Earlier this week, the Chicago Bulls held the ribbon cutting ceremony for their brand new practice facility, the Advocate Center, and on Tuesday September 30, they will begin training for the upcoming season there. The Bulls welcome a handful of new faces to the locker room this season and a seemingly healthy Derrick Rose is slated to return. Judging by his performance with the USA National Team during the FIBA World Cup this past summer, the Bulls are rightfully picked to finish among the top teams in the East. Here are a few things they’ll need to focus on this training camp to ensure that happens:
New Additions: Of the 14 players currently on the Bulls roster, 6 of them are first time Bulls. Those 6 guys will need to quickly get acclimated to Thibs’ defensive schemes and establish their roles on this team if the Bulls want to be successful. Pau Gasol, and rookie Doug McDermott will be needed most for their offensive ability. Both are reported to tentatively be in the starting lineup and will be a much-needed scoring boost for the Bulls, but both will need to work on their individual defense during this training camp. Nikola Mirotic is another player whose offense will come up big for the Bulls next season, but could also use work on the defensive side of the ball. However, some players have been able to get away with subpar 1-on-1 defensive skills in the past – i.e. Carlos Boozer and Ben Gordon – due to the Bulls team defense always being one of the best in the league. Aaron Brooks, E’twaun Moore, and rookie Cameron Bairstow likely won’t see a ton of minutes, but with the Bulls suffering from injuries to the guard and forward spots in past seasons, all 3 should enter camp as if they’re competing for a staring spot, should history happen to repeat itself.
Defense: This goes without saying; everybody knows Coach Thibs loves nothing more than drilling home the importance of defense and always being in the right position on that side of the ball. The Bulls have lead the league the past 2 years in fewest points allowed, so expect the Bulls to focus a lot on maintaining that statistic. Conditioning should also be an important component of this camp, with a lot of time being spent on the help-and-recover defense the Bulls have been perfecting since the 2010 season. That hard-nosed defense they’ve become accustomed to playing, has earned them the title of ‘best defense in the league’ two years in a row, and will be the fuel to a possible Finals run this upcoming season.
Shooting: The Bulls finished last in the league in both field goal percentage and points per game last season, averaging less than 94 points/game on 43% shooting from the field. With those stats, the Bulls should spend every spare minute they have this training camp doing shooting drills. They’ll need to make drastic improvements on the offensive end if they want to seriously be considered a title contender. Derrick Rose will fnally return from nagging injuries and appears to be 100% healthy, which should help a great deal with the Bulls scoring opportunities, however, he’ll need some knockdown shooters around the perimeter for when he attacks the basket and draws the inevitable double and triple teams.
Derrick Rose: The youngest MVP in NBA history returns to a Bulls’ roster that’s surely missed him the past 2 seasons. Though, the Bulls still managed to make the playoffs both seasons, they were made painfully aware that without Derrick Rose they didn’t have enough to make it out of the first round. Derrick is easily the most important piece to the success of this team. He was able to return to competitive play with the USA national team in the FIBA World Cup, and played in all 9 games with the USA team, including a back to back to back. He’s also been quoted saying he’ll head into Bulls training camp this year in “the best shape of his life.” While at camp, Derrick should spend most of his time working on his jump shooting. He shot just 35% from the field in the FIBA tournament and only hit one 3-pointer in the USA’s 9 games. He’s also shooting just under 18% on 2-point field goals at least 3 feet away from basket, and 31% from deep, over his 5-year career. Derrick appeared to get winded fairly quickly playing with the USA team and racked up quite a few turnovers in his reserve role with the team. His conditioning is something that will certainly improve as he plays more basketball and gets back into game shape, but the Bulls will need to emphasize the importance of ball security to Derrick Rose during this year’s camp.
The Bulls have their work cut out for them heading into training camp. More than anything, this team will need to work on their shooting a tremendous deal. Also, worth mentioning is the need for the continued improvement of Taj Gibson. Taj has made consistent strides as an offensive option and defensive stopper off the bench for the Bulls, but the 6-year forward could use improvements on his passing skills and mid-range shooting going forward. The Bulls will have a little under a week to work out their kinks before opening up their preseason schedule at home on October 6, against the Washington Wizards.