We are a week into the NBA season. By this time, we are overwhelmed with our wrong predictions and shocked by the unexpected developments. Don’t lie to yourself, you’re dumbfounded that you were wrong about your predictions, your NBA hypothesis’. One happening that you shouldn’t be mad at, or shocked about, is the Chicago Bulls. The 2016-2017 Chicago Bulls who have won their first three games by playing crisp and fluent basketball. Now, there are 82 games in an NBA regular season. Yes, I know there is a lot of basketball left to be played and no, I’m not claiming they will beat the Warriors regular season record. All this is, is to remind you that the Chicago Bulls are a basketball team that is not to be taken lightly this season.
The Chicago Bulls play in an Eastern Conference that is headlined by a dominant Cleveland Cavaliers team, followed by a promising Boston Celtics team and a somewhat perishing Toronto Raptors squad. The following acts for the Eastern Conference are up in the air so why not the Chicago Bulls? If you’re a Bulls fan, you should be excited. Veteran leadership and experience is brought to the team with additions like Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. The young star is already in place with Jimmy Butler coming off an outstanding Olympic performance. Any player who spends a summer basking in the knowledge and basketball IQ of Coach Krzyzweski improves their game automatically. The roster is filled with talents like Taj Gibson, Michael-Carter Wiliams, and Robin Lopez. Coming off the bench as well are Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott, whose games are incredibly effective in a way that people don’t even realize. The Bulls have the right pieces that qualify them as a playoff contender. I’m absolutely taking this Bulls team over a depleted Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks team who you could argue, don’t really know their left from their right. Did I mention Jimmy Butler? Butler, 27, is a 6’7 and 220 pound shooting guard and small forward combo. You could put him in the power forward position too and he’d do just fine (you could even argue that based off his wingspan he could easily be a wide receiver in the NFL). Like I said before, he’s coming off a gold medal summer in Rio, and ended last season with 21 points per game, 2 steals, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds. Watch for those numbers to go up, especially the points. With Rondo running the point, looking to dish and an aging Wade looking to not have all the responsibility, Jimmy Buckets will be, in fact, getting the buckets. Factor in a point guard with a “no bullshit” (Rondo) mentality and only one of the best shooting guards of all time (Wade). It’s shocking to me that no one was more hyped on the Bulls after the off season.
There are two unsettling factors when it comes to the Chicago Bulls this season. One is coaching. I don’t care who you are or what kind of player you are, everything comes down to coaching. The Chicago Bulls have Fred Hoiberg. Hoiberg, who played for the Bulls during his career, is starting his sophomore year as head coach for the Bulls. Last season, he and his team finished 42-40 (.512%) which isn’t terrible for a first year, given the players he had. This season Hoiberg should have a better record, and hopefully a playoff spot. You couldn’t ask for a better leader and locker room guy then Dwyane Wade – guy has enough experience to coach this team himself. This takes pressure off a Hoiberg and allows him to have an “inside-the-locker-room” voice, that being Wade. Don’t forget Rondo either. He’s pretty much a coach on the court, all you have to do is hand Rondo the playbook and he’ll execute it in a better way then you the coach ever thought of. The only thing that Hoiberg needs to work on coaching-wise would be the defense. Last season the Bulls allowed their opponents to score 103.1 points per game. You cannot have that and shouldn’t have that. The other, and very uncertain factor would be health. The NBA is a long, grueling season for any team. The face of this Bulls team is Jimmy Butler, with Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade as the sidekicks. In this league you need sidekicks to compete, and right now Jimmy’s sidekicks have a history of injuries. With Wade and Rondo on the back nine of their careers, it remains uncertain if they will be able to stay healthy. The team’s first big road trip is coming up in late November and their next one is mid-February (the dog days of the NBA season). The rest of their schedule is back-to-back home and aways with some three game home trips thrown in there. Basically for the Bulls to stay relevant and be productive they’ll obviously need Butler at his best (which he always is) but they absolutely need Wade and Rondo to make sure they are in the conversation come April. This Bulls team needs that toughness and grit that Wade and Rondo have, in order to battle with the likes of the Cavs and Celtics.
Bottom line is, the Bulls are a legit team with a shot. The disgruntled former all-star who is looking for rejuvenation in Rajon Rondo, the hometown kid coming back to Chi-town to pay homage to his city in Dwyane Wade, and the rising superstar who is searching for the respect in Jimmy Butler. The storylines are in place, now it’s a matter of execution. My prediction? A #5-seed with a 48-34 record and ousting the Atlanta Hawks in the first round. Don’t forget about Jimmy Buckets who finishes 5th in the MVP voting. The Bulls are for real and about to put Chicago basketball back on the map. Time to recognize.