Rivalry Check is an ongoing series in which we preview 10 of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
Amit BadlaniNew Faces: Does Derrick Rose count as a new face? The Bulls had a quiet off-season, so for the purposes of this post, I’ll consider him as one. Rose missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in the Bulls’ first game of the 2012 playoffs against the 76ers. All reports indicate that he’s at 100% and that he improved upon his jump-shooting abilities while he was injured, which is a scary combination with a talent like Rose. For now, let us wait and see how he moves in the preseason games before we make any judgements on what we can expect from him.
As for the Bulls’ other actual roster transactions, they made one the first moves of the off-season by signing Mike Dunleavy to a 2-year, $6.5 million deal. The 6’9″ forward shot a career high 42.8% from beyond the arch for the Bucks last season. Former Knick Nazr Mohammed re-upped for 1-year, $1.4 million to back up Joakim Noah.
In the draft, the Bulls took New Mexico SF Tony Snell with the 20th pick and Florida PF Erik Murphy with the 49th pick.
Departures: Chicago lost a few players who were expected to be role players last season, but were thrown into the starting lineup and showed what they could do. Former Knick Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli both performed well in the playoffs, and earned contracts with the Nuggets and Spurs, respectively. Rip Hamilton, Daequan Cook, Malcolm Thomas, and Vladmir Radmanovic also became free agents, and all have yet to find a team for the upcoming season.
Season Outlook: Tom Thibodeau proved last season that even without Derrick Rose, the Bulls will have stifling defense and a chance to win every night. Notably, JImmy Butler, Joakim Noah, and Carlos Boozer (after the game that the Bulls ended the Heat’s long win streak) made strides with their game. Now, with Rose back out there next season, the squad has a chance to exponentially improve upon their 45-37 record. He’s the difference between them settling for the 5th or 6th seed or possibly fighting for one of the top three spots in the eastern conference.
Biggest Challenge for the Knicks: The Bulls match up extremely well against the Knicks. An athletic Derrick Rose can go nuts against Raymond Felton, but again, let’s wait to see what Rose looks like during the preseason before making any judgements. JR Smith averaged 20.5 points in games against the Bulls last season, but the continuing development of Jimmy Butler should prove a challenge for him on both ends. Luol Deng matches up well defensively against Carmelo Anthony. Carlos Boozer proved he still has some hop in his step last season, and at this point, I have to trust him more than Andrea Bargnani. And Joakim Noah and Tyson Chandler are about even defensively, but it’s hard to argue against what Noah did on the offensive side last season, averaging career highs in points and assists. A bench centered around Kirk Hinrich, Taj Gibson, and Mike Dunleavy isn’t as great as the Knicks, but solid enough to even out any huge runs.
The Knicks were 0-4 against the Bulls last season, thanks to Chicago’s gritty defense that (at the least) should maintain the same intensity. The most notable game last season was just before last Christmas. Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, and Mike Woodson were all ejected after getting frustrated by the Chicago defense. That same Chicago defense should improve with the addition of Rose. New York plays Chicago four times this season, including the 2nd game of the season at the United Center. I see the Knicks going 1-3 against the Bulls. I would say 0-4 again, but it’s hard to see the Knicks going winless against any team for two consecutive seasons. The Knicks can get very hot from behind the arch, and they have two dynamic scorers in Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith, so that should come into play in at least one of the season match ups.