Why Nobody Should Write Off Chicago Bulls as Title Contenders

Mike B.Correspondent IFebruary 7, 2013

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 26: Doron Lamb #20 of the Milwaukee Bucks is trapped by Richard Hamilton #32 and Loul Deng #9 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on November 26, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bucks defeated the Bulls 93-92. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Perhaps the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder have the best chance of winning it all this year, but don’t count out the Chicago Bulls as title contenders.

The Bulls have played great basketball thus far this season, posting a 29-19 record, good for second place in the Central Division.     

Suffocating defense, which is preached daily by coach Tom Thibodeau, is the main reason for the team’s success. They’re holding opponents to only 91 points per game (third-best in the league) and own a defensive rating of 100.9 (fourth-best).

While the Bulls aren’t exactly title contenders at the present time, they will be once Rose returns to the hardwood.

The franchise point guard suffered an ACL injury in last year’s playoffs, immediately squashing Chicago’s championship dreams. LeBron James and the Heat would go on to win the title, beating Kevin Durant’s Thunder in the NBA Finals.  

Rose is expected back sometime after the All-Star break, possibly late February or early March.

The Bulls are one of the better teams in the East without D-Rose, so just imagine how good they’ll be with him in the lineup.    

When healthy, Rose is possibly one of the top five players in the game. He’s lightning quick, ridiculously athletic and capable of dropping 25 points on any given night.

You might’ve forgotten what Rose brings to the table since he hasn’t played a game in nearly a year. The video below will help refresh your memory a bit.    

With Rose, the Bulls will sport a top-notch starting lineup, which also includes Richard Hamilton, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. Each of the five players have been named an All-Star at least once in their careers.

Hamilton isn’t the player he once was in Detroit, but he’s still a decent contributor and has championship experience.

The frontcourt trio of Deng, Boozer and Noah is absolutely one of the best in the business. Deng is leading the Bulls in scoring with 17.2 points per game and playing fantastic defense as usual.

Boozer, criticized often during his tenure in Chicago, has stepped his game up after the calendar year changed to 2013.

And meanwhile, Noah is having the best season of his six-year career. The 6’11” big man has reached career highs in several different categories, including scoring, rebounding and free-throw percentage. 

In addition, he has played the rare “point center” role, averaging 4.2 assists per game, second on the Bulls behind Kirk Hinrich. 

Chicago’s bench isn’t too shabby either. It may not be as great as the famous “Bench Mob,” which was in town the past two season, but productive nonetheless.

The current unit includes holdovers Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler as well as newcomers like Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli. Gibson and Butler are known for their play on the defensive end of the floor, while Robinson and Belinelli provide scoring punch.   

And once Rose returns, Hinrich, who has started at point guard this season, will be demoted, giving the bench another solid defender.       

Coaching legend Larry Brown considers the Bulls title contenders this year once Rose returns (via ESPN Chicago).

When (Rose) comes back, I think he's going to be on a team capable of winning it all...I don't want to put any pressure on the Bulls. That's not fair. But you're talking about a kid who was an MVP in a great league.
I think they got a lot of pieces. They got a great coach (Tom Thibodeau). They got a great city, great support. It's not easy. Things have to fall in place and injuries can affect you. I certainly think the foundation is there with (Carlos) Boozer, (Joakim) Noah and (Luol) Deng and Kirk (Hinrich) and Derrick and (Taj) Gibson. They got Rip Hamilton who has won before, who I love to death.

Brown is right. The Bulls do possess the pieces needed to win a championship. They have a megastar in Rose, a pair of 2013 All-Stars in Deng and Noah, and their defense is stifling.

In addition, they're capable of coming through in the clutch. Check out Belinelli's game-winner against the Boston Celtics.      

In order to get out of the East, the Bulls will have to beat elite teams like the Heat and New York Knicks. While they've beaten Miami once this season, they're a perfect 3-0 versus the Knicks. 

If Chicago manages to reach the Finals, will they have enough firepower to knock off a team like the Thunder or San Antonio Spurs? That remains to be seen.

The Bulls may or may not capture title No. 7 this year. However, don’t write them off as title contenders.