CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Chicago Bulls have most NBA experts in agreement, but that's not necessarily a good thing.

Few project them to be on the road in their opening playoff series, and many believe they will be the team that gets to lose to the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals. Still, the quietly successful return of Derrick Rose in the preseason finale Friday leads many to wonder: If the Bulls can get their two best players clicking, can they compete with the Cavs?

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But Chicago's ability to be great hinges on two things: defense and the dynamic between Rose and shooting guard Jimmy Butler.

“I know they’re excited to play with each other, talking to them,” first-year Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Derrick’s excited to get back out there, he had a great offseason.”

Hoiberg envisions a fluid offense, where every player on the court can make decisions with the ball. His predecessor, Tom Thibodeau, preferred a more fine-tuned and controlled style. With Hoiberg, expect fewer plays and orders.

So far it has translated to a faster pace, lots of passes and lots of 3-pointers. And the Bulls have appreciated the approach.

But Hoiberg's greater task may be convincing Rose and Butler, his two All-Star guards, to share the ball. Butler made comments this offseason that he views himself as a second point guard, but Rose has been the Bulls' primary ballhandler since being selected first overall in the 2008 NBA Draft.

“I think (Rose and Butler) could complement each other as well as any backcourt in the league,” Hoiberg said last week. ”Get out there and throw ahead, and attack. They’re both attack guards so if we can space the floor properly, we should be able to get good things for both of those guys.”

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In Rose’s preseason debut Friday against the Mavericks, he made his first four shots, showed great explosion on the first step and finished near the rim. 

Though he only played in the first half, Rose helped facilitate the Bulls offense and Chicago was +6 with him on the court. 

That doesn't mean everything went smoothly. After a couple Rose-less possessions where Butler brought up the ball, the 2010-11 NBA MVP jacked up a hideous mid-range jumper for his first miss of the night. He seemed a bit restless, or could have been just testing his shot. Either way, it wasn't a good decision when the offense was clicking.

There also was a noticeable trend in distribution: Rose and Butler did not seem to be working off each other but rather creating their own offense through interplays with the big men.

Butler has grown to become a solid ballhandler and seems to prefer creating his own shot. That's a relatively new development building off his success last season, which he entered as more of a catch-and-shoot player. Rose remains a better ballhandler, but his shaky jump shot affects how teams guard him, lending him to more big men action.

The troubling part is while Butler dribbles and passes and Nikola Mirotic pump fakes eight times, Rose can be seen about 25 feet from the basket, just kind of watching.

Rose can seem lost when he is not setting up the offense because that has never been his role. Hoiberg thinks both players can handle being the second option, and they'll have to in this offense if they want to win. No one expects Butler to take a backseat and that has led to reports of a rift between the guards, which the two have repeatedly denied.

Butler's confidence is new, but it also is important. He has gone from junior college player to a good Big East Conference player to a first-round draft pick to a defensive stopper to an All-Star, an arc very much unlike that of Rose — who has had massive expectations from an early age. 

“(My shots) was all good shots, it just didn't go in,” Butler said after a 8-for-19 night against the Hornets. “Just keep taking open shots that the defense gives me and continue to stay confident.” In other words, Butler's going to get his.

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Center Joakim Noah, who has also been a facilitator for the team over the years, said the two have similiar slashing styles, but he notices some changes when Rose has the ball.

“Playing Derrick is very different because he’s very explosive off the pick-and-roll," he said. "That’ll be good, it’ll definitely be a good option for us.”

There needs to be a plan and Hoiberg doesn't seem to have a conrete one. Just kind of go out there, run, pass and shoot. Testing out how Rose and Butler play on and off the ball would be ideal, but this team doesn't have two or three seasons to figure it out. They need to win now.

Flexibility is good, sure, but teams are better suited when they know who the leaders are. The Bulls may not have expected Rose's career to be sidetracked by injuries or Butler to ascend so high so quickly, but their backcourt now has a unique — and possibly good — dilemma.

“I think we have a lot of different actions when those guys can be facilitators,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy rebounds and I expect him to push the ball down the floor and Derrick get out and run the wing and same thing with Jimmy getting out and running and getting Derrick pushing the ball down.”

Teammates also say it doesn't matter.

"A guy like Derrick is only gonna help us," small forward Doug McDermott said. "We’re missing him right now because he’s so good at getting to the rim as well and has great vision along with Jimmy. It’ll take time to adjust because we haven’t really played a lot of minutes with him in the preseason."

Still, Rose is the more unique talent and the better facilitator, if he's healthy. Butler also is more versatile off the ball, so Rose commanding the offense suits Butler's game more than vice versa. And the Bulls have the experience and attitudes to figure it out.

"Those guys they know what it takes to win," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. "Those guys have played big, big series for years. You don’t win as many games as they have if guys can’t coexist together."