How close are the Bulls to catching the Heat?

How close are the Bulls to catching the Heat?
July 30, 2013, 4:00 pm
Share This Post
Mark Strotman

While it won't match the 2014 period, this summer's offseason saw plenty of major moves take place via free agency, trades and the draft. And with it came the belief that a number of teams are closing in on the two-time defending champion Miami Heat, who, outside of using their Amnesty clause on swingman Mike Miller, had a quiet offseason due to strict salary cap and luxury tax restrictions.

Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin put out his post-free agency power rankings yesterday, with the theme in mind that certain teams may be closing in on the Heat. Doc Rivers and sharpshooters to Los Angeles, Dwight teaming up with James Harden in Houston and Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett moving to Brooklyn to finish their careers with the star-studded Nets led the way, but the Bulls returning a former league MVP who has been able to rest an injured knee for 18 months by the time the season begins.

[RELATED: Rose's confidence is nothing new]

Helin notes Derrick Rose's return certainly will help their cause, and also notes that "the Bulls will defend." But he also calls into question whether Tom Thibodeau can decrease the minutes Luol Deng and Joakim Noah play in the regular season to have the pair healthy for the playoffs.

Last year Deng led the NBA in minutes per game (38.7) while Noah cracked the top 20 (36.8), fourth among centers. Deng missed seven regular-season games and played just five games against the Nets before missing the rest of the playoffs after complications from a spinal tap. Noah played just 66 regular-season contests before playing through minor injuries during the playoffs.

Nazr Mohammed returns and the Bulls' first-round draft pick, swingman Tony Snell, could alleviate some of the minutes Deng plays in the regular season. Snell averaged 11.8 points per game on just 36.7 percent shooting in five Summer League games in Las Vegas, but he did connect on 35 percent of his shots from beyond the arc, including a 5-for-8 performance from deep in the Bulls' final game. If he's able to play minutes right away -- admittedly a rarity in Thibodeau's system -- that may answer Helin's question as to whether or not the Bulls can potentially face the Heat with a complete roster.