According to ESPN’s Summer Forecast: ’09-10 East standings, the Bulls are predicted to win 43 games and finish sixth overall in the Eastern Conference: “Our voters have the Bulls winning as few as 30 games and as many as 55, and perhaps it comes down to what they think of reigning rookie of the year Derrick Rose, whose scintillating playoff performance was followed by a tumultuous summer. In any case, most of our panel is bullish on Chicago overall.”
I think 30 games is a gross underestimation of this team…while 55 games seems like a pretty far-fetched overestimation. The 43-win average among the voters feels right. Personally, I think this team has a max of about 47 games in them, but the final tally will depend on how well they deal with their brutal early-season schedule.
The teams predicted to finish ahead of the Bulls are Cleveland, Boston, Orlando, Atlanta and Miami. The first three are gimmies. Atlanta added Jamal Crawford and Joe Smith, which supposedly will make them better (even though Crawford’s a remorseless gunner). As for the Heat, well, Dwyane Wade trumps Derrick Rose in Superstar Factor (for now), but the rest of their roster is pretty “meh.” And, of course, Michael Beasley is a very troubled young man. (Have I mentioned how glad I am the Bulls selected Rose over Beasley?)
So I could definitely see the Bulls finishing ahead of the Heat this season. The one thing that troubles me about ESPN’s predictions is that they seem too reliant on last year’s standings, with the top teams staying on top and the lower-tier teams improving slightly. The predictions didn’t seem to take the Surprise Team Factor into account. That is, each season one or two teams either made some huge and unexpected leap up in the standings (like last year’s Magic squad)…or drop down the standings like a rock (like when last year’s Suns didn’t qualify for the playoffs).
I wonder who this year’s Surprise Teams will be…?