To recap: I rank each team from 1-10 on their projected starters, bench, coach and watchability, using a 1-10 scale, and rate them overall based on a (starters x 5) + (bench x 2) + (coaching x 2) + watchability to give them an overall score. Why does watchability matter? Because we're not robots here, that's why.
I'm breaking down these previews into small, bite-size chunks to make them more palatable to read, around 1,000-1,500 words each, obviously spending more time on the contenders than the minnows. Enjoy and leave me all kinds of comments about why I'm terribly wrong.
Chicago Bulls: 85
When everything is humming smoothly, the Bulls will have as balanced and formidable a starting lineup as any in the league, filled with a terrific mix of scorers, defenders, shooters, rebounders and athletic specimens, ensuring that they're never at a disadvantage in any one area of the floor. The only problem is that it's going to take some time for Rose to reintegrate himself back into the squad and for everyone to fall back in to their old roles. Really, it would be wise of them to use the Spurs as their model, where the point guard may be the focus of the offense and the "head of the snake" as it were, but the center is still the overall leader of the team.
If Rose tries to grab that mantle away from Noah, who earned it with his play and going beyond the call of duty last season, it can tear the team apart. I'm also curious how Rose will function with Butler and worry that the breakout star from last season will see his development retarded by Rose's return and ball-dominant style of play. Maybe they'd be better off starting Mike Dunleavy, to give them a secondary creator, and giving Butler more of a chance to shine off the bench as a defensive Rottweiler/energy guy who can still finish the games a la a young Ginobili?
Projected Bench (7.5): C Nazr Mohammad, PF Taj Gibson, SF Tony Snell, SG Mike Dunleavy, PG Kirk Hinrich, PG Marquis Teague, PF Erik Murphy
The Bulls have such a glut of talented fellows between 6-6 and 6-9, that the roster is just screaming "small-ball," but that's not coach Tom Thibodeau's preference by any means. Still, he's got to find minutes for Dunleavy, Hinrich and Snell, and even Teague is someone who's too talented to rot on the bench. Perhaps he can be flipped for size, since the only backup center on the roster is the ancient Mohammad, who's nearly as old as his namesake. Gibson has been groomed for years as someone ready for a starring role once Boozer is traded or amnestied, but it might be time to accept that he's as good as he's gonna get. One thing that's readily apparent is that it would be criminal for Thibodeau, who's infamous for playing his starters to death, to do that again this season with a cast of reserves of this quality at his disposal.
Coaching (8.5): Thibs may be the envy of his coaching peers because of all the talent (and coachable talent at that) he's got on his roster, but he'll have his work cut out for him not only for monitoring Rose's condition and minutes all season long, but reshaping his offense to one that fits his young superstar's strengths. Last season's crew had to work for every shot they got, with Noah handling a lot of the passing burden, but now they'll be returning to Rose's drive-and-kick game. It's going to look uglier, but not necessarily less efficient, once he gets his legs underneath him. His biggest challenge will be to convince the hard-headed Rose to not worry about doing everything on every possession and to trust his teammates.
Watchability (8): I'm a sucker for good defense, and the Bulls have a bunch of likable guys in Noah, Butler, Dunleavy and Hinrich. And yeah, I guess I missed watching Rose. Most importantly, you know with the Bulls you're always going to get a good effort every night, which you can't say about most teams.
Best-Case Scenario: Rose returns to peak form quickly and meshes with his teammates, their overall athleticism and defensive intensity is too much for the Heat and they topple the Thunder or Clippers in the Finals.
Worst-Case Scenario: Rose looks like Robert Griffin for the first 40 games, he and Noah butt heads, Thibodeau continues to overplay Noah and Deng, half the team wants to be traded and this disjointed outfit goes down meekly to a Knicks squad where the players know their roles and like one another.
Realistic Scenario: The Bulls find themselves after a rough first 20-25 games, dominate the league the rest of the way and run into the battle-hardened Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals, where they get upset and lose in six games.
More from Pounding The Rock:
- Stampler's NBA Predictions Part 3: The Celtics and 76ers
- 30 preseason predictions: Cleveland Cavaliers
- Stampler's NBA Predictions Part 2: The Knicks and Raptors
- 30 preseason predictions: Oklahoma City Thunder
- Spurs holding fan spirit contest for opening night tickets