De Jesus: Bulls, Rose look to get back on top
Manuel De Jesus | Monday, October 6, 2014
Football has been dominating the sports world for the last couple of months, but with the NBA starting its preseason schedule, it won’t long before LeBron James takes over ESPN’s highlight reel.
The upcoming season is loaded with great storylines, starting with James’ return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Derek Fisher has the pressure of coaching the New York Knicks, which is now run by Phil Jackson. Will the Brooklyn Nets be able get their way back into the playoffs without Paul Pierce and former head coach Jason Kidd? Will the Miami Heat remain relevant without LeBron? How will Kobe Bryant fare on a rebuilding Los Angeles Lakers team? Are the Oklahoma City Thunder ever going to get the monkey off their back and win their first title? And most importantly, will Derrick Rose return to MVP-form to help a Chicago Bulls team with high expectations finally win their first NBA title since the Jordan era?
Unfortunately, I only have time to answer one of those questions, but here it goes. I predict Derrick Rose will come back to full strength this season and will lead the Bulls to a Eastern Conference championship.
I know very well how much of a struggle it has been for the Bulls to push back into the NBA title conversation. As an avid Bulls fan, I have gone through the disappointing seasons and mediocre records year after year, but ever since the arrival of the home-town hero Derrick Rose, Chicago has never felt closer to hoisting another championship. The former Rookie of the Year and MVP has been the heart and soul of the Bulls, leading Chicago to two division titles and a No. 1 seed.
That success was abruptly cut short when Rose tore his ACL in 2012 and then his meniscus the following season. In his absence, the Bulls have proven that they can still make the playoffs, but without their star player, they have failed to make any deep runs.
This season will be different. Rose is back, and although he didn’t play so well in the FIBA World Championships, I am confident he’ll be able to take advantage of his strong supporting cast and play better than ever. The Bulls made a big splash this offseason, starting with the acquisition of college phenom Doug McDermott. In the summer league, McDermott displayed his ability to play well in the paint and shoot from the three-point line, which was an issue for the Bulls who ended last season as the seventh-worst team in the NBA from long-range.
Chicago was also able to beef up their front court, signing Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic. Gasol gives the Bulls a better scoring option than Carlos Boozer, scoring over 17 points per game last season. He’s also a much better rebounder and passer.
Mirotic will not see much playing time behind Gasol and Taj Gibson, but his ability to stretch the court with his shooting makes him a serious threat at any point of a game. The rest of the supporting cast includes Jimmy Butler, Tony Snell, Mike Dunleavy, Kirk Hinrich, Aaron Brooks and last year’s Defensive Player of the Year, Joakim Noah. The last time the Bulls had a team this deep in talent, Rose won the MVP, head coach Tom Thibodeau won Coach of the Year and the team won a league-high 62 games.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Rose will flourish this season with all the help he has available. Last season, the pressure was all on Noah to make the offense run, but Rose’s presence alone will help his teammates get open and contribute to the offense. I’m also not concerned about his knee injuries. Thibodeau will limit Rose’s minutes so that he is not overworked and the depth at point guard will help keep the offense afloat without Rose on the court.
No other team in the league has the depth Chicago has, and because of that, they are one of the best teams in the NBA. Best case scenario, the Bulls win 60 games, earn the No. 1 seed in the East and find a way to beat the Western Conference champs to win the NBA title. Worst case, they are plagued by the injury bug and make the playoffs as a four seed, losing the division title to the Cavaliers.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.