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The Bulls went from 49 wins in 2007 to a mediocre 33-win season in 2008 and just didn't buy into the coaching system.

Scott Skiles was fired as head coach during the regular season and was replaced by his assistant Jim Boylan, who was then replaced at the end of the season.

Also, starting point guard Kirk Hinrich struggled mightily, taking a step back last season. And I think it is safe to say that his role won't be a certainty this season with No. 1 pick Derrick Rose coming in.

On the positive side, Chicago made a big-time three-team deal that brought Drew Gooden and Larry Hughes to Chicago. And the young guys Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas have a pretty good upside. So things do look better for Chicago heading into this season.

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It all starts with their prized draft pick. Rose will make an immediate impact and will more than likely have Hinrich riding the bench at the start of every game. He is strong for his size and has great athleticism, which we saw plenty of during his tenure in Memphis.

His ability to penetrate is another strength, but he sometimes drives out of control and tends to turn the ball over. Considering they haven't had a go-to slasher, Rose will play a vital role in the Bulls' offense next season.

As far as off-season moves go, Chicago re-signed Luol Deng but has yet to re-sign Ben Gordon — their leading scorer the last three seasons. Memphis is the only team that has enough room under the salary cap, so don't expect Gordon to sign with another team.

Gordon himself has said he has played his last game in a Bulls uniform, so the only solution would be a sign-and-trade deal. He's also talked about playing overseas, a trend that's become more prominent.

The Bulls already have a number of guards, so if they lose Gordon, they'll still be stacked with guys like Hughes, Thabo Sefolosha and Hinrich.

Now back to Noah and Thomas. Noah could very well be the breakout player next season in the Windy City. If Noah's name comes up in the Most Improved Player conversation, don't be surprised. His ability to block shots and rebound will only get better and he will be a plus for the Bulls next season.

As for Thomas, he too is a terrific shot blocker and defender, but he can produce a little more on offense than Noah. It won't be easy driving to the lane with these guys sitting underneath. Bottom line, rebounding shouldn't be an issue next season with these two guys and Gooden.

One area the Bulls need to improve is team defense. They gave up 100 points per game last season, and looked especially bad on the road.

They'll turn to a first-time head coach to fix things after hiring Vinny Del Negro in June.

After Del Negro worked as an assistant in Phoenix for Mike D'Antoni the last couple of seasons, we may have a clue as to what the Bulls' offense will look like this season.

But are all these pieces listed above enough for the Bulls to make a run to the playoffs after a one-year absence? With a healthy Dwyane Wade now back in the Eastern Conference, it's hard to tell, but this team has the talent to reach the postseason as an eight seed at best.

For more from this Bleacher Report writer, click here.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: September 22, 2008

News » With Rose on board, Bulls should be better 2008-09-22

With Rose on board, Bulls should be better 2008-09-22

With Rose on board, Bulls should be better 2008-09-22
Bleacher Report's fan journalists will be checking in over the next month with team and division previews from around the NBA. This is the first entry.

Last season, the Central Division was probably the least entertaining division in the Eastern Conference. And it didn't help that the Chicago Bulls, who were expected to be contenders in the East, ended up being one of the most disappointing teams in the league.

Bulls' key facts

    Drafted Derrick Rose (No. 1) and Omer Asik (No. 36)
    Lost: Chris Duhon, Shannon Brown and JamesOn Curry
    Added: None
    2007-2008 Record: 33-49
    2008-09 Predicted Record: 42-40
    Predicted Eastern Conference Standing: 8th


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