Want to know who's heating up for a big season on the hardwood? Insider is tapping into John Hollinger's projected player efficiency ratings to see who's trending up and down across the NBA. Ric Bucher rounds out the report by examining a pivotal player you'll want to watch as the season approaches. The series continues with the Chicago Bulls.
For most teams, the Bulls' offseason would qualify as an unmitigated disappointment. They did not fill their need for a low-post scorer, though they were apparently close enough to getting Carlos Boozer for him to publicly make veiled goodbyes to Utah. On top of that, they lost shooting guard Ben Gordon, who signed with Detroit after averaging 24 points a game in the Bulls' thrilling seven-game series with Boston.
But don't be surprised if the Bulls improve on last season's 41-41 record and seventh playoff seed. This is, by and large, a young team with plenty of room for growth from NBA Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose to second-year coach Vinny Del Negro. Their 17-11 pace to close the season after acquiring Brad Miller and John Salmons is easily attainable.
Gordon, for all his offensive explosiveness and clutch scoring, was a defensive liability and took his share of ill-advised, play-breaking shots. Luol Deng, who played only 49 games, is apparently healthy, and both he and Rose are capable of making up for Gordon's scoring punch while giving a stauncher effort on defense.
To see which player is taking off, which is crashing to earth and which name you'll need to know for the 2009-10 season, you must be an ESPN Insider.