Kevin Gaffney predicts the Bulls’ 2012 season

Yesterday, millions of basketball fans around the country tuned in to watch the NBA opener between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Washington Wizards.  Today, the Chicago Bulls begin their season against the Sacramento Kings, trying to improve on their first round playoff exit from last year but doing it with a far different roster.

The core of the team remains the same- All Stars Derrick Rose and Luol Deng remain the team’s focal points, while big men like Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah return as the sturdy sidekicks.  However, the only member of the “Bench Mob” to return is forward Taj Gibson.  The others, most notably Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, CJ Watson and Omer Asik, are gone, jettisoned to other teams and replaced with cheaper alternatives like Vladimir Radmonovic, Nazr Mohammed, rookie Jeff Teague, and veteran Kirk Hinrich.  Also, with Rose being sidelined for a good portion of the season due to ACL surgery, this year’s Bulls team will function differently from the dominating teams of the past two years.  One expert, Dave del Grande of Yahoo, doesn’t think the roster turnover matters, as he has the Bulls reaching the NBA Finals.    However Marc Stein of ESPN doesn’t even have them in his top 10.  So what WILL their season be like?

After watching the team self-destruct in the playoffs against the 76ers last year, it was obvious how much this team NEEDS Rose.  With his not being at full strength, it’s hard to see the team being very successful, especially with so many new players.  I see the Bulls as a 5 seed, playing against the 76ers in the first round (again).  Revenge will allow them to prevail, but their 2nd round opponent, the Miami Heat, will have too much firepower, and I see the Bulls’ season ending here, in the conference semi-finals.