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Chicago Bulls: Five Bold Predictions for the 2013-14 NBA Season

The Return of MVP Derrick Rose Is Just One of the Reasons to Be Excited

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Even though the Chicago Bulls got their lunch handed to them by the Miami Heat in the season opener, there are plenty of reasons to be confident.

Look no further than the fact that the Bulls played about as poorly as possible during their first regular-season game, yet fought back to cut what was a 25-point lead for the Heat to fewer than 10 late in the fourth quarter.

They have the attitude, the talent, and the drive to break through any barrier this season. In no particular order, here are five bold predictions for the Bulls this year:

Taj Gibson will be the best sixth man in the NBA

Barring an injury to Carlos Boozer or Luol Deng, Taj Gibson will spend the entire season coming off the bench. It is a role that will earn him the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year Award.

With head coach Tom Thibodeau unlikely to change his rotation -- it does work, after all -- Gibson will build off a rather impressive 2012-13 campaign during which he averaged 8.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, and finished with a 14.5 player efficiency rating. Tyreke Evans -- who Bulls.com columnist Sam Smith predicted would win the award -- J.R. Smith, and Jarrett Jack are fantastic players, no doubt, but Gibson will improve his scoring, rebounding, and efficiency enough this season to earn the distinction.

Carlos Boozer will be in uniform for the All-Star game

The last time Carlos Boozer was an All-Star, George W. Bush was still president of the United States. Seems like forever ago, doesn't it? It makes no difference, though, because the Booze is back.

Fact is he could have been an All-Star last season. He was first among Eastern Conference power forwards with 44 double-doubles last year and finished the year second in both scoring (16.2 ppg) and rebounding (9.8 rpg). From an offensive standpoint, Boozer performed at a high enough level to make the team.

Look for the former Blue Devil to average close to 20.0 points and 11.0 boards per game en route to joining Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Luol Deng in New Orleans for the 2014 NBA All-Star game.

Jimmy Butler garners All-Star consideration

There is nothing standing in the way of Jimmy Butler averaging 15.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game. With new wrinkles in the offense, the return of Derrick Rose, and a full-time spot as the Bulls' shooting guard, Butler stands on the precipice of greatness.

Frankly, all he needed was an opportunity, and with a starting role locked down, Bulls fans should expect a dramatic increase in each of his metrics. Last season, Butler averaged 8.6 points, 4.0 boards, and 1.4 assists while seeing 26.0 minutes per contest. The first-year starter will garner some serious All-Star consideration this season.

The Bulls will hoist the Finals trophy in June

Of course, anything can happen this season. All things being equal, though, the Bulls have the best starting five in the NBA. The weakest link could be Boozer, and he could have been an All-Star last season.

Now their bench is not as deep as it could be, but they have the talent to beat the Miami Heat (although not in the opener) and the Indiana Pacers as it stands. Once they do that, whoever comes out of the Western Conference will be dealt with in six games.

Derrick Rose will win his second MVP

This prediction is based on the math.

The Bulls won 45 games last year without the former MVP. If everything goes as planned, they will win upwards of 60, or more, this season. And if the Bulls increase their victory total by 15 games, it will be enough to show the voters that he is, in fact, the league's MVP.

There is something else to consider, though. It stands to figure that each of the other starters will see an increase in their productivity as a result of his presence on the court. With his ability to penetrate defenses, guys like Deng, Boozer and the newly acquired Mike Dunleavy will see more open looks than they did last year.

It doesn't hurt that Rose added five inches to his vertical jump and improved his three-point shooting (44.4 percent this preseason) during his 18-month layoff following surgery on his left knee.

It's going to be a fun season.

In addition to contributing to Yahoo, Matthew Smith is the Chicago White Sox Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow his misadventures on Twitter @MatthewSmithBR and on Google +.

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