With Derrick Rose expected to miss a good chunk of the season other players on the Chicago Bulls must step up in his absence. Obviously the entire team will need to step up and stay competitive with Rose being out. However, there are five guys who stand out in my mind as needing to step up the most for the Bulls. Here is a look at the five players I think need to step up in order for the Bulls to have a successful season:
1. Carlos Boozer:
Boozer is obviously the main player that needs to step up for the Bulls. He has not lived up to his massive contract and this season could be his last with the Bulls. The Bulls will hold on to Boozer for this season but next season he is almost definitely going to be amnestied. However, that does not mean Boozer should just lie down, he needs to step it up this season and prove to us all why the Bulls gave him such a big contract. Furthermore, it would actually benefit Boozer if he played well this season. Boozer probably knows that he won’t be with the Bulls much longer but he should showcase his talents that way he can draw interest from potential suitors.
Last season Boozer averaged a respectable 15 points and 8.5 rebounds a game and his numbers did not change much in the playoffs (13.5 PPG 9.8 RPG). Boozer’s scoring average should go up to at least 20 PPG and he owes that to the fans as well as himself. What is so frustrating about Boozer is his inability to play solid defense. Boozer is the weak link defensively and only averaged .4 blocks a game last season. The Bulls are going to need more production out of Boozer this season, specifically on the defensive end.
Boozer will likely lose minutes to Taj Gibson at the power forward position this season unless he can somehow become a defensive force like Gibson.
2. Richard Hamilton:
Hamilton needs to step up this season after only playing in 28 games last season. Hamilton’s durability was never in question until last season when he was not able to stay healthy and did not contribute as much as he would have liked. Hamilton will be the starting shooting guard going into this season and the Bulls are going to need him to score more if they want to have a good season. Last season Hamilton only averaged 11.6 PPG and with Rose out the Bulls would like to see his scoring average go up to at least 15 PPG.
For this season Hamilton needs to stay healthy because his veteran leadership and scoring ability will be crucial for the Bulls this season. Hamilton is one of the older guys in the NBA but he still owns the mid range and can be a pesky defender. The Bulls will rely on his shooting ability and defense to keep them in the hunt for the playoffs. If Hamilton can stay healthy he can really help this Bulls team that is missing their superstar.
3. Joakim Noah:
Noah will be expected to carry a heavy load this season with Rose out. Furthermore, now that the Bulls have lost back-up center Omer Asik there will be even more pressure on Noah to produce. Noah is the anchor of the Bulls defense and he will have to step it up even more this season with Rose being out. In 64 games last season Noah had averages of 10.2 PPG, 9.8 RPG, and 1.4 BPG. Noah needs to continue to maintain these types of numbers and be a 10-10 guy but I would like to see his rebounding and blocks averages go up a little. I think that Noah is capable of averaging around 12 boards a game and his blocks need to be around 2-2.5. I really don’t think that is asking for too much and the Bulls will need those numbers anyway.
When the Bulls lost Asik to the Houston Rockets it meant that Noah was going to have to step up. Noah needs to bring his intensity and great defense night in and night out for the Bulls to have a successful season. Noah can and will be the emotional leader for the Bulls and he is one of the veterans on the team. Noah will need to keep a level head and stay on the floor for the Bulls as he is one of the better centers in the eastern conference.
4. Jimmy Butler:
Butler’s expectations will be very high this season as he steps into the sixth/seventh man role. The Bulls will need Butler to have a breakout season this year and I think he can do it. Butler did not get much playing time last season but his minutes will significantly increase this season. Butler only played 8.5 MPG last season but I could easily see his minutes going up to 20-25 MPG. With increased minutes I really think Butler will be able to average about 12-15 PPG and his defense will be much needed.
Butler will be playing the role that Ronnie Brewer played last year for the Bulls and that is defensive stopper. Butler plays great defense, and along with Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich, will be one of the team’s go-to defensive stoppers. If you recall when the Bulls played the New York Knicks Butler gave Carmelo Anthony a hard time with his great defense.
Offensively, Butler does not settle for jump shots as he is always looking to attack and is a very smart player. Butler will need to step up and I know it is only his sophomore season but I think he will come up big for the Bulls this season.
5. Nate Robinson:
Nate Robinson will have to step up this season for the Bulls because they will definitely need his scoring. Robinson has bounced around the league so far in his career. However, with Robinson in Chicago he will have a chance to provide some much needed scoring for the Bulls. Robinson may be one of the smaller guys in the league but he is a proven scorer.
Last season Robinson averaged 11.2 PPG and 4.5 APG coming off the bench for the Golden State Warriors. I think Robinson will be coming off the bench for the Bulls but could see a slight increase in minutes with Rose being out. However, Robinson will need to step up in other areas besides his offense.
Robinson has been somewhat of a liability on defense but that should change since he will be under the tutelage of defensive guru, head coach Tom Thibodeau. In 51 games last season Robinson averaged 1.2 SPG which is pretty good but now that he is with the defensive minded Bulls he should try to bring that average up to about 2 SPG.
This will no doubt be a tough season for the Bulls with Rose missing a good portion of the season. However, if these five players can step up then the Bulls can stay competitive and be in playoff contention. I think if the Bulls do make the playoffs they will shock a lot of people and maybe even score a first round victory. Rose will be missed but he will eventually come back, and until then the Bulls will have to work with what they have and they have some nice pieces to work with.