2011-12 NBA Preview: Chicago Bulls

The 2011-12 Chicago Bulls will be looking to get over the proverbial hump known as LeBron James. Derrick Rose and his Bulls have been eliminated by a James-led team the last two seasons. Chicago has added a huge piece to the puzzle in the form of Rip Hamilton, which could even things up a bit.

Chicago was the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference last season, with a remarkable 62-20 record. They boasted the best defense in the NBA, the Coach of the Year and the league’s Most Valuable Player. The Bulls are more than ready for another championship run.

Former Marquette standout Jimmy Butler was the Bulls first choice in the NBA Draft this past off-season. Butler is coming in as a defensive specialist, keying on stopping the star shooting guards/small forwards of the league like Dwayne Wade, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. At 6-feet, 7-inches Butler has nice size for a rookie, and does have an above average offensive game, but he can’t be expected to slow down the leagues best players in his first professional season.

Last season, the Bulls displayed one of the deepest teams in the NBA. Role players are vital to a teams success and the Bulls have plenty of role players in the mix that contribute on a routine basis. C.J. WatsonKyle KorverTaj GibsonRonnie Brewer and Omer Asik compile one of the most talented benches in the NBA. With the addition of Rip Hamilton, the 2010 starting point guard Keith Bogans will move to the bench, adding more depth.

The best part about this Bulls team is they’re young, the No. 2 youngest team in the league to be exact. That means they have room to improve, their ceiling is collectively very high. When your leader and youngest MVP in NBA history is just gracing 23 years old, you can understand the optimism in the Windy City.

A 26-year old Joakim Noah returns to full strength after a healthy off-season recovery and is expected to do big things in the paint for Chicago in 2011. When healthy, Noah is one of the best interior defenders in the game. The other 26-year old in the starting line-up, Luol Deng, looks like a man on a mission early this pre-season. He is a little bigger, a little stronger, looking primed and ready for a long 66-game season. Even Carlos Boozer is listed as healthy…for the time being. It is only a matter of time before the Bulls rid themselves of the expensive Boozer, and his non-existent defensive prowess.

Chicago is prepared to make another run at the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference this season, but they are more interested in winning a title. The addition of Rip Hamilton has brought arguably one of the best mid-range shooters in the game to a team who desperately needed a shooting guard. The under-the-radar move may be the acquisition that pushes the Bulls over the top. We will find out soon, as Chicago will tip-off against the depleted Los Angeles Lakers in a Christmas Day showdown to open the NBA season on Sunday. It will be a season to remember for the Chicago Bulls franchise and their fanbase.

Follow Tony Piraro on Twitter @TonyPiraro

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