This has certainly been an interesting offseason in the NBA. LeBron James did what many thought was the unthinkable and went back to Cleveland. He also brought over James Jones and Mike Miller. He will perhaps also bring Ray Allen. He helped facilitate the to-be-announced trade of Kevin Love. Cleveland is once again a favorite to win the Eastern Conference. There’s just one thing however — the Chicago Bulls will still beat them and take that conference title.
The Bulls already have a history of breaking Cleveland fans’ hearts. Michael Jordan used Cleveland as his whipping post for years. The Shot…The Shot II…
You mention the Chicago Bulls and most Cavs fans grind their teeth. They are tired of Bulls fans reminding them of their bad history against Chicago.
Of course, that was with MICHAEL JORDAN. Will these Chicago Bulls be able to pull it off as well? Yes they will, and I will tell you why.
The Bulls added offense without any big subtractions
The Bulls had the worst scoring offense in the NBA last season. They averaged a maddening 93.7 points per game. The Utah Jazz were next, and they averaged 1.3 points per game more than the Bulls.
In this season’s draft, the Bulls traded for Doug McDermott. McDermott swept every major Player of the Year awards given out last season.
McDermott is a shooter, plain and simple. He can make shots from just about anywhere on the court. He may even hit shots from the gym’s parking lot and hit nothing but net.
McDermott is expected to come in and have the freedom of shooting as soon as he takes the floor at his first NBA game. He is instant offense for a team in desperate need of scoring.
Gasol is another player that will add offense for the Bulls. The team had trouble with post scoring last season. Gasol is a very good post scorer. He also has the experience of going far into the playoffs.
Being from another country, Gasol could also help another player added to help on offense – Nikola Mirotic.
Mirotic was one of Europe’s best players. Some say he is the best basketball player not named LeBron James.
Last season with Real Madrid, Mirotic averaged 12.4 points per game and 4.6 rebounds while playing just 24.1 minutes a game. He shot 50.6 percent overall, and 46.1 percent from three.
Add the offensive exploits of Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls now have the dynamic offense fans have wanted for so long. They are improved in the post, from three and will be able to spread the floor for their penetrators.
The Bulls added all this offense, and they did so without getting rid of key players. Yes, Carlos Boozer was amnestied, but after having his worst season with the Bulls last year, the writing was on the wall. In order for the Bulls to improve, they could not keep Boozer’s $18 million on the books (they still pay him, it just doesn’t count against the cap).
Many expected the Bulls to part ways with Taj Gibson and/or Mike Dunleavy. Neither of them went anywhere. Gibson gives the Bulls some hard-nosed play while Dunleavy is a shooter. Jimmy Butler, a player who can be another do-whatever-the team-needs player that Luol Deng was when he was in Chicago.
These are key players the Bulls had that helped the team win 48 games last season without Rose. With Rose and the other offensive additions, this is one formidable team.
Kyrie Irving is still no Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose has played only ten games in two seasons. When he returns, however, he will take his place as one of the best (if not the best) point guards in the NBA. He is an electrifying player, and if the indications from USA Basketball are correct, he should be in line for another fine season.
The last time he played for USA Basketball in 2010, Rose went on to have a spectacular season with the Bulls. He averaged 25 ppg, 7.7 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 1.0 steals. He led the Bulls to the best record in the NBA on his way to becoming the youngest MVP in the history of the NBA. The Rose-led Bulls lost to LeBron James’ Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
He followed that up in 2012 with a line of 21.8 ppg, 7.9 assists and 3.4 rebounds. Again, he led the Bulls to the best record in the East, but in his first playoff game against the Philadelphia 76ers he tore his ACL, and the rest is history, but not the history he wanted to experience.
After a torn ACL and a torn Meniscus, Rose is ready to be back. This time, he has an array of weapons in teammates, and he won’t have to take the load of the offense. He is ready to lead again, and his teammates, new and old, are ready to have him back.
On the other hand, Kyrie Irving has been criticized for his leadership abilities. He is a good talent, but some have accused him of just stuffing the stat sheet.
Even Irving himself had to admit his leadership shortcomings. In an interview with RealGM.com, Irving talked about him being a leader. “Everybody asks me if this is my year to be a leader… I haven’t been so far though, not at all. I’ve just been a kid trying to figure it out. There’s no perfect way to be a leader, and coming in as a 19-year-old kid and having everything bearing on your shoulders, there are a lot of ups and downs. Now it’s about being the best every single day and not being afraid.”
Of course, James will be the undisputed leader of this Cavs team. When they start playing, Irving will defer to James. If there is something to be done on the court, it will be done through James.
When Rose steps on the court, HE will be the leader. Yes, Joakim Noah did a great job in Rose’s absence and was the leader, but make no mistake about it-this is Rose’s team. He will run the offense. Irving still cannot do that, and he won’t be able to do it with James around.
Tom Thibodeau will be an even better coach with the new offense
Thibodeau has done a magnificent job coaching the Chicago Bulls. He has coached the last two seasons without his top offensive weapon. Two seasons ago, he had a mash unit of a team with all the injuries and sicknesses they had. They were still able to upset the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs before ultimately going down to the Heat once again.
The Bulls under Thibodeau have played a relentless defensive game. They have been at or near the top of the league in defense every year under Thibodeau’s guidance.
The problem with the Bulls has been offense. Even when they had the top records in the league, the offense was lacking. A lot of the points scored were made by grinding. They did not have players other than Rose who could create their own shots or get some easy shots. Everything was a chore on offense.
Now, Thibodeau has weapons. He has depth. He can play around with the offense the same way he does with the defense.
As good as David Blatt was in Israel and throughout Europe, he isn’t there anymore. He has the best athletes in his sport playing both for him and against him. There will be an adjustment period for him to get used to his new players and for his new players to trust in his system.
Because of that adjustment, the Cavs could come out a little sluggish. Even the Miami Heat started out slowly, and they had a better team in their first year together than the Cavs have now. There were reports that James was slow to trust Eric Spoelstra (some say he never did warm up to him). How will he react to Blatt? We will see when the season starts.
Thibodeau will have more weapons than Blatt. Yes, Blatt has the best player on the planet, and Kevin Love will be a key help, but the Cavs bench will be thin, even after the signing of Sean Marion.
Thibodeau will be able to go ten or eleven deep on a regular basis. He will have either Gasol or Gibson COMING OFF THE BENCH! McDermott, Aaron Brooks, Tony Snell, Kirk Hinrich and Mirotic will all probably come off the bench as well. The starters will be well rested going into the playoffs with the rotation the Bulls will have. That rotation is something that any coach would kill to have.
The Cavs may be the early favorites to win the East, but come June, it will be the Bulls who will play in the NBA Finals.