Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat: 8 Reasons the Bulls Still Can't Beat Miami
The Chicago Bulls have gotten off to a fairly slow start to the season at 1-1. Many analysts believed that this season would be a continuation of the last with the Bulls dominating on the defensive end while seeing their offense improve by the addition of Richard Hamilton at the shooting guard position.
"The Bulls have shored up their only weakness," several sports figures reasoned. "They are now ready to take on the Miami Heat for Eastern Conference supremacy."
But have the Bulls really closed the gap with the Heat? Are they really better than Miami at this point?
I will acknowledge that it is still early in the season and any bold proclamation about any team's chances is premature at this point. However, I can look at the first few games of the season for both teams, as well as recent NBA precedent to gauge where the Bulls currently stand in fulfilling their goal of beating the Heat in a playoff series. At the present, I would say the Heat are still the better team.
Here are eight reasons why.
8. The Bulls Have Not Solved Their Most Glaring Weakness
I can imagine Bulls fans right now beside themselves with anger.
"The Bulls' most glaring weakness was a lack of consistent scoring alongside Derrick Rose. By picking up Richard "RIP" Hamilton, we've solved that issue."
They are wrong, of course, because even if Hamilton starts to find his rhythm with the Bulls and starts stroking it from 16 feet and averaging about 14 PPG, he does not solve the Bulls' greatest problem.
The Bulls' biggest weakness is a second playmaker to take the pressure off Rose to be both a distributor and a scorer. Just like the Jordan-era Bulls teams had Jordan and Pippen who could handle the ball and make plays for themselves and teammates, that's what this Bulls team needs. And they still don't have it.
Sure, Hamilton can make shots, but someone still has to get him the ball at the right time in the right spot. Carlos Boozer can score, but someone has to get him the ball. Boozer can't make plays on his own with the defense shadowing Rose. Luol Deng is decent ball handler but not a great playmaker for a small forward.
Consequently, defenses know that if they control Rose, they really cut the head off the Bulls offense because no one else—besides C.J. Watson and he hardly ever plays alongside Rose—can take over those duties.
Miami, on the other hand, has three ball-handlers and scorers in the starting lineup, so it's not like teams can completely disrupt their offense by focusing on one guy.
7. The Heat Would Still Boast Three of the Four Best Players on Floor
That usually constitutes an advantage for the team with it. I know, I know. "The Bulls do it collectively; they don't need multiple stars to win because they win with team work!"
Other than the 2004 Pistons, name another team in the past 20 years to win a title without multiple superstars or Hall of Fame-caliber players. The 2011 Mavs? No, they have two first-ballot Hall of Famers in Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki. The 2009-2010 Lakers? Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant. The 1991-1993 Bulls? Jordan-Pippen.
It's very rare that a team can win it all with just one true star on a team.
6. Carlos Boozer Has Yet to Prove He's a Championship-Caliber Player
Full disclosure: I've never liked Carlos Boozer. I always thought he was one of those players that wanted to take the easy way out, get paid, tease with flashes of solid play and vacation once the season was over. I have never viewed him as a winning player.
Along with last year's postseason where he was abused by the likes of Tyler Hansbrough and Chris Bosh, he has underachieved pretty consistently throughout his career and never comes through in big games.
In Game 4 against LA in 2010, with his Utah Jazz team facing elimination, Boozer barely showed up: 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting.
Perhaps Boozer will find a rhythm this season and prove me wrong, but I just don't think he can consistently go toe-to-toe with Bosh, Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem consistently throughout a seven-games series and truly "dominate" like he would have to to win the series.
5. The Bulls Are Weak Defensively in the Two Positions Where the Heat Excel
A lot has been made of the fact that the Bulls should be able to beat the Heat because they are strong were the Heat are weak. The reasoning is that Derrick Rose will dominate Mario Chalmers and Joakim Noah will dominate Joel Anthony, and that will be all she wrote for the Heat.
The problem is that two of the Heat's biggest strengths (at power forward and shooting guard) also happen to be the positions where the Bulls are weak defensively. Carlos Boozer's defensive struggles are so well-chronicled that it's almost become a punchline in Chicago.
And while RIP Hamilton has played strong defense in the past with the Pistons, he just doesn't have the speed to contest shots the way that he did eight years ago.
Keith Bogans may not have been a consistent perimeter threat, but he played defense on Dwyane Wade about as well as anyone. I doubt that Hamilton has the same amount of success on the defensive end. Consequently, since Wade may score more, there is added pressure on Hamilton to score. That may not be easy against Wade, who is a strong defender in his own right.
4. Norris Cole Gives the Heat Somebody Who Rose Would Have to Defend
One of the advantages Rose had in the ECF series last year was not having to really play much defense.
He was matched up against Mike Bibby most of the time, and Bibby, an older, more perimeter-oriented player, did not force Rose to work hard on defense.
Chalmers was more of a challenge, but he lacked the quickness and consistency to really make Rose work. Norris Cole is another story. With the ability to break down defenses, drive to the basket, hit perimeter shots and not be afraid of the moment, Cole is the ideal player for the Heat to match up against Rose.
Rose, who will already have to run his team's offense, now has to worry about potential foul trouble against Cole. Suddenly, the one advantage—long-believed to be a huge advantage for the Bulls against Miami—looks a bit less so when you consider the Rose-Cole matchup.
Granted, I am not saying that Cole is anywhere near Rose's level of talent, skill or consistency. I know Cole is just a rookie and he still has a long way to go. But it's hard to argue that Cole will be a tougher defensive assignment than Bibby.
3. The Bulls' Advantage at Center Is Not as Significant as Many Believe
Bulls fans argue that one of the biggest advantages they have over the Heat is at center where Joakim Noah is "10 times better than the Heat's stiffs at center in Joel Anthony and Eddy Curry."
I would certainly agree that the Bulls have an edge in this department. However, it's not as big an edge as Bulls fans want to believe it is. Why? Because unlike Dwight Howard or even Andrew Bynum, Noah can't put the pressure on the Heat's defense because he's not a scorer.
It's not like Noah is going to post up and go for 25 points and 16 rebounds like Howard can.
Consequently, he doesn't help the Bulls get easier shots the way that Howard does for the Magic or Bynum can for L.A.
Noah is an opportunity scorer who scores off rebound putbacks, tip-ins and hustle. But since he's not going to go for 30, the Heat really don't have to double team on him like they would Howard.
2. The Bulls Have an Athleticism Mismatch with Miami
The Bulls have very little athleticism on their roster outside of Rose and to a lesser extent Taj Gibson. Consequently, the Bulls can't make the Heat work on defense the way the Heat, with pure athletes in Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Norris Cole, will put pressure on the Bulls' defense.
Sure, Wade chasing around Hamilton through screens to prevent him getting open looks may be tiring on Wade. But how is that any different than Wade successfully guarding Ray Allen in last year's playoffs?
1. The Bulls Are an Easier Team to Defend Because of Their Lack of Versatility
Miami is still the more well-rounded team.
I know I hear the Bulls fans arguing, "But the Bulls have a better bench and better role players. The Heat have no point guard and no center! How dare you say they lack versatility!"
Well, I must.
When I look at the Bulls' roster, I see a lot of one-dimensional "specialist" players. Ronnie Brewer is in for defense. Kyle Korver is in for offense. Omer Asik is in for defense. And so on. The Bulls don't have nearly the adequate number of two-way players needed to limit the predictability of their offense.
As a result, a team like Miami can just prepare to defend them a lot more easily (i.e. "don't give Korver open looks," "double off of Brewer and make him shoot since he's not a great shooter," "box out on Gibson and make him shoot over the top,"etc...)
The Bulls only have one true playmaker on the court at a time—either Rose or Watson—and teams know that if they limit Chicago's point-guard play, they stop their offense cold.
Miami has no less than six players (James, Wade, Anthony, Miller, Battier and Bosh) who can play multiple positions both defensively and offensively. They also have five players that can run an offense (Wade, James, Chalmers, Cole and Miller), giving them the opportunity to throw several different offensive looks at their opponents.