USA TODAY Sports’ Adi Joseph and Sean Highkin will be counting down NBA teams based on watchability for the upcoming 2013-14 season. We’ll go one team a day, from least-watchable to most, giving you an idea of what to keep an eye out for this season. Today, we continue with the No. 7 Chicago Bulls:.
2012-13 record: 45-37, reached second round of Eastern Conference playoffs.
Adi Joseph’s 2013-14 record projection: 65-17, No. 1 seed in Eastern Conference.
Two best players: PG Derrick Rose (21.8 points, 7.9 rebounds a game in 2011-12), C Joakim Noah (11.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.1 blocks a game in 2012-13).
Overview: The Bulls went from the top of the Eastern Conference to the No. 5 seed last season, which might seem unimpressive until you realize they did it without their best player, 2010-11 NBA MVP Rose. He’s back for this season after 18 months of recovery from knee surgery. He rejoins a battle-tested bunch known for forcing opponents to play down to their gritty defensive level. Rose should provide the scoring so sorely lacked last season and immediately return the Bulls to the elite, title-contending level they were previously at. They may be the biggest threat to the two-time defending champion Miami Heat.
WHY YOU CAN’T MISS THEM.
Rose’s return: The 2011-12 Bulls went 33-7 with Rose in the lineup and 18-13 without him (including a 4-2 playoff series loss to the No. 8 seed Philadelphia 76ers). Calling the former No. 1 pick a special player is underselling it. He probably didn’t deserve his MVP, but Rose was perhaps the best athlete ever to play point guard. If nothing else, tune in to see if he still is.
The NBA’s most underrated frontcourt: Noah and small forward Luol Deng both made last season’s All-Star Game, but they still don’t get the respect they deserve. Noah can go toe-to-toe with any center in the NBA, but he doesn’t put up points, and Deng is one of the strongest wing defenders around. Factor in Carlos Boozer, whose legacy was tarnished by a couple bad playoff moments but is good for 15 and 9 every night, and unheralded backup Taj Gibson, and the Bulls have size and strength for days.
Tom Thibodeau, defensive genius: The Bulls coach was the architect for the 2007-08 champion Boston Celtics’ defense, and he has turned the Bulls into a similarly dominant unit on that side of the ball. How else can you explain a team winning 45 games without a 17-points-per-game scorer? Watching Thibodeau work is a clinic in coaching; his in-game adjustments and detailed strategies are amazing when executed properly and neutralize even elite opponents.
JUST TRY TO IGNORE …
The haters: Rose drew more ire for sitting out last season than any injured player in recent memory. But the truth is we don’t know what’s going on with players’ bodies. To suggest otherwise is to willingly deal in ignorance. Or, as Thibodeau said at Bulls media day, “The people that criticize him, they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.”.
FOLLOW THE TWEETS:.
@JoakimNoah: “Stick stickity.” The French-Swedish-Cameroonian-American big man is one of the NBA’s most interesting men, and he has a real flair for social media. He’s smart enough to know what he can and can’t say and cocksure enough to not care.
@KCJHoop: Along with being one of the best beat reporters in the NBA, the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson shows a real understanding for Twitter and what will work and what won’t. He’s a key follow for any NBA fan.
Nationally televised games (times p.M. Eastern):.
NBA watchability rankings:.