Bulls mailbag: more uncertainty

Hello, Bulls fans. With the NBA Finals starting tonight, it’s time for another mailbag. Today’s questions show just how far away the Bulls are from contending.

Do you have any Bulls questions? Tweet them to me, @reasonabullblog

Below are today’s questions, and their corresponding answers.

Considering the team missed the playoffs this year and in all likelihood will have the same core next year, what are the chances that Tom Thibodeau’s Timberwolves will be better than the Bulls? – @Cavs216_Mania

Tom Thibodeau is taking over a Timberwolves team that won just 29 games last season. The Bulls’ core will be back, and if they remain relatively healthy, they should be able to muster at least 45 wins.

Making a 16-game jump is not unheard of in the NBA, but it is very difficult. The Timberwolves finished 13th in the Western Conference.

In Thibodeau’s first season in Chicago the Bulls made a 21-game jump. The Timberwolves have a similarly impressive young core. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are special players. And Towns might be the most promising young player in the NBA (the play below is just, wow).

With two of the most talented young players in the league and Thibodeau’s defensive greatness, the Timberwolves could be a .500 or better team.

I wouldn’t bet on it.

The 2016-17 season will be a make-or-break year for most of the Bulls’ key pieces.

Derrick Rose will be in the first real contract year of his career. Fred Hoiberg will be fighting to keep his job. And Jimmy Butler will be fighting to prove he deserves his newly acquired elite status.

The Timberwolves conference is better. Of the eight playoffs teams, only the Mavericks and Grizzlies will likely have a worse record next season (even though this is said every year about these teams). Of the non-playoffs teams ahead of them, the Jazz quietly are a great team, and if Anthony Davis is healthy the Pelicans will be better as well.

The Bulls will have a hard time playing worse next season, and they play in the less-competitive Eastern Conference.

The Timberwolves will be improved, but in the loaded West, they will have to make too great of a jump to pass the Bulls, next year.

With all of the talk about the lack of leadership in the locker room and how it may have contributed to this disastrous season, who do you think is best suited to fill that leadership role next season? – @Cavs216_Mania

The hope: all of them. The probability anyone will: 50/50.

Three people must take a much greater leadership role for the Bulls next season: Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler and Fred Hoiberg.

Rose will be in the first true contract year of his career. He will have to prove he can play at a high level on a consistent basis in order to secure what will most likely be the last long-term contract of his career, in Chicago or elsewhere. Look for Rose to push the pace and prove he can be the player he once was; he really was not that far away during the second half (minus the flashy dunks).

Butler is coming off an up-and-down season on the court. Players might not have loved the vocal leadership role Butler took last season, but what is never questioned is his work ethic. Butler learned talk is cheap. He will bring energy and emotion every night next season.

Hoiberg was put in a rough stop in his first season. Expectations were very high and his fast-paced offense never showed its face. I have been a big proponent of giving him another chance to coach this Bulls team. The adjustment from Thibodeau to Hoiberg was far greater than anyone expected. He needs to show command of the locker room and the clipboard next year, or he will be out of a job. It is hard to fake desperation, he will improve.

Who do you think will be more intergral to the team next season: Nikola Mirotic or Doug McDermott? –  @Cavs216_Mania

Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott were the Bulls’ most inconsistent players last season (Tony Snell doesn’t even qualify at this point). They are also the secondary pieces who are the most vital next season.

When Mirotic and McDermott play well, the Bulls win. It is that simple. If they can find their 3-point shooting form on a nightly basis they make the Bulls a much better team. Despite their collective shooting prowess, both players can put the ball on the floor, not only to draw contact but finish at the rim as well.

They both need to improve defensively, McDermott more than Mirotic.

It is a toss-up between the two. They both need to play at a much higher level for the team to win. If only one of them can make the jump, Mirotic is more vital. Simply because of his ablitly to guard power forwards.

Do you think the Bulls regret hiring Hoiberg? – @Cavs216_Mania

No. He was and is their guy. This fact does not change simply because the results were not there in his first year.

Thank you for all of your questions, and please keep them coming. Feel free to reach out with any and all questions @reasonabullblog. I will be sure to get back to you.

Enjoy Game 1 of the NBA Final tonight. Until next time, Bulls fans.

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