I have had a lot of people that ask me what I thought of the Bulls this season. I really don't have a good feel for the Bulls taking another step toward the NBA Finals. When you go into a season with more "what ifs" than sure things, it's a problem.
Look at the key members of this year's team:
It starts with Derrick Rose: Will his jump shot get better this season? I know that he has worked very hard in the offseason to become a better all-around player, and I look forward to his growth.
John Salmons: He achieved career highs in 3-point shooting and free-throw shooting. Can he do it again?
Luol Deng: Deng is coming back from a stress fracture and should be a factor as a third option offensively. I would love for him to be able to create his own space to make shots. He isn't that kind of player.
Tyrus Thomas: Thomas' focus can't be on being the go-to guy in this offense. Energy, rebounding and second-chance opportunities are important.
Joakim Noah: Ninety-four percent of his shots were in the paint last season. I want rebounding and second-chance shots converted all season long from him. Please?
Kirk Hinrich: I'm not going to get on him this season. With Kirk coming off the bench, he has to provide solid shooting from the perimeter.
Brad Miller: He provides a veteran presence in the middle for the Bulls.
What do you notice about the roster? There is one potential superstar on this team: the rookie of the year, Rose. I feel like I'm watching the early Michael Jordan years, when MJ had to play with established veterans on the team.
When or if the Bulls become serious contenders in the Eastern Conference, they'll have to rid themselves of half the roster.
Rose can make some of his teammates better. He has good court vision that will become better once he has a team that will be on the same page.
I've already seen the infamous "my-turn" offense by the Bulls against Boston and Miami. Which means on any given game, especially on the road, the Bulls will pass the ball once and the shooter will fire the ball from almost anywhere outside the framework of the offense.
Rose to Salmons 16-footer clank!
Rose to Thomas with his defender in his face clank!
Are the Bulls a viable contender?
No, they aren't.
But they will be in the playoffs this season. I'd like to see growth from this young squad.
The Bulls aren't Sacramento, New York or Memphis, but I would like head coach Vinny Del Negro and the Bulls to grow up and play smarter basketball in the 2009-10 season.
Jonathan Hood is a part-time host on ESPN Radio 1000. He makes appearances on The Show and Chicago's Baseball Tonight.