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Chicago Bulls 2015-16 Preview

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Tom Thibodeau is no longer on the sidelines in Chicago, but the Bulls will look to make another run at taking over the Eastern Conference in Fred Hoiberg's first year as an NBA head coach.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

2014-15 IN REVIEW
52-30
2nd in Central Division
3rd in Eastern Conference
Lost to CLE (4-2) in Eastern Conference Semifinals

SUMMER OF 2015

Key Additions - Fred Hoiberg, Bobby Portis, Jordan Crawford
Key Losses - Tom Thibodeau, Nazr Mohammed

After five years as Chicago's head coach, Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls parted ways as the organization felt it was time for a new voice on the sidelines. Thibodeau went 255-139 (.647) as head coach from 2010-2015, winning the NBA's Coach of the Year award in 2010-11.

Replacing Thibodeau is Fred Hoiberg, who played four years with the Bulls from 1999-2003. Hoiberg has never taken on a head coaching position at the NBA level but has spent the last five years leading Iowa State, going 115-56 (.673) from 2010-2015. In 2014, the Hoiberg and the Cyclones reached the Sweet 16.

As far as the roster is concerned, the Bulls pretty much brought the band back together and it certainly didn't come cheap to keep Jimmy Butler in town, as Chicago inked Butler to a maximum five-year, $95 million deal in July. Butler is coming off of the best year of his career, posting 20 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game while earning some hardware to show for it. Not only did Butler make the Eastern Conference All-Star roster for the first time in his career, he won the league's Most Improved Player of the Year award and was named to the NBA's All-Defensive 2nd Team for the second consecutive season.

There is no question that Butler has taken an enormous step forward as one of the best two-way players in the league.
In the draft, the Bulls may have come away with a steal at 22nd overall when Arkansas' Bobby Portis fell into their lap. At 6'11," Portis is a skilled big that can face up, play with his back to the basket and knock down a mid-range jumper while using his length to mix it up as an active presence on the glass. He may have a difficult time finding a key role right away, with guys like Pau Gasol, Nikoloz Mirotic and Doug McDermott in front of him, but Portis could turn into a nice piece and make a lot of general managers regret passing on him in the draft.

PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
C
- Joakim Noah / Cameron Bairstow
PF - Pau Gasol / Taj Gibson / Bobby Portis
SF - Mike Dunleavy Jr. / Nikoloz Mirotic / Doug McDermott
SG - Jimmy Butler / Kirk Hinrich / Tony Snell / Jordan Crawford
PG - Derrick Rose / Aaron Brooks / E'Twuan Moore

X-FACTOR - Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose has missed 146 games over the course of the last three years, and it's no secret that the 2010-11 NBA MVP is an integral part of what the Chicago Bulls are trying to accomplish. When Rose is healthy, he brings an entirely different dynamic to Chicago's offense, and his impact ultimately elevates the level at which the Bulls can perform.

Nothing has changed and this is the same story as we've come accustomed to discussing every year. The Bulls can make a run at winning the Eastern Conference, but that is not going to happen if Rose isn't healthy in the playoffs.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2015-16
Any time a team makes a coaching change, whether it ends up working out long-term or not, there is a new energy in the locker room. The Bulls have a roster full of high-level competitors, All-Star caliber ballplayers and a relentless collective mindset of wanting to make a deep postseason run.

Chicago has a chance to, once again, be one of the most dangerous teams in the Eastern Conference and if Derrick Rose is healthy, they will be a tough out for anyone. Best case scenario, this team can contend, but so much of that rides on health. Regardless, you can expect the Bulls to post one of the top records in the east and give anyone a run for their money in a best-of-seven series.

PROJECTED STANDINGS
2nd in Central Division
3rd in Eastern Conference

Chicago Bulls 2015-16 Preview - Blog a Bull - SBNation.com

Thank goodness the Bulls are in the Eastern Conference, and thus can legitimately fashion themselves as a contender. And outside of the Cavaliers, their ceiling may be the highest out of all other challengers. For that reason, the goal, as it has been since their run in Rose's MVP 2010-11 season, is to beat LeBron James and get to the NBA Finals.

As mentioned, there are a ton of question marks that could keep them from playing to their ultimate potential, but the hiring of a new coach does not mean this is any kind of rebuilding or re-tooling year. It's the same veteran-laden roster as last year. While that had a sense of finality when it came to Thibodeau, it's this upcoming year that could be the last for a lot of these Bulls. Noah and potentially Gasol could be free agents this summer, and Rose has said he's already thinking about his own free agency the summer after. That could be #DerrickSaysStuff to where he's confused as to what year it is. But it wouldn't be surprising if major changes are in store if the Bulls fail to capture the East crown this year, and that could include a change with their hometown hero point guard.