Apr 14, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) reacts to a jump ball during the second quarter of a game against the Orlando Magic at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Playoffs: Chicago Bulls' Ambitions

With the NBA playoffs almost upon us, each of the 16 teams who will eventually make up the postseason will have dreams of going all the way and be crowned the NBA champions. Of course for some this is still merely a pipe dream, while for others it is the absolute end goal, with any other result deemed a failure. With that in mind we take a quick and lighthearted look at how each team can potentially do once the playoffs start.

Chicago Bulls

Apr 14, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Tony Snell (20) is defended by Orlando Magic center Dewayne Dedmon (3) and forward Andrew Nicholson (44) during the second half at the United Center. Chicago defeats Orlando 108-95. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Why They Can Win It All

Along with the Golden State Warriors, the Chicago Bulls are a team many casual fans love to root for, and rightly so. This season they have again had to deal with the loss of point guard Derrick Rose, and again the supporting cast has picked up the slack tremendously. They are like the plucky underdog in a movie that just does not know when they are beaten, and it is really refreshing to witness.

We all know that defense is Chicago’s calling card, and on a nightly basis teams rarely outwork the Bulls. Joakim Noah is now the star of the show with Rose gone, and he is having a career year while keeping this team afloat. His style of play is awkward to watch, especially those free throws, but this guy rightly deserves to be in the mix for regular-season MVP – 12.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 5.4 assists and a Player Efficiency Rating of 20.1. He also can dribble the ball, and strangely enough has also run the offense for this team. He is second in the league among centers in steals (1.24), first in assists and ninth in blocks (1.51). With this guy on the court, so much is possible. Returning to their defense, opponents only make 38.2 percent of their attempts from between 15-19 feet, good for fourth-best in the league.

The Bulls also rank 10th in the league in assists (22.7) as they like to share the ball with no true offensive juggernaut in tow. Off the bench, guard D.J. Augustin has been huge for this team. Any organization serious about going places needs some players off the bench to contribute in a big way, and Augustin is that guy. Though he does play 30.9 minutes a night, he has only started nine games this year, and is technically a bench player, even though he spends a shade more time on the floor than starter Kirk Hinrich. In any event, Augustin’s 14.9 points are a career high, and his PER of 17.0 (league average 15) is the highest it has been at any point in his career. With Rose leaving a massive hole in this team, Augustin has done his best to fill the gap admirably.

Why They’ll Exit Early

This team just does not put the ball in the hole enough. The team ranks last in points per game (93.8), more than six points per game behind the likes of the Sacramento Kings and Detroit Pistons, two teams who will not be in the playoffs this year. Yes defense wins championships and it is the identity of this team, but they simply have to do more to score the ball too. Noah is doing his best despite being more of a defense orientated center. To add to their scoring misery, the Bulls also rank last in field goal percentage. Shooting 43.3 percent is pretty poor, the worst in fact, and is just less than seven percent worse than the league leading Miami Heat. A combination of not being able to score and then having the poorest field goal percentage in the NBA is a big area of concern.

Again on the offensive end, this team ranks 24th in 3-point shooting (34.8 percent). It’s been said before, but opponents will tighten up defensively themselves when the playoffs begin, and while they might not be as good as the Bulls at that end of the floor, they sure won’t have any problem keeping Chicago’s offense quiet for long periods. Other than that, the star power just isn’t there to make a serious run in the postseason, not with Rose gone. Even though the disappointing Carlos Boozer has averaged 13.7 points and 8.3 rebounds this campaign, he is not good enough to lean on as a big time contributor in crunch time either.

Chicago Bulls

Apr 11, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler (21) causes Detroit Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey (3) to commit a turnover during the first quarter at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Potential X-Factor

Jimmy Butler. In the same way Kawhi Leonard looks like he was born to play for the San Antonio Spurs, Butler fits perfectly into what the Chicago Bulls represent. The third year player is often assigned the task of guarding other team’s elite players and is also averaging career highs in points (13.1), assists (2.6), rebounds (4.9) and minutes per game (38.5). Still on his rookie contract, the always improving former Marquette University player represents real value for money. He has stepped up big time with this team needing players to contribute in a bigger way with Rose gone and has started all 66 games he has been available to play in this season. Certainly he is one player the Bulls will be looking to keep around for some time.

How They’ll Do

A first round match up with the Washington Wizards is a tricky proposition. The Wizards are in confident form and enter the postseason with no real expectations either, a difficult combo for opponents to deal with. In a series that will go six games at the very least, look for the Bulls to bow out to Washington. The point guard position in particular, with All-Star John Wall and savvy veteran Andre Miller to deal with, could be the potential tie breaker in the series. Those two players ensure that for 48 minutes this team will be lead strongly. With the season then over early for the Bulls they then have a difficult summer to navigate, as this franchise could potentially go in a number of directions.

Tags: 2014 NBA Playoffs Chicago Bulls Joakim Noah

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