The Chicago Bulls kick off their 2012-13 campaign in a little more than 48 hours. After seven preseason contests the team finished with a record of 5-2.
After seeing the product on the court, it’s a great time to preview just how well the team will do this season until Derrick Rose is ready to take the reigns once again.
Bulls Projected Win/Loss Record: 45-37
More than any other team in the NBA with a legitimate shot at making the playoffs this season, the Bulls can ill-afford to get bitten by the injury bug and health will be the main factor in their success this year. Team depth had been the second superstar next to D. Rose for the last two seasons, but that was broken up over the summer, so an injury to a key player could prove to be a serious setback.
You already know what you’re going to get from the core group of Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Rip Hamilton and Taj Gibson. All are veteran players with a firm grasp of Tom Thibodeau’s philosophies on both sides of the ball. Every night there will be a different guy to step up and help the team win games on the offensive end, and you know the team will bring its best defensive effort nearly every night.
This alone should be enough to count on 30 wins from the core group -- with a heavy emphasis on inside-out play -- and they should all expect to see increased minutes at the outset of the season until Thibs feel confident enough in the new players acquired over the summer.
Unfortunately, Kirk Hinrich’s recent string of injuries during the preseason puts an enormous amount of pressure on the already thin backcourt. Nate Robinson is going to have to carry a heavy load until Hinrich heals up, but should be more than capable of doing so if his play late in the Bulls exhibition season is any indication.
And with the exception of veteran big man Nazr Mohammed who, like Robinson, has played extremely well in the preseason and clearly has a lot to offer and seems to be motivated to play well being back in his hometown, the rest of the reserves have a lot to prove.
On paper, Robinson, Mohammed, "second-year veteran" Jimmy Butler, Vladimir Radmanovic and Marco Belinelli seems every bit as talented as the members of the now departed Bench Mob, but already have the pressure of having to perform up to the level of their predecessor which they haven’t done to this point.
Butler is going to have to take the next step in his evolution as a solid NBA player and the rest of the guys are going to have to start performing at the level we've been accustomed to seeing when they were all playing in different uniforms.
All told, it’s going to take some time before the new guys start playing like a cohesive unit on the court, so fans should expect some classic “ugly wins” from this Tom Thibodeau coached group to make up another 10 wins or so until Derrick can come back (hopefully) at seasons end to account for the other five victories and help secure a spot in the NBA Playoffs.