Over the past few weeks, you have seen the 2013-14 preview as to how teams in the Eastern Conference have upgraded to try stop the Miami Heat's dominance over the past three seasons. The Heat have secured the East crown, went on to represent the conference on the way to winning two of the last three NBA Championships. One team was missing a key ingredient that may have catapulted them to the top spot in the East after last year. The Chicago Bulls have been a thorn in the backside of the Heat for the past three seasons and the comeback of former league MVP, Derrick Rose won't make things any easier in 2013-14 .
The Bulls ended up with a second place finish in the Central Division behind the Indiana Pacers. The Bulls ended both Miami's 27-game winning streak and the New York Knicks' 13-game winning streak last season.
Nate Robinson was the pulse of the Bulls as they upset the Brooklyn Nets in seven games in the first round of the playoffs. Robinson was not done creating his legend as he struck against the Heat to help the Bulls steal Game 1 at AmericanAirlines Arena. Like Rose, Robinson created a mismatch and had the ability to get streaky from the floor at any given moment. That gave the team more confidence heading into the series with Miami. It just was not enough to carry them to through as the Heat had to cool off this resilient bunch eliminating the Bulls by winning the next four games.
It was clear they were missing Derrick Rose down the stretch. Rose's career averages of 21 points and about 8 assists per game would have a been a big boost to a team that finished last in points scored and 25th in field goal percentage. Some critics were harsh on him after missing the entire season though he was seen shooting around with teammates and moving without a limp. Rose brings leadership, scoring, ability to drive to the basket along with a much improved jump shot. He is a difference maker on the court and can put the team on his back. The former MVP is determined to silence the critics and show that the fans and his teammates that he is "the best player in the NBA."
The Bulls have a solid core to compliment Rose with forwards Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer and the pulse of the team, center Joakim Noah leading the group. Having Rose back will force teams to double him at times or force him inside opening things around the perimeter. He can also make Boozer more effective by leaving him with more open jumpers that he likes to hoist. Jimmy Butler also played well enough to join the starting unit due to his defense and ability to knock down 3-pointers. The bench has nice pieces to round out the team with Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson as the first two players off the bench.
Chicago wasn't too active in free agency, letting Robinson, Richard Hamilton and Marco Belinelli go. The Bulls drafted a guard in Erik Murphy and then the team resigned veteran big man Nazr Mohammed. They added more depth to the bench by signing swingman Mike Dunleavy to a two-year, $6 million dollar deal. Dunleavy is a solid role player that should be a good catch and shoot option for Rose to find open often when driving to the basket. He is a veteran who is a smart basketball player and won't hurt your scheme by making mistakes.
This Bulls team has a better chance than the Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks, Nets and the Indiana Pacers to stop the Heat from winning their third consecutive championship. They clearly have no respect for the Heat and have a strong disliking toward the defending champions. Expect tough, defensive battles between the teams over the course of the season. The Bulls present a much harder task for the Heat because of the physical play and the team defense. The Heat counter with the Bulls having no player or two-players to stop LeBron James, it will be hard for the Bulls to keep up with the Heat in a seven game series but the return of Rose could bring an X-factor into this rivalry that could turn the tides.
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