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Chicago Bulls Closing In On 2009-2010 Season

Last we saw of this young team, they were watching the Celtics move on to the next round of the playoffs. Even without Loul Deng and an injured Salmons, if one or two things had gone differently, the Bulls could have easily been the team advancing to the second round of last year's playoffs. However, while the defeat was disappointing, the team felt that the team would take a step forward coming into this season, a sentiment that hasn't been felt in a couple of years.

However, the team had to deal with off-season distractions with the departure of Gordon to Central Division rival Pistons along with allegations of Derrick Rose not taking his SAT prior to attending the University of Memphis. Along with that, the Bulls did not make any significant moves in the off-season with the exceptions of their two draft picks while both Cleveland and Orlando made moves to improve their respective rosters. So the question is, what will the Bulls look like coming into the season and what needs to happen in order for the team to take that next step?

Rose Must Step Up:
First, Derrick Rose will need to assert himself more this season than he did last year. If you look back at several games in the Celtics series, he is ready to be a star for this team. His 36 points and 11 assists were a huge reason the Bulls were able to steal the opening game from the Celtics. I admire his wanting to defer to the veterans on the team but he will have to be a bit more assertive as the ball will placed in his hands a lot. He has to be willing to take the big shot when the opportunity presents itself or find the open teammate when his driving lane has been cut off. If Rose, is more aggressive, the team will be better for this reason alone.

Frontcourt Improvement:
Tyrus Thomas is a very gifted, athletic player who doesn't always play up to his potential. This guy can get to the rim anytime he wants but often chooses to take jump shots instead. I feel that improved shot selection will have to be a factor if he's going to become the player this team had hoped to see. With regards to Noah, not too much praise was being given to him entering the playoffs last year. However, he showed that he is a capable scorer and aggressive rebounder as he averaged a double-double (10 points, 13 rebounds), against the Celtics in the post season. If he can develop a low-post game along with a jump shot from 5-10 feet away from the rim, that will definitely add a dimension to his game.

Deng Has To Regain Form:
A couple of seasons ago, Luol Deng was scoring average was a shade above 18 points per game and as he continues to progress from the injury last season, look for him to return that form. He is one of the few players on the Bulls who can create his own shot whether its from the outside or driving the ball to the rim. He says he feels great right now and if that continues to be the case when the season begins, it will be a major plus to say the least.

Backcourt Rotation:
John Salmons (who was also injured last season), filled in for Deng at the small forward position and averaged about 20 points per contest. With Deng returning, he will now move over to the two-guard spot alongside Derrick Rose. I think Rose and Salmons will make a formidable backcourt tandem and will provide better defense and more size than Gordon did a season ago. Let's not forget about Heinrich who will be coming off the bench. Heinrich is a capable scorer/shooter and a gritty defender who can spell either position when they need it.

While the Bulls are still a few pieces away from being considered a championship caliber team, they will more than likely finish the season higher than the 7th spot from a season ago. If the team makes the expected strides, it's very possible this team could steal the 4th seed and have home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs come next year. That is probably jumping the gun a little but you never know. As with the Bears, this team also comes into the season with a lot of expectations on its shoulders. Let's see if they are capable of living up to them.

James Tillman


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