The entire bench has stepped up and filled a role. With injuries to key players the Bulls’ depth has been thoroughly tested. Even Brian Scalabrine is contributing. Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer told ESPNChicago,
We'd like to be healthy, but I think we do a good job of stepping up when we have guys out. We've got a lot of guys that can play on this team. I keep telling ya'll I think we're the deepest team in the league. We've got guys that are out and guys step right in.
Omer Asik and Taj Gibson have challenged starters Joakim Noah and Boozer. C.J. Watson has shot well. He’s shooting 48 percent in the last five games and could be starting point guard with Rose suffering from back spasms.
There is no doubt the Bulls are elite and a legitimate threat to the 2011-12 championship throne. However, the Miami Heat will be the major obstacle getting out of the Eastern Conference. It is widely accepted that if the Bulls make it to the Finals, the hard part will have been behind them.
Last season, in a battle between the beasts of the East, the Heat beat depth with overall talent. Rose was double teamed and the rest of the squad just didn’t have enough firepower to finish close games. This time, the Bulls need another star to emerge alongside Rose and Deng.
Ronnie Brewer has been explosive off the bench. Historically, he doesn’t light up the stat box, but he brings another lockdown defender to Tom Thibodeau’s defensive strategy. In his career, Brewer has always averaged over one steal a game and last year he had the sixth best overall defensive rating at 98.4.
Who will be the most effective at guarding LeBron James?
Brewer’s length makes him a versatile defender, able to guard both the shooting guard and small forward positions. Against the Heat, Brewer and Deng will likely share responsibility on LeBron James, giving him different looks and hopefully creating problems for Miami’s all-star forward.
Furthermore, Brewer’s scoring is critical to the Bulls' success. The problem at the shooting guard position appeared to be somewhat fixed with the addition of Richard Hamilton, but his health is proving to be an issue.
It is crucial that Brewer expand from his usual defensive style, and provide the Bulls with additional scoring.
“He’s going to have a lot of open shots, especially with the way teams are playing us,” Rose told ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “In the past, he was usually the one people would gamble off of but now you can’t do that.”