Chicago Bulls Have Plenty To Prove Next Season


This past season the Chicago Bulls and their fans experienced the unexpected, being eliminated in the Eastern Conference semifinals. When the Bulls put this roster together last summer, the expectations were high for the team to win an NBA Championship. Those expectations turned into a nightmare for fans in the semifinal match-up with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

So now that the season ended the way it did, how do the Bulls get back to the top of the Eastern Conference and another opportunity to see the NBA Finals? Two words: hard work. The Bulls have to ask themselves how bad do they really want to win?

Based on how easily they conceded to the Cavaliers last month, it didn’t appear that the team wanted it as much as LeBron James and the Cavs. The Chicago Bulls defense that typically has been disciplined in years past and that has developed a positive culture in the NBA, suddenly was an after-thought in the 2015 NBA Season.

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In the series with the Milwaukee Bucks, the Bulls gave up 37 points per game in the paint, and 35 points in their series with the Cleveland Cavaliers. That is one of the main things that will have to change for the Bulls next season. It’s impossible to give up that many points per game in the paint and give up 97 points per game and think that you will have any shot at an NBA Championship.

After ranking 2nd in defensive efficiency a season ago, the Bulls ranked 11th this past NBA season. They have to commit themselves to defending the way they’ve been accustomed to defending in the past.

Another weakness for the Bulls last season that must improve is their ability to remain healthy over the long haul of an 82-game NBA season. Last season the Bulls starting lineup only played 19 games together. In the first round of the playoffs, their lineup suited up for the entire series, but in the semifinal series they lost Pau Gasol in Game 3. Gasol didn’t return until Game 6 of the series, when the series ended.

It takes incredible will, a solid work ethic, team work, and focus to win an NBA Championship. One of the things Steve Kerr said after the Golden State Warriors won the NBA title was that health and a little bit of luck afforded them the opportunity to win their first NBA Championship in 40 years.

Team work is another aspect that the Chicago Bulls have to prove they can commit to. There was speculation last month that Jimmy Butler, and Derrick Rose were at odds over who should carry the offensive load in the fourth quarter.

The Bulls have suffered a third series loss in the playoffs to James, and after a while you have to wonder when will the Bulls get tired of losing to him and commit themselves to working on their flaws.

In Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal round against the Bucks, the Bulls committed a season-high 26 turnovers and grabbed just five offensive rebounds, but in Game 6 the Bulls dominated with just 12 turnovers, scored 50 points in the paint, and held the Bucks to just 20 points in the paint. In Game 6 of that series, the Bulls set a record for the largest margin of victory in a series clinching game in the NBA Playoffs.

At points of the postseason and regular season, the Bulls showed signs of dominance, but during seperate stretches, the team showed a level of inconsistency that led to their failures.

Championship teams show up to do their jobs every night until they’ve won the NBA Championship. When the San Antonio Spurs lost the NBA Finals to the Miami Heat in the 2013 NBA Finals, the Spurs were left with a bad taste in their mouths after getting so close to winning the series.

The following year, the Spurs set the goal for themselves to get back to the Finals, and ironically enough, they would again get the opportunity to square off against the Miami Heat in the 2014 NBA Finals. The Spurs went on to win that series 4-1.

After facing adversity, and losing in the playoffs, the Spurs committed themselves to get back to where they were and complete their goal.

If the Bulls are going to win an NBA championship, then they will have to have the same demeanor and work ethic of a team that has failed and finally wants to get over that hump.

In what is expected to be an improved Eastern Conference Finals next season, with the Indiana Pacers having Paul George back for an entire season and LeBron and the Cavaliers getting healthier, the Bulls have their work cut out for them just in their division alone. This isn’t including the Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat, and Toronto Raptors, four teams that will also be very competitive in the Eastern Conference if no major changes occur to each of their rosters.

When you consider how competitive the East will be next season, combined with the fact that the Bulls will more than likely return with the same roster from a season ago, Chicago will have to play at a very elite level and focus to overcome all of the odds against them.

The positive side for the Bulls is that the team has valuable parts on the bench that didn’t receive the opportunity to grow last season. Doug McDermott and Tony Snell have shown flashes last season that they both can give a lot more, if given the opportunity.

The Bulls also have the 22nd pick in this year’s NBA draft, and they have a history of drafting well with late picks. So there’s a strong possibility they draft another young player with potential.

Doug McDermott was the NCAA scoring champion, and last season his best showing in an NBA game was against the rival Indiana Pacers on March 6th.

That night McDermott scored 16 points in 16 minutes in a highly competitive, playoff atmosphere-type game.

Tony Snell has also shown he can be very valuable to the Chicago Bulls in key games. In the same contest against the Pacers, Snell scored eight points, and in a game against the Cavaliers on February 12th, Snell scored 22 points, the second-most points for the Bulls that night.

Snell also held LeBron James to 12-26 percent shooting from the field, as he guarded James for most of the contest due to Jimmy Butler missing the game with an injury.

Newly hired Head Coach Fred Hoiberg seems to think very highly of the roster. “I love this roster,” Hoiberg said. “I love the versatility of the players, the different lineups that we’re going to be able to play. You can play small, you can play big. You’ve got lineups that I think can really get out and play with pace. You’ve got a great group of veteran players that know how to play. I think Tom Thibodeau is an excellent, excellent basketball coach, and I think he instilled a lot of unbelievable qualities in this team that hopefully I can build on.”

The most important factor is remaining healthy. According to Bleacher Report’s James Davis, Hoiberg’s new system could possibly be the best fit for young talent on the Bulls, such as Cameron Bairstow, Nikola Mirotic, Tony Snell, Doug McDermott, and E’Twaun Moore, all players under the age of 26 who rarely got the opportunity to fit into Tom Thibodeau’s system last season.

With the youth the Bulls have, and the possibility to get even younger with the 22nd pick in this year’s draft, the Bulls will have to reinvent themselves a bit in order to compete with the faster and younger teams in the NBA.

The Bulls have the tools to be a championship team, but in the end championships aren’t won on paper, they’re earned. And if the Bulls plan to utilize the roster they have to obtain an NBA Championship, then the team will also have to enter next season with enough focus and drive to get through James or any team that stands in their way.

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