adjustment to Fred Hoiberg’s offense is arguably the most exciting thing to watch with the Chicago Bulls this year. The Bulls have the pieces for a deadly scoring unit, but too often last year, fans were forced to watch a painfully stagnant offense, ending in the ball being launched up near the shot clock’s end. Hoiberg’s emphasis on pace and space should open up lanes for capable slashers like Rose, Butler, Brooks, and Snell, who could find capable shooters like Dunleavy, Mirotic, Portis, McDermott, and Gasol. Pushing the pace should not be hard with plenty of players who can run the floor (Rose, Butler, Brooks, Snell, Mirotic, Portis), and under the direction of Hoiberg, the current personnel should have a much improved offense. One big question surrounding the new coaching plan is if Noah will continue to start at power forward. It was glaringly obvious the former DPOY was out of position, yet he was continually asked to play it. Rumors came forward last season that Noah was willing to come off the bench for the betterment of the team. How Hoiberg chooses to handle the situation this season will be interesting to see.
Besides executing the offense, the Bulls are banking on a significant amount of internal improvement among their players. Derrick Rose left a lot to be desired last season, but the playoffs showed he could still be the clutch player Chicago needs. With stories of the former MVP going neck and neck with Russell Westbrook in summer workouts, he could be back with a vengeance this season. Jimmy Butler will be under more pressure to contribute significantly on both sides of the floor, after signing a max contract this offseason. I do not expect Hoiberg to be playing him 38 minutes every night, so averaging 20 points may not be feasible for the current Most Improved Player, but rest could mean more consistency from him on the defensive end. Veterans like Dunleavy and Gasol will likely be given more rest for the playoffs, so extra minutes should open up for the continued development of Mirotic, McDermott and Portis.
The true potential of this team will ride on the factor that has affected them for the past four years: health. Chicago is a surefire candidate to make the playoffs, but good health has not been a surefire thing for this team. Thibodeau ran his players dry by the end of every season, but things look to change for this new coaching staff. If Hoiberg can keep his players fresh and maximize this team’s strengths, Chicago could truly become the contender they have been hyped up to be the past few years.
By: Jordan Veloso
Edited By: Mac Crowe, @Mac_Truck17