Can The Chicago Bulls Win The Eastern Conference?


The leaves are changing colors and the new fall television schedule is out, so we all know what this means.

You guessed right. There’s a new NBA season is upon us. We may need to fasten our safety belts because this is shaping up as one of the better NBA seasons to come around in years.

Consider this: A new influx of young talent, a shift in offensive strategy that utilizes a form of “small ball” with an emphasis on spacing and shooting, and a rapidly growing international focus featuring that behemoth of a nation known as China.

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Both conferences are pretty much up in the air as parity in today’s NBA abounds, but where does it leave the Chicago Bulls?

The Bulls return roughly the same team from last year that lost in six games to the Cleveland Cavaliers (minus Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao).

Front Office

It’s hard to knock a staff that picked up Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler, Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic through the draft since 2011. Of course, one can’t dismiss former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau’s development of three of these players. Nevertheless, the Bulls have done one hell of a job in scouting and drafting players. The challenge going forward will be in their previously poor record of making mid-season deals. This current team will need some tinkering to work out minutes for what has become a crowded front court.

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New Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has come in with a new offense (space-and-pace) and a new approach. The Bulls are a veteran team previously schooled in defensive/help principles. The players are hard-working and most, sport a winning pedigree.

The challenge for Hoiberg will be in managing and motivating this group that must avoid personal agendas that could sabotage what could be one final shot at LeBron James and his dominance of the conference.

Hoiberg passed one major hurdle in convincing contract-year center Joakim Noah to come off the bench, while also correctly inserting Tony Snell into the starting lineup to address the team’s perimeter defense, and hide the fact that the back-line defense is a bit porous.

Who knows? There could be hope for this guy after all.

Front Court

Bobby Portis will either be a solid pro in need of some seasoning or maybe the reason John Paxson and Gar Forman retain their jobs. He will not — I repeat — will not sit on the bench and await his turn in the pecking order. Future hall of famer Kevin Garnett paid what could be construed as a compliment during the preseason game between the Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves in Winnipeg. Garnett got in the rookie’s ear and trash talked.

I suspect that is Garnett’s way of saying, “Dude, I like your game.”

Portis presents an interesting scenario. The Bulls are loaded at the power forward position. Nikola Mirotic is the starting power forward for now, but Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah are waiting in the wings.

There is a silver lining to the congestion. The Chicago Bulls might sport the best bench in the East with Portis, Noah, Gibson, Doug McDermott, Kirk Hinrich and E’Twaun Moore.

Back Court

Why doesn’t the oft-injured Kyrie Irving receive the same scrutiny/blame that Derrick Rose does? My only response was if Irving had grown up in Chicago and gotten drafted by his hometown team, maybe he would have.

Any hopes of winning the conference depend mostly on Rose’s health. Shooting guard Jimmy Butler is an All-Star and a great rags-to-riches story. But, at this point, he is no Derrick Rose.

There has been a lot of offseason talk about who leads this team. Is it Butler? Is it Rose? What about Noah? I suspect these things tend to work themselves out as always on the basketball court. But, if not, refer to the previous comment regarding mid-season trades.

The trio of Kirk Hinrich, E’Twaun Moore and Aaron Brooks probably together make up one complete guard, but fear not, there was wisdom in keeping them together as a deep playoff run will require smart and cohesive veteran guards.

Going Forward

The window for this team is still open, even if it takes a microscope to determine just how much. The edge here is with the bench. The Bulls can play 11 people, which should serve to rest starters and keep the team in a position to play aggressive defense.

Look for good seasons from Miami and Milwaukee, but the Bulls can start fast and build a cushion. It’ll be easier with Cleveland preoccupied with early-season recoveries (Irving, James (back) and Iman Shumpert).

Can this last ride with the wild bunch produce a conference championship? Who knows? But, like I said, get ready for one of the better NBA seasons to come along in a while.

And if the Bulls fail? Maybe Theo Epstein can switch sports.

Next: Derrick Rose puts an end to the tension rumors involving him and Jimmy Butler

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