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NBA Team Previews: #3 Chicago Bulls

3) Chicago Bulls 45-37 in the 2012-2013 season. 5th in the East. 2nd in the Central.

It was another challenging year for the Bulls. Another whole year without Derrick Rose really cost Chicago. While Nate Robinson tried to fill in for Rose, it wasn't enough to get this team past the second round. Though this team did have a surprise, and his name was Jimmy Butler. Moving into the Shooting Guard role, he helped them on defense get past the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs in what proved to be a gutsy performance. Chicago is getting Rose back, and with a group of very talented players, this Bulls team will be extremely dangerous come playoff time. Watch out, Derrick Rose has returned!

Acquired: Mike Dunleavy, Mike James, 

Drafted: Tony Snell (#20), Erik Murphy (#49)

Lost: Marco Belinelli, Daequan Cook, Richard Hamilton, Nate Robinson, Vladimir Radmanovic

Depth Chart:

Starters: Derrick Rose (PG), Jimmy Butler (SG), Luol Deng (SF), Carlos Boozer (PF), Joakim Noah (C)

Bench: Taj Gibson (PF), Nazr Mohammed (C), Tony Snell (SF), Mike Dunleavy (SG), Marquis Teague (PG)

Team Stock:

Up: Jimmy Butler - Talk about another kid rising to the occasion. While the Bulls were nervous about the SG position last year, Butler finally showed what he could do and stole the hearts of Chicago fans while Rose was injured. His defensive effort and developing offensive game could be what the Bulls have been missing in previous years. Pairing him with D-Rose could make him even better. That's a scary thought.

Down: Luol Deng - This is mostly due to the contract issues he's having with the Bulls. There has been rumors he is unhappy with the lack of contract talks between him and Chicago, and with Deng being a free agent next summer, it's a pressing issue. Deng has been a Chicago Bull since 2004 and it would be weird seeing him in another uniform, so the lack of talks for a deal could worry Deng and the fans. Time will tell what Chicago's plan is with Luol.

X-Factor: Derrick Rose - Once again, HE'S BACK FOLKS! And he looks just as scary as before in preseason. He was the most electrifying Point Guard in the league until he went down in the 2011-2012 playoffs with a horrific ACL tear. Now his long anticipated return is here. How will he come out of the gate? Will he be the same old Rose? Will there be a restriction on minutes? It's the biggest topic this year in the NBA. The return of Rose is THE story to watch. One thing for sure, it's really great to have him back.

Question to Ponder...Is this the year Chicago makes a big trade?

Looking at this team's roster, they could be right there for the title hunt. However, you almost think they can do just a bit more. I mean heck, look at the talent that you could get for the right price. With rumors surrounding analysts around the league involving big names at the PF slot such as Pau Gasol, Kenneth Faried, Greg Monroe and even Zach Randolph, the Bulls have to consider. Yet if the Bulls are going to make a deal, they're going after the top prize....Kevin Love. He does seem to be a great fit for this team. A long range shooter, who can also post up inside and get rebounds. The idea of Rose, Love and Noah seems almost unfair. If the Bulls are going to make a trade, it's either going to be a big one, or none at all. So does it happen? We'll see...

Bold Prediction for the Chicago Bulls: Luol Deng gets traded...possibly for Kevin Love!

Of all my bold predictions, this ranks as one of my least favorite. I love Deng on the Bulls. They've been a fun pair, and watching him with D-Rose is a great fit. But with what the Bulls are paying Rose, Noah and what they might have to pay Butler, it seems the money isn't really there for Deng to get another deal in Chicago. So if you're the Bulls, do you try to get value for Deng now or let him go for free? You try to shop him. Sending a deal to the T-Wolves involving Deng, Boozer and a Draft Pick for Kevin Love and some other minor players seems like a manageable deal. Deng gets a fresh start and a chance at more money while the Bulls get Love, and a trio that can really combat the Big 3 in Miami. It could happen, and it would be a monster story to talk about this year. Watch out!

Projected Record: 58-24 2nd in the East, 1st in the Central.