2012 NBA Off Season Preview: Chicago Bulls

Chicago Bulls

2011-2012 Record: 50-16, 1st in Central
Stat Leaders: Derrick Rose, 21.9 ppg, 7.9 apg. Joakim Noah, 9.8 rpg, 1.4 bpg

Depth Chart

C - Joakim Noah
PF - Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson
SF - Luol Deng, Ronnie Brewer, Jimmy Butler
SG - Richard Hamilton, Kyle Korver
PG - CJ Watson (TO), (Derrick Rose)

Restricted Free Agents: C Omir Asik
Unrestricted Free Agents: G Mike James, G John Lucas, F Brian Scalabrine

The Good: For the second best year the Chicago Bulls finished with the best record in the NBA. Led by Tom Thibodeau, who has quickly become one of the best coaches in the NBA, the Bulls allowed only 88.2 points per game, by far the best in the NBA. Other then Derrick Rose, Thibodeau is the most important person to this organization, as he has given the Bulls quite the impressive defensive reputation. John Lucas and CJ Watson really stepped up as reigning MVP Derrick Rose missed about half the year. Luol Deng proved to be a good regular season leader, playing almost 40 minutes per game and helping lead the Bulls to the NBA best 50 wins.

Sadly, Bulls fans have seen this too much
come playoff time.
 The Bad: The Bulls 2011-2012 and possibly 2012-2013 seasons were ended the second Derrick Rose tore his ACL very late in game 1 of their opening round playoff series against the 76ers. The rest of the guys failed to step up and the Bulls were eliminated in the first round by an 8th seed. For the second straight year, the team finished with the best record in the NBA but was very disappointing in the playoffs. Carlos Boozer, especially, has shown that he is nothing more then a very expensive role player. The team just does not have a player that can create his own offense and carry the team other then Rose. It might be time for the Bulls to shake up the roster they have to bring in a guy that can alleviate pressure from Rose when the playoffs come around.

Key Free Agents: The Bulls would probably love to bring back Lucas, who performed admirably when Rose was out. Chicago would also like to bring back Omer Asik, who is one of the better backup centers in the league. He is a true 7 footer who has shown some skills in limited minutes. Teams are probably going to offer him a nice chunk of change since 7 footers always get paid, but he is a restricted free agent so Chicago can match offers.

Projected Cap Space: -$-18,206,663. Rose's contract extension kicks in next season, so the Bulls are quite a bit over the cap. Even if they amnesty Carlos Boozer, they won't be able to do anything except resign Asik and bring in some middling free agents.

Amnesty Possibilities: The team has to look long and hard about saying goodbye to Carlos Boozer. He puts up nice stats during the regular season, but always seems to be badly outplayed in the playoffs. He is paid like a superstar, and he is not close to one. Still, the problem with using the amnesty clause is replacing him. Asik and Taj Gibson are two of the best backup big men in the league, but can they provide quality production if forced to start? Also, the Bulls would still be over the cap without Boozer's contract, though not by much.

Free Agent Possibilities: The Bulls won't have much to spend, and have a deep bench already, but they could look to add a player or two to help out while Rose is sidelined. Chicago could go with a cheap veteran option like Derek Fisher or Keyon Dooling to provide a few minutes per night. The Bulls always seem to be on a never ending quest to solve their shooting guard woes. Maybe bring in a young guy like James Anderson or Alonzo Gee and see if they can strike gold there. Can't be worse then another year of Kyle Korver.

Draft Possibilities: Chicago will once again be drafting at the very end of the first round, with the 30th overall pick. Chicago does like to use their draft picks though, so they could take a guy to help this year. Maybe one of the three Vanderbilt guys, center Festus Ezeli, shooting guard John Jenkins or small forward Jeffrey Taylor.

Rebuilding, Contending or Status Quo?: Even though the Bulls haven't been able to live up to their lofty playoff expectations after back to back NBA best regular seasons, they are still contending. This year they showed that they can stay afloat without Derrick Rose due to a deep roster and terrific coaching. They are lucky to play in the weakest division in the NBA, so they should still be a top four seed even without Rose for at least half the year. Once they get into the playoffs, however, they will need to show that this is a roster that can bring the title back to Chicago. Even if they stick with the roster they have this off season, another playoff failure will bring about a major shake up.

All logos courtesy of http://www.sportslogos.net/.

Jonathan Carrano

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