The 2017 Chicago Bulls are going to look noticeably different than they have since the 2008 season. In head coach Fred Hoiberg’s first season, they missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2007 season. Their former rookie of the year, most valuable player, and face of the franchise, Derrick Rose, is now a New York Knick along with his former Bulls teammate Joakim Noah. Since 2008, both Rose and Noah led the Bulls to seven straight playoff appearances including a trip to the conference finals in 2010. They also made a combined five all-star teams during their tenure in Chicago. This is now Jimmy Butler’s team. He should have some pressure taken off due to the Bulls big free agent signing of former Heat guard and Chicago native Dwayne Wade. The acquisitions of point guard Rajon Rondo and center Robin Lopez look to fill the void left by Rose and Noah. With adding those three veterans this off-season, the Bulls look to get back to the post seasons. Jerry Reinsdorf, who also owns the Chicago White Sox, owns the Bulls. If you’ve watched his teams over the years, he pretty much refuses to completely rebuild. This Bulls team is a fringe playoff at best because of their off season acquisitions. The Bulls would’ve been better not signing old all-stars and “tanking” to start a true rebuild process but that’s not Reinsdorf’s style. That’s why outside the MJ era and the 2005 White Sox, his teams have been pretty much stuck in mediocrity.
Starting Lineup: PG Rajon Rondo, SG Dwayne Wade, SF Jimmy Butler, PF Taj Gibson, C Robin Lopez.
Three of the five Bulls starters have been to multiple all-star games. Unfortunately, their starting guards best years are behind them. That doesn’t mean they still can’t be effective players for the Bulls. Their best player, Jimmy Butler, is on the verge of becoming a perennial all-star. This team is going to have their struggles offensively this season. Rajon Rondo is tremendous at passing the ball and setting up his teammates, but he does not pose very much of a threat offensively. Taj Gibson is a very good defensive player and rebounder, but like Rondo, he won’t do very much offensively. Their starting center, Robin Lopez, has been in the league since 2008 and has a career average of 8.5 points per game. With all of that being said, the Bulls are going to lean heavily on Jimmy Butler and soon to be 35-year-old Dwayne Wade. If D-Wade can stay healthy and give the Bulls solid minutes, he is obviously going to score.
Key Reserves: PG Isaiah Canaan, SG Tony Snell, SF Doug McDermott, PF Nikola Mirotic, C Cristiano Felicio.
This is not a very deep Bulls team like we are used to seeing. Their second group is filled with relatively unknown players. We all know sharp shooter, Doug McDermott, from his days dominating the NCAA at Creighton. His elite shooting ability makes him a nice player off the bench, but his ability to guard anybody at the NBA level remains to be seen. Last year, his second year in the NBA, he played 23 minutes per game averaging a little over nine points per game. The Bulls are looking for both of those numbers to increase as he enters his third year in the league. Another interesting player is Nikola Mirotic. He’s kind of similar player to McDermott in the sense his best asset is his shooting and 2016 will be his third year in the NBA. As a 6-10 forward, Mirotic can stretch the floor with his ability to shoot the three. He got almost 25 minutes per game last year scoring just under 12 points per game. He shot a solid 39% from three last season. Two forwards that can shoot like these guys can is a nice asset to have coming off the bench. Unfortunately for the Bulls, the other three guys in the second group are wildcards.
This Bulls team is maybe a fringe playoff team (7 or 8 seed). They don’t have a ton of strengths, but one strength that does come to mind is defense. There was so much change for this team over the offseason that last seasons rankings aren’t really going to reflect much on this year’s team. Rajon Rondo, Dwayne Wade, and Jimmy Butler have all been named to an NBA all defensive team multiple times during their careers. Taj Gibson is a very good defensive player in his own right, and Robin Lopez is adequate. That starting five is going to make it difficult for opposing offenses every night.
Offense. This team is going to struggle to score points. Yes they have Dwayne Wade and Jimmy Butler, but who else on this roster can be counted on to score each night? Dwayne Wade is obviously a future Hall of Famer, but how much can he be counted on offensively at this stage of his career? Since 2012 his minutes per game have continued to go down. Last year he scored 19 points per game, which is about five points off his career average. He did play in 74 games last year, but can he do that again at age 35 (he turns 35 in January)? Jimmy Butler on the other hand is 27 and is in the prime of his career. The former Marquette star’s points per game have gone up every year he has been in the association. Last year he averaged a career high of 20.9 points per game. The Bulls are really going to lean on him offensively this season. They’re going to need him to be in the 25 points per game range, which he is more than capable off. The Bulls other three starters most likely will not contribute much offensively on a consistent basis. Bench scoring will also be hard to come by. As earlier stated, Mirotic and McDermott can score in a hurry off the bench due to their above average three point shooting. After those two, there won’t be much scoring on this bench.
The Bulls were active in free agency this summer, but how much will it help? The Bulls probably would have been better off tearing it down and rebuilding. They did not do so however, so this season I would expect them to be around 39-42 wins. They will most likely be in a battle with the Bucks for fourth place in the Central division. The East is not as strong as the West, so that could get them the eight seed. That would get them a playoff date with most likely the Cavs, which would mean a quick exit from the post season.