Last year was a productive season for both the Heat and Bulls franchises. Miami had gone from the basement of the Eastern Conference to climbing all the way up to the fifth seed behind the spectacular play of Dwyane Wade. The Bulls had also made a giant improvement from their 33 win season in 2007-08. They drafted the hometown hero Derrick Rose and made the playoffs where they pushed the world champion Boston Celtics to seven games.
The Heat finished the season with a 43-39 record while the Bulls were right behind at 41-41. After missing much of the 2007-08 season due to injury, Wade had an MVP worthy season in ’08-09 by averaging a league-leading 30.2 ppg along with 5 rebounds and 5.3 assists per contest. But as spectacular as Wade was, it’s obvious he needs more help from his teammates, particularly Jermaine O’Neal and Michael Beasley.
Beasley, their prized draft pick last year had a solid rookie campaign but struggled with finding a niche on the court. Beasley also had a well publicized summer, where he checked himself into a rehab facility for substance abuse. How he bounces back will be a major factor in Miami’s success this year. Another area of concern is the team’s point guard situation. Mario Chalmers did a good job last season on both ends of the court – he was fourth in the league in steals. But whether he is ready to be a starting point guard for a playoff team at this point in his career is debatable. The Heat also didn’t upgrade their roster too much aside from adding defensive specialist and three-point shooter Quentin Richardson to the mix.
On Chicago’s side, the team showed a lot of promise after their impressive first round series. It seems like everyone on that team from Tyrus Thomas to Joakim Noahto John Salmons stepped up and raised their games. It was also the coming out party for number one pick, Rose, who proved he is the future of the NBA with his effortless drives to the cup and his killer instinct down the stretch. One huge area of concern coming into this season, is trying to figure out whose going to replace Ben Gordon. For a lot of the games last season and in the playoffs, Gordon was the team’s go-to guy in crunch time. The Bulls are hoping Kirk Hinrich can help fill that void, along with newly acquired sharp-shooter Jannero Pargo, who was huge in the playoffs a few seasons back when he was on the Hornets. The Bulls also have a steal in draft pick James Johnson, who has been killing it in the preseason.
I envision both the Bulls and Heat ending the ’09-10 season as playoff teams, although I see them finishing near the bottom again around the 6-8 seeds. But with the improvement I’ve seen from guys like Noah, Thomas and Rose during the playoffs, I would have to say that Chicago will have a better record than Miami. Plus, with the uncertainty surrounding Beasley and the constant health issue of Wade and O’Neal, Miami has the potential to fall a few notches down the power rankings this season.
Who is going to have a better season: The Heat or Bulls?
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