There are plenty of things to keep an eye on during the Chicago Bulls' training camp.
Every Bulls fan will focus on superstar Derrick Rose, who missed all of last season recovering from ACL surgery. Possibly the game's best point guard before the injury, he'll attempt to prove that he hasn't lost a step. Is he the same D-Rose that took home MVP honors back in 2011? How long will it take him to shake off the rust?
We will find out.
Newcomer Mike Dunleavy will garner attention as well. The free-agent signee was brought in to serve as Chicago's much-needed, three-point specialist—the first since Kyle Korver was in town. Will he shoot the lights out in camp and make management look like geniuses for acquiring him?
Who Will Earn Roster Spot No. 13?
Chicago's roster currently consists of 12 players who have guaranteed contracts, including Erik Murphy (partially guaranteed). At least one more must be added before the regular season tips off. Although the Bulls are allowed to have up to 15 players, they're only expected to carry 13.
Six free agents—Patrick Christopher, Mike James, Dahntay Jones, Kalin Lucas, Dexter Pittman and D.J. White—are taking part in training camp. Ultimately, which player will land the 13th roster spot?
Perhaps Pittman has the best chance, seeing that the Bulls need a third center to play behind starter Joakim Noah and primary backup Nazr Mohammed.
A second-round pick in 2010, Pittman has had a less-than-spectacular career thus far, averaging 2.4 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. However, the 6'11" Texas native possesses ideal size and a soft touch around the basket.
Pittman looked good during this year's NBA Summer League, averaging seven points, six rebounds and two assists with the San Antonio Spurs. Here, he is dunking all over the Milwaukee Bucks like a prime Shaquille O'Neal:
The Bulls decided against taking a center in the draft. Someone like Gorgui Dieng, Mason Plumlee or Rudy Gobert could've been a great fit, but maybe Pittman will become just the reserve big man Chicago needs.
Is Marquis Teague the Real Deal?
If you're not a Bulls fanatic, you might not have known Marquis Teague was on the roster last year. Drafted 29th overall in 2012, the point guard out of Kentucky barely saw any action as a rookie.
Fortunately, he's expected to play a lot more this season, especially since Nate Robinson bolted town. He will likely be Rose's primary backup, as Kirk Hinrich moves over to the shooting guard spot.
Teague was phenomenal during the Summer League, putting up 18.3 points and 4.8 assists per contest. With his elite quickness, he was easily able to blow past defenders on the way to the basket. He also showcased a much-improved jumper and set his teammates up nicely.
Will his Summer League performance carry over into training camp? That's certainly something to watch for.
Teague may be in store for a Jimmy Butler-type sophomore campaign. Butler didn't play much as a rookie in 2011-12. However, he became an impact player last season with increased playing time. The chart below compares Butler and Teague's rookie stats as well as Butler's second-year numbers.
As you can see, their first-year numbers were basically the same. Taking on a bigger role this season, expect Teague to serve as a spark plug off Chicago's bench.
How Will Tony Snell and Erik Murphy Perform?
The Bulls' roster includes two rookies: Tony Snell, who was selected 20th overall in this year's draft, and Murphy (No. 49).
Both players can earn a spot in the rotation, but only if they have great, really great, training camps. Head coach Tom Thibodeau doesn't exactly love to play rookies.
Snell and Murphy were drafted due to their quality outside shooting. Ranking 21st in three-point percentage a season ago, the Bulls obviously need guys who can fill it up from downtown. Last season, Snell hit 39 percent of his three-point attempts while Murphy shot a ridiculous 45 percent.
Possessing size, length and lateral quickness, Snell has the tools to emerge as a solid defender. That's the perfect way to get Thibdoeau's attention. Thibs—as every Bulls fan knows—is basically obsessed with defense.
Meanwhile, Murphy isn't the world's greatest defender and is far from super athletic. Yet, it's possible that he'll wind up shooting his way into the rotation. Every team needs players who can stretch the defense.
The two rookies were decent during this year's Las Vegas Summer league. It will be interesting to see how they'll perform in training camp, though. Don't be surprised if both end up having great performances.
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