In a rematch of the Eastern Conference Semifinals from last spring the Cleveland Cavaliers come to town to open the 2015-2016 campaign under the national spotlight. Lebron James fell short of his third NBA title last year when he went down four games to two against the Golden State Warriors. This year the Cavs hope to return to the finals only this time with a full squad on hand to get them over the hump of the Western Conference foe. A foe that has thwarted James four times times in the Finals.
Last year the injuries came in every round starting with the opening round loss of Kevin Love in a four game sweep of the Boston Celtics. Later in the playoffs the Cavs would lose oft injured Kyrie Irving to another left knee problem. The Cavs are being so cautious and confident that they’re willing to keep Irving out until January so that he can be fully healthy for the playoff run. The former number one pick was supposed to be a dual threat with Lebron in terms of scoring while Love was thought to be a low post presence able to shoot from long range. If all three are healthy and hitting their stride in the late spring, there’s no reason to think the Cavs can’t win a championship for the city of Cleveland.
The Bulls on the other hand are a completely different story, but not one much different in terms of injuries. Many thought Pau Gasol’s injury in the Cleveland series turned the table for Chicago’s chances of moving on. The Bulls are extremely nervous about the health of Derrick Rose because it appears as though his knees could go at any time. A full 82-Game stint is the biggest question to whether or not the Bulls can contend with the Cavs in the Central Division. Jimmy Butler has a brand new contract, but the best player still hails from Englewood and if the Bulls are going to be contenders Rose has to return to the form of what is nearly four years ago. Rose’s injury plagued career is now turning into his biggest storyline, if Chicago does get a healthy productive Rose it changes everything about their season. The other big questions is can this team score on a nightly basis. They’ve drafted shooters in the past two first rounds and while they’re making small leaps, this year will be big for both Tony Snell and Doug McDermott to become regular rotation players of the bench while even pushing for starting minutes. First round picks are not supposed to be 10-15 minute a night guys.
The front court for the Bulls is still going to be a strong suit especially on the defensive end with perennial all-NBA Defensive first teamer Joakim Noah on the blocks. The Bulls have a good rotational front court and should never get beat on the boards by anyone in the NBA. In the series where they got crushed by Nene Hilario and Marcin Gortat a couple years ago in rebounding it was a real eye opener, and probably one of the biggest reasons they brought in Pau Gasol in Free Agency. The Bulls should consistently be out-rebounding teams on the offensive and defensive glass, and on nights when they don’t they are not going to win for the most part.
The new coach is going to try and push the pace offensively which should help Derrick Rose if he’s healthy. Hoiberg was brought in to help with the offensive prowess of the team and the Bulls should be a better offensive team while playing top notch defense like they have always. Defense has been their calling card for the past several seasons under Thibodeau, but with Hoiberg the idea is to be more balanced and uptempo. The Bulls will most certainly make the playoffs and if they don’t make it out of the first round with a competitive second round showing then the season will be an underachievement. Anything after that will be a win especially if they can get themselves into a conference finals series with Cleveland, their opponent to open the basketball season in Chicago.