Now that the Chicago Bulls have been eliminated from the Eastern Conference Semifinals in five games by the defending champion Miami Heat, one of the strangest, most unpredictable seasons in NBA history has come to a close. Nearly ever game in their season became impossible to predict, as the Bulls won games they had no right to, laid numerous eggs, and somehow made their way to the second round of the playoffs despite half their roster being out with injuries.
The main drama of the Bulls’ season revolved around star point guard Derrick Rose, who tore his ACL in the first game of last year’s postseason. Shoe company Adidas hyped “The Return,” while fans and analysts speculated as to when Rose would come back. In the end, he never suited up for the Bulls this season, electing to play it safe and ride the bench. He lost some fans by sitting out, but did what he felt was best for his long term health.
With Rose out all season, the Bulls put together 45 wins, escaped the first round of the playoffs, and stole a game against the Heat on their home court. They were missing starters Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich in the second round, as well, and had less than $20 million in payroll on the court against a team that had nearly $60 million in payroll in their starters. In fact, the 45-win Bulls pushed the Heat as far as the 62-win Bulls from two seasons ago, losing in five games.
The Bulls roster did find some diamonds in the rough, though, with Carlos Boozer playing consistently well throughout the season. He has been denigrated for not scoring or rebounding enough, and for his poor defense, but played well in Rose’s absence. The development of Jimmy Butler into a two-way shooting guard who plays some of the best defense in the NBA was also a positive development.
Moving forward, the Bulls have a number of areas to address for next season. NBA teams need three-point shooters to stretch the floor these days, and the Bulls had none. One of the main reasons the Bulls are not able to play with the best teams in the league is their inability to generate offense at certain points. Even with Rose, the offense would routinely stagnate in the fourth quarter, as the Bulls turned blowout wins into narrow victories. More offensive weapons would help in this regard.
If Rose comes back healthy, and the rest of the Bulls can remain on the court, they may be the best shot to knock off the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference. However, in this context, “best chance” still does not mean they would be true title contenders. Adding more offensive options to bolster the team’s already-strong defense could help them regain the form they had two seasons ago, but they may still fall short in attempting to win over the Heat in a playoff series.