The Chicago Bulls managed to make the playoffs without their star point guard Derrick Rose. Their team comprised of Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer, among others, has carried the team this far. The coaching staff under coach Tom Thibodeau should be credited for the Bulls’ success just as much as the players. Can they win it all and become champions this year?
The Bulls franchise is no stranger to championship glory. Their most famous titles are the three-peats in 1991-93 and 1996-98. Those titles, in their history, account for their only championships.
Today, the Bulls stand at the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference. They at 44-37, they will finish second in the Central Division. They are six games behind the division champion Indiana Pacers, but are still formidable competitors and acquired the reputation of ending streaks. The Bulls ended the Miami Heat’s 27-game winning streak on March 27 in a 101-97 victory as well as the New York Knicks’ 14-game winning streak on April 11 in a 118-111 win.
Team Leaders (per game):
Points: Luol Deng, 16.6
Rebounds: Joakim Noah, 11.4
Assists: Kirk Hinrich, 5.2
Steals: Joakim Noah, 1.2
Blocks: Joakim Noah, 2.2
Emotional Leader: Nate Robinson, PG
Noah has emerged as a perennial All-Star, leading the team with 11.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. He played though injured with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. Noah is such an emotional leader. The person who fills that role is Nate Robinson, who off the bench provides the spark and passion needed to win games.
Player to watch: Jimmy Butler, SG/SF
The Bulls have many players to watch during the postseason. The most intriguing one is Jimmy Butler, the sophomore swingman from Marquette who scores 8.6 points and grabs 3.9 rebounds a game. Moreover, he has proven that he can score as many off the bench and against strong competition. Butler scored 22 in the Bulls’ April 11 victory over the Knicks. He’s started to emerge offensively, and he’s already a strong defensive player.
For the first two games, the Bulls will likely face their division rival Pacers at Indianapolis, although Chicago could still pass the Atlanta Hawks for fifth place in the conference to set up a first-round meeting with the Brooklyn Nets.
If the Bulls wind up paired with Indiana, they’ll need a healthy Noah back to battle Roy Hibbert, though it seems unlikely. Nazr Mohammed, the Bulls’ veteran backup center, will need to shoulder the load. There’s a blessing in disguise due to Danny Granger’s unfortunate season-ending knee surgery. The Bulls won’t have to worry about Granger’s shooting range. They’ll still have to worry about point guard George Hill, power forward David West and swingman Paul George.
All three can cause problems on both ends of the court for the Bulls. Hill runs the team with ease at point, setting the pace for his team on both ends. West crashes the boards underneath with 7.2 rebounds and has a 98 defensive rating (according to Basketball-Reference.com). George is their number one scoring threat, leading the team with 17.5 points per game and handles some of the best players on defense.
The Bulls can beat the Pacers in six. The Bulls need to take one at Indiana and win the rest at home. They’ll also need the sleeping Carlos Boozer to wake up this postseason. According to Basketball-Reference.com, Boozer averaged 12.9 points and 9.7 rebounds in the postseason while in Chicago. Both are well under his playoff career totals of 17.8 points and 11.6 rebounds.
Nonetheless, it’s quite possible they won’t get past the Knicks in the second round. If the Boston Celtics upset the Knicks, the Bulls might be able to beat Boston. But don’t expect the Knicks to lose to Boston again with all their talent. The Bulls will get past the first round, but that’s as far as they might go.