The Chicago Bulls had an incredible (and surprising) run last year given their star Derrick Rose didn’t see a single minute on the floor. They made it to the second round of the playoffs where they even stole Game 1 in Miami, before dropping four straight to the eventual World Champions. Another surprise in Chicago last year, especially in the postseason, was the improved play of swingman Jimmy Butler, who had quite the impact in the playoffs.
Rose is back this year, giving Chicago their shining star back and the coveted hope of beating the Heat. Another noteworthy addition to the team this year is three-point threat Mike Dunleavy, who was acquired from Milwaukee after the Bulls waived Richard Hamilton this offseason. Dunleavy had three solid performances in the playoffs with the Heat, which is more than one can say about Rip Hamilton’s postseason play. Resigning Nazr Mohammed will bring back a strong presence on the court and in the paint, where the Bulls already have two All-Stars playing and an explosive Taj Gibson who averaged 8 and 5 in 22 minutes off the bench last season.
How will the Cleveland Cavaliers’ new additions fair against Chicago’s?
Without stating the obvious, the Derrick Rose/ Kyrie Irving matchup will be the most entertaining point guard battle in the league. Both stars have the ability to take over, but in different ways. Where Derrick Rose uses pure explosiveness and sheer will to attack the bucket, Kyrie uses angles and hesitations to do his damage.
Both sides will have to rely on team defense to stop either guard in any way, and it should be interesting to see what strategy Tom Thibodeau and Mike Brown will implement. The rest of the backcourt players will be the real deciding factor in this series. While the Chicago Bulls backcourt is loaded with three-point shooters in Marco Belinelli, Kirk Hinrich, and Daequan Cook, Cleveland’s backcourt duo of Dion Waiters and Jarrett Jack are more adept to attacking the rim off the dribble. C.J. Miles provides a three-point threat, but has been inconsistent in the past. Carrick Felix is a new face, and did boost his three-point shooting in his last year at college, so we will have to see if that carries over to the NBA. Felix will also be quite the defensive presence with his athletic ability, especially against the smaller Chicago guards.
On the wing, the Bulls return Luol Deng, their leading scorer last year, along with Butler. The Cavaliers have three new guys on their wing: 19-year old three-point threat Sergey Karasev, improved swingman Earl Clark, and Anthony Bennett (who is expected to play power forward as well). Where Karasev and Bennett are especially offensive threats, Clark and Alonzo Gee are known for their defensive efforts.
The frontcourt is obviously still a mystery for Cleveland, depending mostly on the health of Andrew Bynum. Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller are still unproven, but have been working hard on their respective games in the offseason. Anderson Varejao should return with full health, as well. I see a lot of similarities in the post players of these teams, but I don’t see Noah/Mohammed as a serious threat to Bynum/Varejao. Let’s also not forget 31-year old Carlos Boozer is coming off a 16 and 10 season, but the Cavaliers also might have more depth at the position with Bennett’s ability to play both forward positions.