The Bulls are scary good and I’m predicting that they will deliver Chicago its first title since MJ departed.
Early call? Maybe, but here is the reasoning behind my forecast.
Reason #1 – Derrick Rose
The reigning MVP is a superb floor general and one of the best leaders in the game. Rose is showing why he was awarded the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. Over the past fives games of which Rose played in four, he has put up numbers similar to the 2010/11 season including two double-doubles.
A profound student of the game, Rose has become one of the hardest players to guard. He is almost impossible to stop when he drives and if you sit off him on the outside, he can drill the three-ball or a mid-range jumper. What we haven’t seen much of yet is his post-up game which is another element he worked hard on over the summer.
Reason #2 – Team chemistry and improvement to come
A shortened training camp period and NBA season with its tight schedule suits Chicago. The only variation to the 2010/11 roster was that they acquired Rip Hamilton and waived guard Keith Bogans two days later. A tick of approval there – Bogans started all 82 games last season yet only produced 4.4 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 1.2 APG in just shy of 18 minutes per game.
Rip on the other hand, has a 17 PPG career average and in the five games he has played and started for the Bulls, has stats of 12.4 PPG, 3.4 RPG, and 3.0 APG in 29.2 minutes per game. The experienced 6’7’’ guard can still play. Hamilton last season averaged greater than a point every two minutes and at the age of 33, managed to record the 11th best pure point rating for his position.
Chicago is yet to completely come together. The reason seems to be down low – Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. Criticism has been directed at the two big men and head coach Tom Thibodeau, who early in the season benched the two in the final periods in several games – instead opting for defenders, Taj Gibson and Omer Asik. However, that gel is starting to firm.
Those in the media can pass judgment on Coach T’s roster decisions because that is what they’re paid to do. Here is why he doesn’t care – his team his winning and trying things out at the same time.
In the game against Boston, the two combined for 22 points and 20 boards and more importantly, they seemed to get things going like a dominating force. Boozer was hot and a big element to Chicago running away on a big early lead.
On Saturday, the Bulls put away Toronto in the fourth quarter in a rather ugly game. For those that were waiting to see the effect of a shortened season, this game was it. Chicago and Toronto were both playing their fifth game in six nights – it was scrappy. The Bulls won the match however I was more interested in what the big men did.
Between Boozer, Noah and Gibson (who dropped 11 points and pulled down 12 rebounds in 22 minutes), they combined for 37 of 52 rebounds – Boozer had 17 and 13. It’s still early, time will only benefit them thus Chicago fans shouldn’t be worried.
Reason #3 – Everyone is contributing
Everyone is contributing. After the Toronto win, Rose said, “With this team, you never know who is going to step up” and Gibson described the Bulls mentality as, “No matter how many minutes you play, no matter how many touches you get, no one should player harder than you. No matter how many minutes you get, you’re supposed to lay it on the line no matter what … I just played real hard and tough.”
Reason #4 – Defense
Defense wins games, wins championships. Chicago rank 1st overall in points allowed per game with 83.8. In their latest game against Toronto, Chicago became the first team to hold their opponents below 70 points in three straight home games. Chicago’s radio stats man, Jeff Manguretn, said that that’s the first time is has occurred since the inception of the shot clock. The Bulls are 1st overall in points allowed per game for a reason.
Reason #5 – Awesome at home / Very good on the road
Just ask Memphis how good the Bulls are when playing at the American Airlines Center. As mentioned previously, they smother teams at home with Detroit, Washington and, Toronto on Saturday 14 being the latest victims.
On the road they’re hot with a 7-2 record. Those two loses came at the hand of the Golden State Warriors (91-99) and the Atlanta Hawks (94-109).
The Bulls opened their season with four road games in six nights including three wins against the Lakers, Kings and Clippers with the loss at GSW. Their most recent road trip was a win against Boston (88-79).
The Bulls have nine games remaining in the month – five at the United Center and four on the road. I expect them to go 8-1 which would put them at 17-2 over their last 19 games once January is over.
This is why. Of nine of the teams Chicago plays, only two (Indiana and Miami), are 0.500 or higher.
The Pacers are second behind the Bulls in the central division yet are only 4-3 on the road and facing the east’s leaders on their home court will be tough. The Heat is the only other team over 0.500 – Chicago travels to the American Airlines Arena on Sunday 29 and it may well depend of if the big three are in the line-up or on the injury report.
The best two teams in the NBA this year are both in the east – Miami and Chicago. The latter has the most upside and revenge will be on the cards when they meet in the playoffs.