There will be no grades handed out for this year's playoffs--it will only be passfail for the Bulls. Anything less than an Eastern Conference title will be considered a failure. But, the test doesn't extend just to the players and whether or not they have what it takes to win it all. This will be a test for coach Tom Thibodeau who, despite being in the running for his second straight Coach of the Year award, may be feeling the most pressure. His intensity has helped the Bulls to the top overall seed two years running, but the question remains if his approach translates into championships, and at this point, that's all that matters.
A story surfaced last month that the second year Bulls coach was unhappy the team hadn't offered him a contract extention yet. Thibodeau's current deal includes a team option for 2012-2013. While the report was downplayed, don't think Thibs is a lock to return, this year's playoffs could be his passfail test.
As for the players, Derrick Rose's increasing unhappiness may be amplified depending on how the Bulls perform in the playoffs. The effects of that are unknown, but changes could be in store if the Bulls make an early exit.
The test for Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah is to redeem themselves from last year's poor performances. The two have to prove that they not only can be reliable, but they can be difference makers in the playoffs. If not, Bulls GM Gar Forman will be forced to consider his options.
Now that he's healthy, Richard Hamilton has an equal amount of pressure on him since he was brought in as the so-called missing link, the one who was going to make the difference between a series win over the Heat or another disappointing ending. If Rip can't shine the way the Bulls expected him to when they signed the former Piston over the winter, the passfail falls to Forman and his ability to upgrade the team from last year.
The fates of CJ Watson, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver could all ride on the postseason. All three have team options for next year, and all three could be gone.
So, as college students across the country cram for final exams in the month of May, the Bulls will be taking their test every other night with the stakes arguably higher.