We know the Chicago Bulls are playoff bound, but where will they finish in the Eastern Conference standings this season?
The Bulls have played remarkable basketball thus far, posting a 28-17 record, good for first place in the Central Division.
That sort of record is nothing to be ashamed of, especially since Derrick Rose hasn’t worn a Bulls uniform since April. Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last 10 months, you’re aware that the former MVP tore his ACL during last year’s playoffs.
Without the services of Rose, the Bulls have overachieved due to contributions from guys like Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, who’ve each stepped it up a great deal.
Deng is the team’s top scorer this season with 17.1 points per game. The ultimate workhorse, he’s tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant for the league lead in minutes per game.
Meanwhile, Noah is having the greatest season of his NBA career. The former Florida Gator has blossomed into one of the best centers in the game, reaching career-highs in several different categories including scoring, rebounding and blocks. He’s even leading all big men in assists with 4.2.
Criticized for the majority of his Bulls career, Carlos Boozer is finally getting the job done in the Windy City. The 11th-year power forward has notched a whopping 24 double-doubles this season.
Both Deng and Noah were named All-Star reserves recently, while Boozer was certainly a candidate to make the team.
Perhaps the main reason for Chicago’s success, though, is their outstanding play on the defensive end of the floor. You know as long as coach Tom Thibodeau is on the sidelines, it’s pretty much a guaranteed that the Bulls are going to play suffocating D.
According to basketballreference.com, the Bulls are holding opponents to just 90.9 points per game (third-best in the league) and a field-goal percentage of 43 percent (second-best). They also own a defensive rating of 100.5, which ranks fourth in the league.
Chicago finished with the top record in the East the past two years, but can they accomplish the feat once again this season? Well, it certainly isn’t impossible. The Bulls are currently third in the conference standings, only 2.5 games behind the first-place Miami Heat and one game behind the New York Knicks.
The Bulls definitely have the talent to grab the No. 1 seed. Their starting front line of Deng, Boozer and Noah is one of the best in the NBA, and the bench consists of quality players like Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler, Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli.
Plus, Rose is expected to return to the lineup here shortly. If you think the Bulls are a top-notch team without him, just wait until the franchise point guard is running the show again.
When healthy, Rose is one of the most unstoppable scorers in the game, as he’s capable of blowing by defenders and getting to the basket whenever he wants.
The Bulls currently rank 26th in the league in scoring, which, of course, isn’t anything to brag about. Rose, who has averaged 21 points per game for his career, will help out immensely to say the least. Although he’s probably not going to drop 25 points a night right off the bat, it shouldn’t take long for him to have a major impact.
Rose will likely return in either late February or early March. With that said, he’ll have roughly 20-25 games to shake off the rust and build chemistry with new teammates.
With gritty defense as well as the addition of D-Rose, look for the Bulls to finish with a 58-24 record and their third consecutive Central Division crown. Also look for them to earn the No. 2 seed behind the Heat, and ahead of the Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.
Heading into this season, the Bulls were expected to barely make the playoffs, as key reserves like Omer Asik, Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson were let go during the summer. However, Thibodeau’s gang has proven to be one of the league’s biggest surprises.
Never count out a team that plays defense, has a Coach of the Year candidate and a handful of All-Stars and former All-Stars.