It wasn't much of a year for the Chicago Bulls last year. They didn't play great, their new coach didn't exactly shine, and they didn't seem to care about their fate. It would have been sad if you were a fan, and it was just annoying if you only care about good basketball. We're not the only ones that noticed, either, because the team dramatically overhauled the roster this offseason. It's a totally different squad that hits the court this fall. But is it any better? And is this version going to play with any more passion than the listless bunch from last year?
2016 Chicago Bulls Betting Storylines
Through all the changes the team has made one thing perfectly clear - this is Jimmy Butler's team now. He's a two time all-star, and he's still only 26, so he is up to the task. A couple of questions have to be asked, though. First, if you were looking to build yourself a champion would you build around Butler? I like the guy a lot, and from the team they had last year there was no choice but to make him the focus, but I'm not convinced that he harnesses enough star power to fill this role. More significantly, by bring in guys like Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo (much more on those two later) you have to wonder if they are setting him up for success. These are not a big three - not at this point in the careers of the three players - but the other two make it harder for Butler to emerge as the true alpha dog here. Add it all up and while I'd much rather have Butler than a lot of players in the league, I'm not sure he is a foundation for real success right now.
I was excited when Fred Hoiberg was hired in Chicago. He had played in the league. He had done a very good job at Iowa State. I thought he was going to have a strong run - not quite like Brad Stevens in Boston, perhaps, but not that far off. I no longer think that. For whatever reason, Hoiberg really struggled to get buy-in from the team last year. The first year of a new coaching regime is always going to have growing pains, but there was more than that going on last year. The team didn't look prepared far too often, they played every game like they were at their own funerals, and they didn't seem to make progress. The changes were many since then, but you still have a very tough coaching situation here - three guys who prefer to have the ball in their hands, and only one ball. I'm not saying it's a lost cause, but who was the last coach who rebounded from a disastrous first year to lead a team to real success?
2016 Chicago Bulls Additions and Departures
The team said a lot of goodbyes since last year. With all due respect to Mike Dunleavy, only three really matter. Pau Gasol left for San Antonio in free agency, Joakim Noah headed to his hometown team and signed with the Knicks, and Derrick Rose joined Noah in a trade. Of the three, only Gasol would have been a big improvement if he had stuck around. Noah's time was over in Chicago, and he certainly wasn't helping in the locker room. Robin Lopez returned in the Rose trade and offers much of what Noah did and with fewer headaches. As for Rose, they correctly calculated that he isn't going to be MVP Rose anymore and moved on - while extracting decent value from the Knicks. There was no better way to start over than by getting rid of Noah and Rose, so these moves served their purpose.
Of course, they needed new players. This is where it gets more complicated. Dwyane Wade was attracted back home after his spat with the Heat. Wade is an all-time legend, and he's still a useful player when healthy. You can't help but question his hunger at this point, though. Pat Riley is a smart guy, and if he didn't want to pay Wade then there was a good reason. Will he be near his best, or will this be a victory lap? And then there is Rajon Rondo, the replacement for Rose. With no qualifications at all I can say I hate this move. Rondo has not made a single team he was on better. He's too selfish for the position and too inefficient. I get nervous any time three stars need to co-exist. When one is Wade, the returning son, and the other is Rondo, though - and they have a coach who is on shaky ground - I just don't like the chances at all. All are ball-dependent guys, and the two new guys probably aren't that interested in compromise right now.
2016 Chicago Bulls Futures Odds and Trends
The Bulls were an awful team to watch last year and no better to bet on - they were just 36-46 ATS. There was money to be made betting against them, but no money on the total - the "under" had a slight 41-39 edge compared to the over.
Chicago Bulls Futures Odds (from Bovada)
NBA title odds : +4000
Eastern Conference title odds : +2500
Jimmy Butler MVP Odds : +10000
Dwyane Wade MVP Odds: +10000
Denzel Valentine ROY Odds : +1800 (sixth best)
Season win total (from Westgate): 38.5
2016 Chicago Bulls Predictions and Futures Odds Picks
Needless to say, I am not an optimist when it comes to the Bulls. Their division includes the best team in the conference and three teams on the rise. It is more likely than not that the team finishes last in the group - and that Hoiberg finds himself looking for a new job.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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