The Chicago Bulls are going to be in this year's NBA playoffs. I just don't believe that they will be a serious contender for the Eastern Conference crown. I always measure the Bulls or any other Chicago team with the upper echelon in that particular sport.
Compare the Bulls personnel with these teams:
Cleveland: At first blush, you would think the Cavs would be a better team. However, I don't think that will be the case this season. As great as LeBron James is and as much as I like Anthony Parker at shooting guard and Mo Williams at point guard, I think the acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal will work just as well as it did in Phoenix: Not good. Shaq, I believe, was brought in primarily for the playoffs. I don't see the Cavs getting to the mountaintop this season.
Boston: We watched an older Celtics team lumber up and down the court against the Bulls and eventually eliminate Chicago in the second round. I really like the pickup of Marquis Daniels (13.6 ppg) last year, as well as Rasheed Wallace. When he's focused, Wallace is one of the smartest and most effective players in the NBA. Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett are part of a team that is coached by Doc Rivers, who told the team before the season: "We are going to win the NBA championship. Period." The door may be closing for them to be a championship dynasty team, but they, for sure, are one of the favorites to win it all.
Washington: The Wizards have one of the best coaches in the East in Flip Saunders. I think the Wizards' firing their former coach Eddie Jordan was unjust, but Saunders does a great job in preparing his team. Gilbert Arenas is back, and he's not talking to the media. They have a solid nucleus with Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood, Mike Miller and Caron Butler. If everything goes well, the Wizards will go from 19 wins to 40-45 this year.
Toronto: I like the Raptors' mix. With Jose Calderon, who has a 4.24 assist-turnover ratio (the best in the NBA last year); Turkoglu (16 ppg); Chris Bosh, who looks as if he has bulked up just a bit in the offseason; and Andrea Bargnani (15 ppg), GM Bryan Colangelo has plenty of international flavor on the roster.
I just listed the seven teams along with the Bulls that will be in the Eastern Conference playoffs. When you look at the other teams in the East, and look at the other teams without Bulls-rose-colored glasses, you'll see the Bulls have a lot of work to do in terms of getting quality players around budding star Derrick Rose.
Detroit:Tayshaun Prince has started 437 straight games in his career, longest in the NBA. I like Rodney Stuckey, Rip Hamilton and Ben Gordon off the bench. I saw BG against Oklahoma City last week, and it was Ben being Ben. He was hitting off-balance jumpers trying to get the Pistons to come back from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter, and they fell short. The Pistons will fall short a lot this season.
Indiana:T.J. Ford is supposed to raise the tempo offensively for the Pacers. I don't think it's going to work. Danny Granger (25 ppg) is one of the best players nobody is talking enough about. I'm interested to see whether Tyler Hansbrough's college game transfers to the NBA.
Charlotte: They were close to being a playoff team until a 1-7 finish last year. Larry Brown, NBA vagabond and coach of the Bobcats, would love to leave, but he's old and tired and 195 years old in basketball years.
N.Y. Knicks: I want to see the development of Wilson Chandler (15 ppg) and David Lee (16 ppg). Lee had 65 double-doubles last season, the most in the NBA last year. Coach Mike D'Antoni told MSG Network that small forward Danilo Gallinari, the Knicks' sixth pick in the draft last year, "is the best shooter he's ever seen." The best shooter he's ever seen? After one season, D'Antoni has lost his mind.
Defense continues to be a rumor in Gotham.
Milwaukee: I've had four conversations with various people, and they keep asking whether the Bucks franchise is going to fold. Where is this coming from? The Bucks were a Michael Redd injury away from being in the playoffs last season.
And the Bucks this year? Milwaukee will be without Redd; he's out two weeks with soreness in his surgically repaired ACL.
New Jersey: When you watch N.J., watch Devin Harris, who averaged 21 points per game. I can't wait for the Nets to move to Brooklyn. Neither can their fans.
Jonathan Hood is a part-time host on ESPN Radio 1000. He makes appearances on The Show and Chicago's Baseball Tonight.