The Chicago Bulls are again among the favourites to win the Eastern Conference after a frenetic NBA free agency period, just as they have been in the past three seasons. Lead by former league MVP Derrick Rose and head coach Tom Thibodeau, the Bulls are set up to contend for the NBA Championship this year after reaching just the first round of the playoffs last season. Here are the biggest questions the team needs to answer with their play in 2015.
Can Doug McDermott be more than just a shooter?
Chicago traded up to grab McDermott with the 11th pick of the 2014 NBA draft, and with their title aspirations the Bulls will be hoping that the former Creighton star can contribute right away. McDermott is one of the most decorated players in college basketball history but he must prove that unlike other prolific scorers, such as Jimmer Fredette and J.J. Redick, he can cope physically in the NBA and defend his position.
How much has Pau Gasol got left?
The Bulls' biggest move of the offseason was bringing in veteran big man Pau Gasol. Chicago will hope that the Spaniard's passing and post game can revitalise a sluggish offense and that Tom Thibodeau can mask his defensive deficiencies. The Bulls amnestied Carlos Boozer to free up the cap space to sign Gasol. Boozer was a solid but extremely overpaid piece, and if Gasol plays at the best of his ability he could be enough of an upgrade to push the Bulls to the title.
Can Nikola Mirotic transition to the NBA?
Mirotic is the big wildcard for the Bulls this season. The Spanish-Montenegrin was brought over from Real Madrid on a three-year deal this summer and could be a vital piece in Chicago. The former Spanish League MVP is a stretch power forward with three-point range and excellent hands. He has the potential to be a huge factor coming off the bench next season if he can adjust to the pace of the NBA.
Can Derrick Rose return to MVP-level performance?
This is the key to the Bulls' entire season. At his best, Rose is an MVP-calibre player and possibly the best point guard in the NBA. Chicago have to be the favourites to win the Eastern Conference if he is completely healthy, and the signs so far suggest that he has made a full recovery from the various injuries he has suffered over the past two years. Another major injury, however, and the Bulls will be condemned to playoff mediocrity for another season.