What did they do last year?
Last year’s Chicago Bulls were a playoff team after a 45-37 regular season, good enough for second place (behind the Indiana Pacers) in the Central Division. They went on to win an exciting seven-game playoff series with the Brooklyn Nets before falling to the Miami Heat, 4-1, in the second round. Interestingly, the Bulls did take the first game from the Heat in that series.
What looks different about the team this year?
Most importantly, Rose is in uniform and on the floor. In order for this team to become a serious contender, the Bulls will need Rose to be no less than his old self. Nate Robinson, who played well as basically a one-year rental at point guard, departed for the Denver Nuggets.
The Rose Update
Much has been said about Rose’s decision — a year after tearing his ACL — not to play in last years’ playoffs. Regardless, Rose is back and averaging just under 15 points and 5 assists per game. Expect those numbers to go up throughout the season as he regains form. One concern is that Rose sustained a minor hamstring injury in a recent win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, so that’s definitely something to keep on an eye on.
A rough start
The Bulls have only won half of their first six contests, with losses coming at the hands of the Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, and Pacers. They have struggled to put up points in the early going. This is not the kind of start they wanted, but it’s definitely not time to panic, as they spent a whole season trying to figure out how to play without Rose, but now they have to adjust back to his style of play. Head Coach Tom Thibodeau usually has the Bulls playing their basketball by playoff time, so I wouldn’t expect anything different this year.
As they proved last year, the Bulls are not a one-man show. Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, and Joakim Noah add a flavor of toughness to Rose’s finesse. Assuming Rose stays healthy, expect the Bulls to challenge the Pacers for the division and finish no lower than second place with a playoff birth to boot. We’ll have to wait and see whether or not they can seriously challenge the Pacers or the Heat in the playoffs.