As we wrap up our mostly pessimistic preview series here at The BULLetin Board I thought we would end it on a high-note to give the loyal fans out there reason to look forward to opening night tonight.
This offseason has been anything but boring. We had: our hometown hero traded away (Rose), the soul of the team depart in free agency (Noah), a new hometown hero return to his roots (Wade), and a new #1 to replace the freshly departed #1 (Rondo).
What this all means is that no one is sure exactly what to expect from this team. But I’m thinking positively here and see this Bulls team actually having a pretty solid year. At the very least, a better year than my counterpart Drew expects from this squad. In fact, I would go as far as to say that not only will the Bulls make the playoffs, but I see them beating their Vegas over/under odds of 38.5 by at least five games.
Now as my friend Drew so astutely pointed out, there are plenty of reasons to not love the Bulls. Mainly, their inability to shoot. However, here’s why I see the Bulls being a playoff squad in the 2016-2017 NBA season.
The Wade Effect
The man from Robbins, IL is retuning to his hometown team. I’m sure people would’ve been much more ecstatic about this move back in 2010 when his arrival could’ve spurred a dynasty in Chicago, but I digress. As is, Wade is a nice addition in this offseason that will certainly be helpful to this team in the short-term.
While Wade is entering his age 35 season, he is a known commodity around the league. In his age 34 season last year he was at a 20.3 Player Efficiency Rating (PER), not bad considering Jimmy Butler in his prime last year was only slightly better at 21.3. He is also one of the best leaders in the game going back to his time in Miami. There were points of last season where this Bulls team seemed to quit. You can be sure that won’t be the case under the leadership of Wade.
Another aspect of Wade’s game that the Bulls were drastically lacking in last year was his ability to get to the basket. Wade has always been a premier driver in the Association and has been able to get to the line throughout his storied career. The Bulls, to give you an idea, were 26th out of 30 teams in free throws attempted last year.
I remember it like it was yesterday, “The East is back!” Experts from around the league exclaimed. Last year was supposed to be the year that the East started to even things back out with the West.
Well, fast forward one year and we haven’t exactly seen that materialize to this point. Obviously the Cavs are a powerhouse and the overwhelming favorite to make a third straight finals. Boston and Toronto are a solid second tier for the conference. But after that, there’s a whole lot of question marks.
Who knows what the Knicks will be after assembling the most injury riddled team of all time. More injury concerns are heaped on teams like the Wizards, Bucks, and Pistons. I’m not saying it’ll be a walk in the park to the playoffs as the Bulls have injury questions themselves, but there are only about three teams I would rank as head and shoulders above the Bulls to start the season.
Underrated Supporting Cast
After Wade, Butler, and Rondo, there’s not a whole lot of name recognition on this Bulls roster. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t serviceable role players. Robin Lopez in particular, who is a very underrated defender and rebounder, will compliment a solid starting five for the Bulls.
Taj Gibson and Michael Carter-Williams will be solid off the bench and then there’s the flyers the Bulls took on some guys who could turn out to have some value. Paul Zipser showed some spark in the preseason games, Isaiah Canaan has a sweet stroke from the outside, even Cristiano Felicio had a few games last year where he showed potential.
Bottom line, this team isn’t as shallow as some may think.
Now I’m not saying with any of this that the Bulls will be world beaters this year, they most certainly will not. But this team has talent and leadership. When you consider that this team won 42 games last year even after dealing with all of their injuries, I just don’t see how Wade, Butler and Co. will decline from that. However, I do agree with Drew that I have no idea what GarPax’s plan is. Because while they may compete for a playoff spot this year, you want to be tanking or contending in today’s NBA, and the Bulls are neither. Either way, should be an entertaining year and I’m excited to share it with all of you!