Mike Dunleavy (FA)
Marco Belinelli (FA), Nate Robinson (FA)
None. If you hold a gun to my head to put a name here, it’s Nazr Mohammed, but… Really?!
Projected Starting Five
Some much of the Bulls season rests on how strong Derrick Rose returns. All of the talk coming from the Chicago camp is that he is back and better than ever, but then again, what else do we expect them to say? That Rose is a shade of his former self and everyone else might as well write Chicago off? No. The state of Rose’s health will not be definitely answered until the PG takes the court in late October, until then, all we have to do is speculate.
Rose or no Rose, this team will remain a gritty juggernaut that you dread seeing on your schedule. You know they will grind you out Thibodeau style. This is the kind of determination that got them to the second round of the playoffs last year.
If Rose can come back in prime form, they are one of the scariest teams in the East and are right up there with the Pacers and Heat in the running for the top spot. Yes, in his prime D-Rose is that explosive and that scary. He can turn on a dime, get to the rim at will and he is not a bad passer. What has always been worrying is his jumper, but he has been getting consistently better throughout his career. If the injury didn’t throw a wrench into that, expect to see a higher percentage from D-Rose this year.
Outside of their star man, the Bulls are still a very well balanced team. With Noah and Boozer, they have an interesting mix down in the post. With Joakim you know you’re getting constant energy and a lot of second chance opportunities. He will also anchor your defense. His name was never pretty, but you love him on your team. Boozer will give you the post scoring you need to balance out the outside, and he is much more of a smooth operator on the block. People might hate his giant contract, but there is no denying that he is a starting caliber PF capable of 18-8 numbers every night.
On the wings, they might have the best defensive tandem in Deng and Butler. Both are long, strong and athletic and they can take turns guarding players like Carmelo, George and LeBron. The added bonus with both of them is that they can contribute offensively. Deng is a solid scorer who can knockdown a jumper. He is also very efficient at rebounding for his position. Butler is basically the same but with way more potential. Last season was Jimmy’s coming out party and now we get to see how good he can be. If Butler continues to improve and learns to play off Rose mayhem wrecking brand of offence he can become a second consistent 20+ scorer for these Bulls. And then we have the fantastic future of Butler/Rose back court.
Off the bench, they’re as deep as ever. The loss of Robinson won’t show with Rose back. Hinrich and Teague are more than serviceable back-ups. Belinelli will be harder to replace, but signing Dunleavy is a good first step. He will give you threes coming off the pine and is generally bigger than Marco. Taj Gibson could be a starter for many teams, but as it stands, he provides energy off the bench and fits into many different schemes.
They’re deep, they’re strong and they’re versatile enough to challenge the Heat for supremacy.
Is Derrick Rose a 100%?
It’s the question every Chicago sports fan goes to sleep with. Is D-Rose still D-Rose? Like I said before, we won’t be able to tell until we see him play. Bulls made a big decision to sit Rose the whole of last year, I have to think Rose had a say in that too. Now, the pressure is on to prove it was the right decision.
Who thought it was a good idea to give Boozer this much money?
As I mentioned above, much is often said of Carlos Boozer’s big contract. Even so, he’s a great player who can give you 18-8 on the good nights. However, it is criminal the way he ties up a team’s financial flexibility.
The pack your bags prediction: I don’t think the Bulls will make any trades. They have been steadily performing even without Rose last year and now with their leader back in the fold, they just want to build on that. Even so, I can see a scenario where Boozer’s form drops off and he becomes a trading chip. That however, is very unlikely as his giant contract is still on the books through 2015.
The delicious expiring contract: Luol Deng’s $14.5-million clear the roster at the end of the year. This poses an interesting proposition to the Bulls. Surely, the swingman won’t command as high a salary this time around and he is valuable to this squad. However, if Jimmy Butler turns out everything we hope he can be and more, don’t be surprised if there is a Deng trade rumor or two floating around. He is a solid addition to any team, who will demand a small contract next year and will clear $14-mil off the books. If the Bulls are to make a trade this season, it’s Deng not Boozer who’s more likely to leave.
Key Player: Derrick Rose
Would it be anyone else? No. The hype for the Return is reaching unheard off proportions and this team will live and die by their star point guard. If he comes back without missing a beat, they become title contenders, if Rose still needs time to get back into the fold, it’s 2 round and out yet again.
The where did he come from prediction: Marquis Teague
It might seem like a stretch, but expect Teague to steal some minutes from the more methodical Hinrich off the bench. The age is showing for Captain Kirk, and I think Teague’s brand of running is a lot more suitable to keep up the pace Derrick Rose will set. He could have a very sneaky season off the bench.
The one fantasy pick you want: Jimmy Butler
I don’t think anyone will sleep on him this year, but he is a multi-stat guy that will give you a bit of everything. Think of him as a poor man’s Iguodala. With Rose back, Butler’s percentages should improve too as he is given more open looks from everyone collapsing.
Best case scenario: The Bulls bring the trophy back to Chicago. That’s what everyone is saying and if they stay healthy, focused and Derrick Rose comes back like nothing happened, they can do it.
Worst case scenario: Derrick Rose takes a while to integrate back into the NBA. We find out that last year was Jimmy Butler’s ceiling. Carlos Boozer is Carlos Boozer. The Bulls huff and puff into 4-5 seed and get knocked out in the 2nd.
Riggin’ for Wiggins Odds: 500:1
Prediction: 64-18, 3rd in the East
Final word: This is a team that can win it all just as easily as it can fall apart under the weight of expectations. However, with Thibodeau at the helm and Rose coming back more focused, I’d bet way more money on the former. After a year’s rest, one of the league’s biggest names is about to finally take the court again. What follows after, is history.
Anthony Bennett (Draft), Andrew Bynum (FA), Jarret Jack (FA), Earl Clark (FA), Sergei Karasev (Draft), Mike Brown (Coach)
Wayne Ellington (FA), Mareese Speights (FA)
Projected Starting Five
This will be the most interesting team to play guessing games with. On paper (and in NBA 2k14) they are scary good. With Kyrie schooling the kids everywhere and Bynum down low, they have just the right pieces around those two to get into the playoffs. Unfortunately, Bynum hasn’t played in a year, and who knows when he’ll return and Kyrie is too fragile to have a complete 82 game season under his belt to this day. This team’s ceiling is surprisingly high, but on the flip side, their floor is really really low.
This being a preview however, I’m slighted to discuss how good the team can be first. In Kyrie, they have a mature, incredibly gifted floor reader. He has the slickest handles in the League and has been steadily improving in his passing. He is the PG GMs dream to build around. They’ve also added some nice complementary pieces around him in Gee and CJ Miles. Both can d-up and are serviceable offensively, but only when Kyrie creates.
The two starting spot is Dion Waiters’ to lose, and he just might. He has show the improvement Cavs wanted to see at the end of last season, but he will still be prone to bad decisions, chucking and overall poor defense. His athleticism will give him an advantage to get into the lane, but this team is not built for that. They need to surround Irving with shooters who he can dish to after breaking another set of ankles.
Down low they are much better. Tristan Thompson has been growing steadily, and his wingspan, as well as hustle to get after loose balls is already paying dividends. If he can polish up his O, he would be much better. If Bynum does come back, he gives them a potent post weapon, one which they haven’t had since Big Z skipped town. It will take the pressure of Thompson and Varejao to perform offensively and could lead to a lot of 1-2 play between Kyrie and Drew.
There is a big question of how they will slot Anthony Bennett, and the consensus seems to be at the 4. He is too slow for the NBA 3, but he is also too small for the 4. He will take a long time to adjust, and already being injured doesn’t bode well for him. Earl Clark is an interesting option off the bench, a big 3 who can put in hours at the 4 and knock down the three. He addresses some of the Cavs weaknesses from last season, but adds to the undersized criteria if they play him at the four.
Jarret Jack is the biggest x-factor as he is prone to some of the most explosive offensive outbursts. He can run the team if Kyrie has time in the med-bay, but as a shoot first, shoot second, pass third guard I am not sure how he will fit in.
Mike Brown will want them to be defensive, but he lacks that in his team. Sure, he has hustle guys, but the Cavs will struggle to shut anyone down. Waiters is a one way player, Gee and Miles aren’t exactly premier lockdown guys, Kyrie could put in more effort. If Bynum is healthy however, they can easily clog the paint with him, Thompson and Varejao, forcing teams to beat them on the outside.
Is Andrew Bynum going to play at least one game this year?
It’s definitely hard to make this call. Bynum himself admitted that he has no knees. Then again, Cavs got him on a manageable contract, which means expectations aren’t that high. I don’t think we’ll see him on the court until at least December, and even then, in a limited role.
Does Andrew Bynum have new hair ideas?
At least Dennis Rodman was entertaining. The biggest contribution Andrew Bynum made to the Philadelphia 76ers last year was the effect his ever-evolving hair fiasco had on social media.
The pack your bags prediction: The Cavs simply don’t have anyone to offer to teams if they wanted to make a move. Then again, if Bynum shows that he can do 20-30 minutes per game, Anderson Varejao suddenly becomes a trade piece who can bring hustle and boards to a contender team.
The delicious expiring contract: None. Unless you consider CJ Miles’ $2.25-million juicy.
Key Player: Kyrie Irving
I think it’s impossible to put anyone else here. Much like in LeBron days, this team goes only as far as Kyrie can take them. He is slowly developing the PG intangibles of the great players and he’s already armed with a killer instinct on the court. I think with him behind the ball, Cleveland are a playoff team, Bynum or no.
The where did he come from prediction: Sergei Karasev
At a first glance, he really addresses a need. Cavs sucked at 3pt shooting last year. They were 23rd in 3PT% and 29th in FG%. That comes with guys who like to chuck. Karasev has a smooth stroke and smart basketball brain. If he can integrate into this system he will get a lot of looks, especially being behind the terribly inefficient Waiters.
The one fantasy pick you want: Sergei Karasev
For all of the reasons above, you want him to up your 3PT% in the later 11-12 Round. Varejao is still a man who can win you rebounds on his own and Kyrie is Kyrie, but I tend to stay away from guys with injury problems.
Best case scenario: Everyone stays healthy and gels right away. Anthony Bennett proves everyone who said he can’t play the four wrong. Cavs make the playoffs for the first time since LBJ skipped town.
Worst case scenario: All goes to hell, people get injured and Bennett blows at the PF slot. Bynum gets a perm and doesn’t play a single NBA game, rediscovering his long lost love for bowling. Kyrie’s hair grays from stress and he starts to resemble Uncle Drew in real life.
Riggin’ for Wiggins Odds:
Prediction: 34-48, just miss the playoffs
Final word: Like I said before, this is the team with the widest gap between their ceiling and their floor. Too much depends on factors like health, so I wouldn’t jump on the playoff wagon just yet.