Chicago Bulls — Real Competitors For A Championship?


New coach, same team. The Chicago Bulls will compete hard, but can they win an NBA title with little change? 

Chicago Bulls
Chicago Bulls /

Chicago Bulls

The Bulls will likely bring back the same team, only adding Bobby Portis through the draft. This is the same team that lost to the MASH unit called the Cleveland Cavaliers. While the Bulls stayed pat, the rest of the division got stronger.

The Cavaliers re-signed Kevin Love and Iman Shumpert and signed Mo Williams.  The Indiana Pacers added Rodney Stuckey and Monta Ellis and return a fully recovered Paul George. Even the Detroit Pistons paid Reggie Jackson. Ok, not a big addition, but Detroit is not close to contending. The Milwaukee Bucks meanwhile added Greg Monroe and kept up-and-comer Khris Middleton.

Joakim Noah was quoted by K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune shorty after the Bulls eliminated the Bucks first-round last year: “That team is good,” Noah said. “They compete really hard. They’re young. Their future is very bright, especially when they add some scoring.”  Noah may have been referring to Jabari Parker, who is from Chicago and is coming back from a torn ACL in his left knee.

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Competing in the Central Division will be a good indication of what kind of Bulls team we see come playoff time. The other team in the eastern conference, the Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards each lost a starter. If the season started today, the Bulls likely will present a major threat to the Cleveland Cavaliers but, do they have enough to beat them?

Lets say the Bulls get past the Cavs (and that’s a big if), the western conference has the World Champs Golden State Warriors and the much improved San Antonio Spurs waiting for them.

The Bulls didn’t bring in a top free agent but, they did commit over $110 million to bring back Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy and Aaron Brooks. While Bulls management believes a better atmosphere with new coach Fred Hoiberg and another year in the pros for Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic and Tony Snell will make a much improved team.  The truth is the Bulls’ title hopes rest mostly with Derrick Rose, Butler,  Pau Gasol and the defense of Noah.

Rose came back from another surgery and his play was sub-par. He must return close to an All-Star level if the Bulls hope to be competitive. Rose needs to run the offense and break down defenses to let shooters make shots. He was 3-point happy at times last year and that needs to stop. Teams want Rose to shoot threes all day so he needs to be more selective when he takes them.

Butler got paid this summer and now must take another step forward after winning Most Improved Player of the Year this past season. His defense slipped a little and some would say it was due to his heavier workload on offense. With a more consistent game, Butler could become truly elite.

Gasol was a double-double machine for the Bulls in the regular season — then came the playoffs. He was not the same player in the playoffs which ended with him getting hurt and basically disappearing in the Cavs series. Gasol needs to be on the floor to provide offense and hit the open man when it is needed. We missed his leadership when he got injured.

Last but not least we come to Noah.  Noah was the Defensive Player of the Year in the 2013-2014 season. He was a beast on the boards, especially on the offensive glass. He provided all-out hustle and was the emotional leader.

What a difference a year makes.

Noah struggled to stay on the floor when it was clear he was not 100 percent. When healthy, he is everywhere, on the glass, diving on the floor for loose balls and more important playing locking down defense. We need a healthy Noah in the playoffs.

Butler and Rose will be together for at least the next two seasons. Noah is in the last year of his contract. Gasol is not getting any younger. This core may have one year left together but, can they win a championship. Many things must fall into place for that to happen.

Next: Cristiano Felicio Adds Depth To The Chicago Bulls Frontcourt

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