Monday, October 28, 2013

Bulls Go 8-0 in the Preseason + 2013-14 Season Predictions

By Sean Mackey

The one month drudgery of the pre season is finally complete. While the 8 games meant absolutely nothing, the Bulls looked focused on all levels and came out undefeated for only the 3rd time in franchise history. Derrick Rose is alive, well and looks hungrier than ever along with a Bulls team that has been marred by injuries over the past 3 years. In a season that will likely be the last together for the core roster, Chicago will look to make the most of every opportunity.

While Derrick Rose played in all but one pre season contest, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler and Kirk Hinrich missed several games. While it's nice to build some chemistry during the pre-season, it was also important not to rush any of these guys back (which thankfully they didn't). Here's some minor observations from the Bulls 8 game pre season.

5 Observations From the Bulls Pre Season

1. D-Rose is back, and possibly better than ever!

For a player being away from game for 18 months, Derrick Rose sure looked great. D-Rose shot a remarkable .444 from the 3-point stripe and was driving into traffic regularly on every play. I was a little concerned that he may have lost some of his speed but that surely wasn't the case. D-Rose drove at will into the much larger defenders, was occasionally fouled hard and got right back up to do it again. He's back to his all-star form and is ready to prove all doubters wrong.

2. Taj Gibson!

While it sucked to see Noah sit all but one game, the pre season gave Taj Gibson a chance to get his grove back after a lackluster 2012-13 campaign. Gibson led the team in rebounds and generally looked fantastic on both ends of the court. With injuries seemingly always lingering with Noah, I anticipate Gibson will play big minutes this season. If he comes out with the same energy we saw over the last month, watch for Thibs to rely on him a little more than in the past. Considering Nazr Mohammed's age, he'll likely be playing center in smaller lineups quite often.

3. Jimmy Butler is going to have another breakout season.

The weakest link from the Bulls playoff battles over the last few years has always been the shooting guard position. From Keith Bogans to the ghost of Richard Hamilton, as of late the Bulls haven't really had a shooting guard who can both shoot the ball and play defense. Jimmy Butler worked his way off the bench last season into some ridiculous playoff performances last season. Now with Jimmy Butler as a starter, the Bulls have a very talented back court that rivals the likes of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

4. Mike Dunleavy is looking like a free agency steal.

I've never been much of a Dunleavy fan over the years. I know during a few dark seasons, he was the best player on Indiana's roster. After several injuries and a contract with the Bucks, Dunleavy turned down big money to come play in Chicago. He looked REALLY good in the pre season. The guy can shoot the lights out from the corners and is an underrated passer. He's going to fit this roster like a glove.

5. Kirk Hinrich is injured about every other game.

I love Kirk Hinrich. The year he was drafted was the year I started watching Bulls basketball again regularly after a 5 year hiatus. However, Hinrich seems to get injured at the wrong time on a regular basis. When he plays, he's great. He still shoots the three ball well and is ridiculously intense on defense (COUGH! LEBRON TACKLE) but this dude needs to be healthy for the playoffs. Hinrich bumped his head on Erik Murphy's knee in the pre season and was out the next few games with a concussion. It's always something! Look for rookie, Tony Snell to play his way into the rotation and take over some of Captain Kirk's minutes injuries continue (and they will).

2013-14 NBA Season Predictions

If Chicago is going to win a title, this is the year. They're really the only team that's equipped to take down the Heat. If they fall short again, Deng will likely be lost in free agency, Boozer will be amnestied and Euro stud Nikola Mirotic will finally be brought over. Honestly, that all may happen regardless of the team winning a title however, I'm confident barring another injury to a starting five player, this is the Bulls year.

Eastern Conference Standings

1. Chicago Bulls
2. Miami Heat
3. Brooklyn Nets
4. Indiana Pacers
5. New York Knicks
6. Atlanta Hawks
7. Detroit Pistons
8. Washington Wizards
9. Cleveland Cavaliers
10. Boston Celtics
11. Milwaukee Bucks
12. Toronto Raptors
13. Charlotte Bobcats
14. Orlando Magic
15. Philadelphia 76ers

Western Conference Standings

1. Los Angeles Clippers
2. San Antonio Spurs
3. Golden State Warriors
4. Houston Rockets
5. Oklahoma City Thunder
6. Los Angeles Lakers
7. Memphis Grizzlies
8. Minnesota Timberwolves
9. Portland Trail Blazers
10. Denver Nuggets
11. Dallas Mavericks
12. Sacramento Kings
13. New Orleans Pelicans
14. Utah Jazz
15. Phoenix Suns

Eastern Conference Finals
Bulls over Heat in 7 games

Western Conference Finals
LA Clippers over Houston Rockets in 6 games

NBA Finals
Bulls over LA Clippers in 6 games

Most Valuable Player
Derrick Rose

Defensive Player of the Year
Dwight Howard

6th Man of the Year
Andrei Kirilenko

Most Improved Player
Andre Drummond

Rookie of the Year
Victor Oladipo

Coach of the Year
Doc Rivers