The Bulls were a dominant 50-16 team in 2011-12 but ultimately lost Derrick Rose in the playoffs and didn’t capitalize on their season. In 2012-13, the Bulls hoped to get Rose back all season but no such luck. With Rose out all year and injuries plaguing Kirk Hinrich and Joakim Noah, the Bulls finished second-to-last in points. They were one of the best defensive teams in the league but desperately need Rose to be healthy to put forth any offense.
Assuming he can stay on the court, the Bulls look as good as they’ve looked in previous seasons. Although their bench isn’t as strong as it was with Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson, they have enough depth to go a strong 48 minutes per game but they need their starters to avoid the injury list. Let’s take a look at what’s on tap for Tom Thibodeau’s club in 2013-14.
Points Per Game: 29th
Points Allowed Per Game: 3rd
Rebounds Per Game: 8th
Notable Additions: Mike Dunleavy, Tony Snell, Erik Murphy
Notable Losses: Richard Hamilton, Marco Belinelli, Nate Robinson
Point Guards: Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich – Grade: A
Without Rose in the lineup, the Bulls finished second-to-last in scoring. They’ll need a healthy Rose if they want to get to the next level and his knee health will be a concern all season. If he can match the 22 PPG and 7.9 APG that he had in 2011-12, the Bulls will be in good shape. The only concern about his game is his drop off in shooting percentage. After putting up a .475 and .489 FG% in his first two seasons, Rose saw his shooting drop to .445 in 2010 and to .435 in 2011. The Bulls certainly hope his shot improves in 2013-14.
Hinrich is another point guard limited by injuries and the Bulls are thrilled to get him out of the starting lineup with Rose back. Last season, Hinrich shot a career-low .377 from the floor and averaged just 7.7 PPG and 5.2 APG despite starting every game he played, averaging 30 MPG. He’s definitely better suited for a bench role.
Shooting Guards: Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy – Grade: B-
Butler showed promise in his second year in the league, shooting a strong .467 from the floor. In 2012, he averaged 12 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 1.3 SPG per 36 minutes. He’ll need to improve his consistency but he’s a good up-and-coming guard who plays very solid defense.
Mike Dunleavy was a great get considering Butler probably isn’t ready to play 30+ minutes per game. Although he’s been exclusively a bench player over the last two seasons, he’s averaging 11 PPG and shooting .450 from the floor and .400 from three-point range since 2011. He’s a very solid veteran presence and should see about 25 minutes per game off the bench at both guard and small forward.
Small Forwards: Luol Deng, Tony Snell – Grade: B
Deng has led the league in minutes per game for the past two seasons and is a guy you want out there as much as possible. Although his shooting slipped to .426 last season (.460 two seasons ago), he averaged a very solid 16.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 1.1 SPG. He’s as solid a small forward as you’ll find in the league.
Snell was the Bulls’ first-round pick this year and is a decent looking shooter. He impressed the coaches while playing in the summer league but with plenty of experienced vets, he’s not likely to see a lot of time on the court this season. It’s just as well, he needs plenty of seasoning if he wants to play for Tom Thibodeau’s defense.
Although he’s turning 32, Boozer continues to be an elite power forward and a very reliable big body for the Bulls. Last season, he averaged 16.2 PPG but his shooting did drop to a career-low .477. He had just one season before 2012 in which he shot under 50%. It’s still a solid percentage and he added a very strong 9.8 RPG on top of it. He and Joakim Noah make a great combination in the paint.
Gibson is a very solid bench player who shot a strong .485 from the floor while averaging 8.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 1.4 BPG despite playing just 22 MPG. Per 36 minutes, that extrapolates to 13 PPG, 8.5 RPG, and 2.2 BPG. He can bang with the best of them but he’s a bit on the inconsistent side when it comes to scoring.
Murphy was the Bulls’ second-round pick this season and, like Snell, doesn’t figure to see much court time this season.
Centers: Joakim Noah, Nazr Mohammed – Grade: A-
Noah only played 64 games last season as he was hampered by a foot injury and that’s really the story of his career. Although he missed nearly 20 games, it’s the most he’s ever started in his career. The injuries are the only knock on him, however. His 12 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 4.0 APG, 2.1 BPG are exactly what you want from a top center. His FG% fell off slightly to a career-low .481 but if he can make around 50% of his shots he’ll remain an elite center.
Nazr Mohammed is the opposite of an elite center. He shot .367 as a center last season which is just unfathomable considering your job is to stay in the paint. The Bulls could have used a better backup center but the organization is clearly comfortable with his defensive abilities to stick with him. Still, it feels like Thibodeau’s reliance on defense costs them a lot of points and is the reason they finished so desperately low in scoring last season.
Coach: Tom Thibodeau – Grade: A
Thibodeau is as good a defensive coach as you’ll find in the league and a former Coach of the Year. After working as an assistant coach in Minnesota, San Antonio, Philadelphia, New York, Houston, and Boston, he finally got a chance to be the head coach and quickly became the fastest coach to 100 wins. He has a great system and the Bulls should return to being a dominant force in 2013 if Derrick Rose is healthy and can carry the offense.
Team Grade: A-