Breaking Down the Chicago Bulls' Potential First-Round Playoff Matchups

Bob Bajek@bobbajekAnalyst IIIApril 3, 2012

Breaking Down the Chicago Bulls' Potential First-Round Playoff Matchups

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    The Chicago Bulls already clinched a spot in the postseason and will be a top Eastern Conference playoff seed, but whom are they going to face in the first round? 

    With the Bulls as a No. 1 or 2 seed in the playoffs, possible opponents include the New York Knicks, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks

    How do these NBA teams match up with the Bulls? 

New York Knicks

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    The most likely opponent the Bulls will face would be the New York Knicks if the playoff standings hold. The Knicks would be a supremely talented eighth seed, but they would be no match for the top-seeded Bulls. 

    Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin is out for the rest of the season with a torn MCL in his left knee, and an older Baron Davis will take his place. 

    Power forward Amar'e Stoudemire has a back injury that is keeping him out for awhile. He could be back for the playoffs, but he wouldn't be 100 percent. 

    Also, superstar small forward Carmelo Anthony has been dinged up and has disappointed the Knicks with his inconsistent shooting. 

    The Bulls have a huge advantage against New York.

    Derrick Rose will smoke a slower Davis. 

    A healthy Carlos Boozer, who is playing well offensively, will exploit a hobbled Stoudemire. 

    An inconsistent Anthony means an easier guard for Luol Deng. 

    And don't get me started with the Bench Mob versus the Knicks' reserves. All the Knicks have is J.R. Smith, and he bricks a lot of shots. 

    The Knicks are a fun matchup, but they will come up short against a superior Bulls squad if Rose is healthy. 

Milwaukee Bucks

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    If the Chicago Bulls maintain their first seed and the Milwaukee Bucks gain the eighth seed, it would be an interesting series. 

    The Bucks made a huge trade at the deadline to acquire former Golden State Warrior Monta Ellis while parting ways with the often injured Andrew Bogut and the trouble-making Stephen Jackson. 

    Ellis, paired with Brandon Jennings, gives the Bucks one of the most athletic backcourts in the NBA. Ellis and Jennings can both light it up every night and would be tough defensive assignments for the Bulls guards. 

    Outside of these two solid scorers, the Bucks don't offer much resistance. 

    Derrick Rose and hopefully Richard Hamilton have the offensive firepower to cancel out Ellis and Jennings' offensive output. 

    The biggest difference would be the Bucks' lack of frontcourt depth. Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah are each All-Star-caliber ballers and have been playing well for the Bulls. 

    Chicago's starters are way more talented than Carlos Delfino, Drew Gooden and Ekpe Udoh. 

    If Rose is still injured, the Bulls would still be able to pull this one out due to their superior frontcourt. 

Philadelphia 76ers

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    If the Chicago Bulls fall to the second seed, their opponent could be the Philadelphia 76ers. 

    The 76ers play the Bulls tough, as Philly beat Chicago three times in a row. However, the Bulls bested the 76ers twice in March, including one contest without Derrick Rose. 

    Philadelphia, which has struggled lately, indeed has some talent. Lou Williams is a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year. 

    Both Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday have grown as starting guards and have some length. 

    Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes are solid big men. 

    Andre Iguodala is a tough small forward. 

    The 76ers play the Bulls tough, but the Bulls have more talent.

    Rose is a superior point guard offensively, defensively and passing-wise to Holiday. 

    Turner is a jump-shooter, and he would struggle with either Richard Hamilton or Ronnie Brewer guarding him. 

    Luol Deng has more scoring ability than Iguodala. 

    Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah would cancel out Brand and Hawes' production. 

    While the 76ers have solid bench players in Thaddeus Young and Louis Williams, Chicago's bench of C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver, Omer Asik, Taj Gibson and company is simply too much for Philly to handle. 

    However, if Rose is still hurt, the 76ers would have a good shot of upsetting the Bulls. 

Atlanta Hawks

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    If the Chicago Bulls end up with the second seed, another possible opponent could be the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks are barely holding onto the sixth seed and could fall to the seventh if they slump. 

    Amazingly, the Hawks have been in contention without the services of center Al Horford, who is arguably their best player. Horford suffered a torn pectoral muscle and could possibly return in time for the playoffs.  In the interim, Zaza Pachulia has filled in admirably for Horford. 

    Joe Johnson is dangerous, but his production has declined steadily the past two seasons. 

    Josh Smith can explode on both ends of the court, yet the enigmatic forward still battles with frequent inconstant performances. 

    The Hawks' backcourt isn't in good shape. Jeff Teague had a breakthrough playoff performance in 2011, but the third-year point guard has taken a step back since.

    Shooting guard Kirk Hinrich is a solid veteran, though his offensive production has taken a steep dive. 

    Bench-wise, the Hawks do have Tracy McGrady and Jerry Stackhouse, but they are shells of their former selves. Marvin Williams would provide the Bulls' backups with some matchup problems.

    Last year, the Hawks battled the Bulls to a six-game Eastern Conference semifinals series that pushed Chicago to the limit. However, the Bulls defeated Atlanta three out of four times this year, including one without Derrick Rose's services. 

    The Bulls are simply more deep and talented than the Hawks. The only shot Atlanta has is if Rose isn't ready to go. 

     

    Bajek is a Chicago Bulls/NBA featured columnist. He is a freelance reporter and can be followed on Patch.com and Twitter.