Last season the Chicago Bulls battled through a year that saw their roster decimated by injuries, headlined by star point Derrick Rose missing the entire season as he recovered from a torn ACL. This year, Rose is back and ready to go, and the Bulls believe that they are the team to take down the Miami Heat. Rose will likely need some time to get back to form, but his return immediately elevates the Bulls to top three status in the Eastern Conference.
Here is my projection for the Bulls’ final 15 man roster
Point Guard: Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich, Marquis Teague, Mike James
Shooting Guard: Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Dahntay Jones
Small Forward: Luol Deng, Tony Snell
Power Forward: Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, Erik Murphy
Center: Joakim Noah, Nazr Mohammed, Dexter Pittman
At point guard, all eyes will be on Rose, as everyone wants to see if he has the same explosive athleticism and aggression that he did before his injury. The Bulls need him to return to MVP form in order to be successful. Hinrich will be the primary backup, though he can play off the ball as well. Teague is still a developmental player, while James brings three point shooting to a team that desperately needs it.
Butler will start at shooting guard, and he is rapidly becoming a very good player. Butler saw a major increase in playing time in his second season, and he responded very well. He is a tough perimeter defender and a balanced offensive player, and the Bulls believe that he will become a player very similar to the man next to him, Luol Deng.
Dunleavy was the Bulls’ biggest offseason addition, and his ability to stretch the floor and knock down threes is vital. Dunleavy shot 42.8% from deep last season, 8th in the NBA among qualified players. He is exactly what the Bulls needed. Behind him, Jones provides some extra perimeter defense and a good locker room presence.
At small forward, Deng enters the final season of his contract looking to prove he is worthy of a long term deal. Deng is an elite defender, and his offense has matched his defense, as he averaged 16.5 PPG. Deng also led the league in minutes per game for the second straight year. First round pick Tony Snell will back him up, though he is unlikely to contribute much in his rookie year.
Up front, Boozer survived yet another round of amnesty drama, and he will again split time with Gibson at power forward. Boozer averaged 16.2 PPG and 9.8 RPG last season, making him well worth his contract. He is also a great pick and roll partner for Rose. Gibson is a tough defender and ridiculous athlete, and he will put down a few highlight reel dunks this season.
Next to them, Joakim Noah has become one of the best centers in the NBA. He is an excellent defender who plays with unmatched energy and passion, and he set career highs in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals last season. His offense has come a long way, and he is reliable in the pick and roll and is also one of the best passing big men in the NBA.
Mohammed will back up Noah, while Murphy and Pittman will battle with D.J. White for the final roster spots. Murphy looks like a safe bet to make the team as a stretch 4. White is a reliable, if rather ordinary veteran, while Pittman has potential. I believe the Bulls should choose potential, but I wouldn’t be even a little bit surprised if they went the other way.
The Bulls believe they can contend for an NBA title this season, and if Rose is healthy they are certainly on the short list. However, everyone wants to see Rose play before they get too excited, and that will be the dominant storyline for this team early on.