Chicago Bulls: Breaking Down the Easiest Path to the NBA Finals for the Bulls
With the Chicago Bulls virtually clinching homecourt advantage throughout the Eastern Conference Finals, the Bulls have a huge advantage in gearing towards the NBA Finals.
With that said, what is the easiest path to the NBA Finals for these Bulls with Derrick Rose not quite feeling 100 percent?
Here are the three matchups that would provide the Bulls with a cakewalk through the Eastern Conference.
1st Round: Philadelphia 76ers
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The Chicago Bulls would love to face the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The 76ers, led by former Bulls coach Doug Collins, are a strong defensive team that lacks some serious offensive firepower.
Philly's lead scorer is back-up point guard Lou Williams (14.9 points), and Williams doesn't scare anyone.
The Bulls beat the 76ers two out of three times this year, including an impressive 89-80 win with Derrick Rose injured.
The Bulls' starting lineup (Rose, Richard Hamilton, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah) are all more productive and talented than the 76ers' (Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes).
That doesn't even count the bench, where the Bulls are definitely 10 to 11 players deep as Williams and Thaddeus Young are the 76ers most effective reserves.
The 76ers are no match for the Bulls, and it would show in a short first-round series.
2nd Round: Atlanta Hawks
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A favorable second-round opponent for the Chicago Bulls would be a rematch with the Atlanta Hawks.
The Hawks would have to beat a hot and experienced Boston Celtics squad in the first round, but Joe Johnson and Josh Smith provide matchup problems for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.
If the Hawks face the Bulls, the Bulls have the advantage with both their starting lineup and bench.
Besides Johnson (perhaps the NBA's most overrated player) and Smith (he is highly inconsistent), no Hawk really scares anyone.
Shooting guard Kirk Hinrich has been slowed down by various injuries the past two years, zapping him of his speed.
Point guard Jeff Teague has regressed from last year and will not be affective in slowing down Derrick Rose.
Center Al Horford has missed most of the season with a torn pectoral muscle and most likely won't return for the playoffs, according to ESPN's Sekou Smith. Who does that leave? Zaza Pachulia?
The Bulls have a deep bench, but the Hawks only have Marvin Williams (10.2 points, 5.2 rebounds), as Tracy McGrady and Jerry Stackhouse are way over the hill.
Chalk this as an easy victory for the Bulls.
Eastern Conference Finals: Indiana Pacers
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The Indiana Pacers would provide the Bulls with an easy Eastern Conference Finals opponent.
With the Pacers as the No. 3 seed and the Heat as the No. 2, they will likely face each other in the second round.
If a deeper Pacers team could knock off the struggling Heat in the second round, the Bulls will have an easier time to the NBA Finals.
While the Pacers have improved with the acquisitions of David West and George Hill, the Bulls are still the superior team.
Darren Collison has been injured for a good portion of the year, forcing backup Hill into a starter's role.
Roy Hibbert and Danny Granger could cancel out Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, but the other Pacers starters (Hill, David West and Paul George) would be overmatched by the Bulls' starters.
Benchwise, the Pacers do have Tyler Hansbrough and Leandro Barbosa, but they don't compare to Kyle Korver, Omer Asik, Taj Gibson, C.J. Watson, John Lucas III and Jimmy Butler.
The Bulls beat the Pacers last year, and they would beat them again.