When it comes down to it, there really is no pressure in making a season prediction for a team in the NBA. You look at the makeup of the roster, you take into account what the team did last season in terms of how they started and where they finished, factor in the expected growth of the individual players from last season to present, then you make an educated guess.
But in the case of the Chicago Bulls, that formula is a little bit different because unlike most teams – especially one with championship expectations – this squad has more variables to factor in than most.
The biggest variable, of course, is the return of Derrick Rose and if he can regain his prior status as one of the best players in the game. The former MVP is back after an extended layoff and seems ready to pick up right where he left off. However, many still question where he his both mentally and physically.
On one hand, you have those who think he may struggle like Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III who suffered the same catastrophic knee injury as Rose but returned to action after only nine months. Then you have others – this writer included – who think that once he shakes the rust off, he’ll be back to the D. Rose of old.
Then you have the impending free agency of Luol Deng next summer, along with the potential amnesty of Carlos Boozer, quite possibly making this the final run of a Bulls core that was assembled in the summer of 2010.
The 2013-14 season is pretty much championship or bust for Chicago and it’s a given that these two players and their individual situations will become talking points sometime during the 2013-14 campaign. Will they be able to remain focused enough to keep these topics from becoming a distraction?
Next comes the mystery of how good Jimmy Butler will be as a starter and how good the reserve unit will be minus the offensive sparkplug that was Nate Robinson last season.
Butler has shown flashes of becoming the long sought after answer to the teams shooting guard woes, but it remains to be seen how he performs in his first full season in the starting lineup and the grind of an 82-game season.
The “Bench Mob” moniker should be retired at this point, but the reserve unit has been an integral part of the overall team success since Tom Thibodeau took over as head coach three years ago. Will Kirk Hinrich, Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Nazr Mohammed and Marquis Teague be a second unit to be reckoned with in the league?
Finally, when it comes to the Chicago Bulls, health is always a factor. Will guys like Rose, Deng, Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich be able to fight off the injury bug and stay healthy this season? If they can, then the Bulls have a great chance at making a legit title run this year.
Last season, the Bulls had a magical run with D. Rose sidelined. So it stands to reason with him back in the fold, the team will be much improved and the championship expectations are very much warranted once again. Will they finally be able to break through? We’ll begin to answer all of these questions as the first preseason game approaches on Saturday.
Regular Season Prediction: 58-24