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Despite having Derrick Rose out again this past season, Tom Thibodeau was able to get the Chicago Bulls a respectable 48-34 record coming out the east. Though they lost 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs to the Washington Wizards, much of that had to do with the absence of Rose and the Bulls not having players to look for on offense.
This off-season, the Bulls have addressed their offensive woes with the free agent signing of Pau Gasol, and newly acquired draft picks Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic. Pau is a major upgrade from Carlos Boozer, who offers a more versatile skill-set that the Bulls can utilize in tandem with their starting center and reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Joakim Noah. According to Josh Planos per the Washington Post:
For starters, Gasol is an incredible facilitator, and rarely garners credit for being so. Pairing Gasol with all-star center Joakim Noah couples the No. 1 and No. 3 power forward/center players in the league last season in the same front court. It’ll be the best passing tandem in recent memory. Boozer averaged 2.9 assists per 100 possessions a season ago; Gasol averaged 5.2 and hasn’t dipped below 3.9. Gasol’s career assist percentage average is 16.4; Boozer’s is three percentage points lower. In 2013-14, the Lake Show scored 101.3 points per 100 possessions when Gasol was on the court; the Bulls scored 97.7 points when Boozer played, and were 4.8 points better when he was on the bench.
The article offers a more in depth analysis but basically Gasol is a major
upgrade from Boozer and the Bulls will look to benefit from the big man. In addition, throughout Summer League the performances of sophomore forward Tony Snell and Doug McDermott (better known as Dougie McBuckets) look ready to produce offensively in Chicago’s rotation. With D-Rose playing at an MVP level for USA Basketball, per Sam Richmond, Fan Sided, with the Bulls core and added depth in every position look like the favorites out the Eastern Conference.
Though the Cavs have welcomed back LeBron James who will play alongside All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love (via the Andrew Wiggins trade later this month), the Cavs have a few hurdles to overcome before being the probable favorites. The Cleveland Cavaliers have not addressed defense during this off-season and though look vastly improved may have a few obstacles to overcome. They will have to gain familiarity among players and get adjusted to new head coach David Blatt. It will be difficult to tell how Kyrie Irving will defer to LeBron as the primary ball-handler and how the Cavs will be able to adjust to their new roles and lack of interior defense. LeBron certainly cannot expect the Cavs to play the same level of elite defense as he once did in Miami but, it will definitely be interesting to watch them compete night to night especially with the Chicago Bulls, their Central Division rivals.