It's a new era in Chicago. After yet another shorter-than-expected playoff run, Tom Thibodeau was sent packing despite a 255-139 record in five seasons on the United Center sidelines. A 23-28 playoff record combined with a fractured relationship with the front office will do that.
In charge now: former Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, who inherits a roster loaded with as much talent as there are question marks. While Jimmy Butler is a star and Nikola Mirotic very well could be one, health is always a concern with this team.
Derrick Rose's broken orbital bone should be healed enough to allow him to start the season, but his historically shaky knees always seem to be one leap away from giving way. Another cornerstone of the Thibodeau era - Joakim Noah - looked like a shell of himself last season.
1) The biggest off-season move for the Bulls was bringing in Fred Hoiberg as Tom Thibodeau's replacement - what can we expect to see from the team under Hoiberg that's different from how they looked under Thibs?
The team is definitely going to look a lot different offensively, and probably for the better. Too often under Thibodeau the offense bogged down and got stagnant. Hoiberg emphasizes a more uptempo approach with early offense and more three-pointers. We've already seen some of that play out in the preseason, and this is without Derrick Rose even taking the floor yet.
The concern, though, is that with this shiny new offense, there will be a drop-off on the defensive end. We already saw a dip in defensive efficiency with Thibodeau last season, and the defense has been a disaster in the preseason. Hoiberg isn't known as a defensive coach, and while he has a strong assistant in Jim Boylen to help on that side of the ball, it remains to be seen if the Bulls can get back to being a top defensive team.
2) Along with Thibodeau, assistant coach Andy Greer was let go by the Bulls this summer and is now in Toronto as Dwane Casey's new defensive coordinator. What can Raptors fans expect from a Greer-influenced defense?
I'm honestly not all that familiar with Greer's overall body of work, but considering he comes from the JVG/Thibs coaching tree, one can assume he'll be bringing those defensive principles to a Raptors team that desperately needs a defensive overhaul. If Greer is indeed bringing Thibs principles, that'll mean ICE-ing pick-and-rolls, a scheme designed to take away three-point looks and force more long twos.Coach Nick did a good explainer of this for SB Nation a few years ago.
3) Derrick Rose's health is a constant question, but with the emergence of guys like Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic last season, is a completely healthy Rose still necessary for the Bulls to remain one of the East's upper echelon teams?
While the Bulls do have more supplementary offensive talent to go along with Rose in the form of Butler, Mirotic, Pau Gasol and hopefully Doug McDermott, they still need the 2011 MVP to be close to the top of his game if they want to make a run to a championship. They can get away with him missing games in the regular season thanks to those other pieces, but they have little to no chance of beating the Cavaliers (and possibly even some other teams) in the playoffs if Rose isn't on the court or if he's not playing well.
There have been rumblings about a potential "rift" between Rose and Butler, but the fact of the matter is those two need to figure out a way to coexist effectively for the Bulls to reach their peak. If they can figure that out and not "fight" over who's the alpha dog, they'll be one of the best backcourts in the NBA and make Chicago even more dangerous, especially if Mirotic takes a big step and McDermott becomes a competent player after a woeful rookie campaign.
4) Last year, Joakim Noah's play took a significant downturn from his almost MVP-caliber season in 2013-14. Should we expect a resurgence from him this season? And can the Bulls stay in the race for the #2 seed if his decline continues?
Noah was a mess for much of last season, and it got to the point where it was painful to watch him in the postseason because teams just wouldn't guard him. He's never been an elite offensive player or anything (his passing IS elite), but when he was at the top of his game in 2013-14, he was at least a threat. He wasn't afraid to knock down jumpers and he could finish much better around the rim, two aspects of his game which disappeared at the end of last year. His D also wasn't at the level it was when he won DPOY in 2013-14, thanks in part to his health problems and awkward pairing with Gasol.
Noah has said he's feeling much better to start this season, and he's been pretty active on the boards. However, he's still really struggling to finish his shots, and his presence hasn't really done much for the defense. While that's not all his fault, he must improve. He's a notoriously slow starter, so there's reason to think he'll be just fine, but it's fair to worry as well given what we saw last season. And if Noah can't be a difference maker on at least the defensive end of the floor, the Bulls are in trouble and likely wouldn't be able to get that No. 2 seed unless the team's offense is just out of this world.
5) Where do you think the Bulls wind up in the Eastern Conference this season? They probably boast the most talented roster of the East's second tier behind the Cavs, but will it all come together in the form of a second or third seed?
I think the Bulls will wind up in the upper half of the East once again, as they simply are too talented not to. But as mentioned, there are concerns. The injuries have already started and the defense needs a lot of work. I think they'll win somewhere around 45-50 games and once again fall short in the postseason, likely to LeBron and the Cavaliers.