How Far Can the Chicago Bulls Make It with a Smoke and Mirrors Approach?
But starting out this well raises the question as how far the Chicago Bulls can go with what some might term "smoke and mirrors."
After all the Bulls don't have a single player on their team right now who is regarded as a top-five player in the game. They also have a pretty much revamped bench, which replaces the one which was the strongest in the NBA last season. So how far can they really go?
The answer though it's not smoke and mirrors. It's a Swiss Army knife team.
If the Chicago Bulls were a TV series, they would be MacGyver, the '80s show about the hero who would always use his Swiss Army knife along with whatever else was lying about to manufacture solutions to whatever desperate situation ensued in that week's episode.
However, this would be called Thibodeau after the Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. And rather than using his Swiss Army Knife, he'll use whatever is lying around on his bench to solve whatever is ailing the Chicago Bulls in any given episo...errr...game.
There are three things to remember about these Bulls: First, they play defense. Second, they play hard. Third, while they don't have any great players, they still have a lot of good ones—most of whom do at least one thing very well.
Luol Deng is not a great scorer or ball-handler. In fact he's started off the season struggling in those areas. Whether he's still recovering from last year's wrist ailment or he's just in an early slump remains to be seen.
That's a moot point though as Deng is a great perimeter defender, possibly the best "glue" perimeter player in the league. Moreover, he's the on-court brain of the Bulls. He makes the right play whenever he's on the floor.
Joakim Noah is not a great scorer, but he is a great offensive rebounder. He's one of the best in the NBA. In 2010-11 he finished third in offensive rebound percentage. In 2011-12 he finished fourth and grabbed the second most offensive rebounds in the NBA.
Carlos Boozer is not a great defender, or good, or average, or...well let's not talk about Carlos Boozer's defense. He is a great defensive rebounder, though. He also had the second-best mid-range jumper in the NBA last year.
Taj Gibson is challenged offensively, but had the best net rating of any player in the NBA last season because of his stellar defense, which sort of solves that problem we didn't talk about in the previous paragraph.
Rip Hamilton might be a little older than he used to be but he can still make a jump shot and can wear out anyone (with the apparent exception of Austin Rivers) with his constant running around. If you're guarding Hamilton, be ready to run through 153,211 picks. Sorry, I have no link for that stat.
Nate Robinson might be short in stature but he's massive in heart. He was also the eighth-best player off the bench last year, in terms of player efficiency rating (PER).
Kirk Hinrich might not be Derrick Rose slicing and dicing up defenses, but he is a former second team All-Defensive player.
Thibodeau might not have a great player, but he has used what he does have to claim the third-best net efficiency thus far in the NBA's young season (via hoopsstats.com).
They might not have Derrick Rose, but their point guards are ranked third in net efficiency too.
Boozer might not have defense and Gibson might not have offense, but they combine to give the Bulls the most net production from the power forward spot of any team in the league.
It might seem like smoke and mirrors but it's not. It's a Swiss Army knife team, with a coach that has the ingenuity to use it.
Their defense and hard work will keep them in most games, and Thibodeau will find the right player to do just the right thing to win a lot of them. Those observers whose preseason forecasts had the Bulls as a lottery team fail to recognize that.
The Bulls will stay in contention for a No. 4 or No. 5 seed, with or without Rose.
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