Reflecting on the Chicago Bulls Season Thus Far
The Chicago Bulls came into this season knowing that they won't have their superstar and former MVP, Derrick Rose. They've seen their share of ups and downs, but are still one of the best teams in the league, despite missing their best player for the entire season so far.
The Bulls' season has been more about the return of Rose instead of the quality of play that every other player contributed since the beginning of the season.
The strengths and weaknesses of this squad have been evident, and Rose still hasn't played a single minute this season. This slideshow will evaluate the standout details of the Bulls' season up to now.
Defense Still Remains Solid
One of the biggest reasons why the Bulls were one of the best defensive teams last season was because of their so-called "bench mob." Not only did they possess one of the best benches in the league, but they were also one of the best defensive groups in the NBA.
Even though they lost Omer Asik and Ronnie Brewer—two of the major defensive players off the bench—the Bulls still maintain one of the most suffocating defenses in the league. They are sixth in the NBA in defensive efficiency (per Hollinger's Team Stats) even though the team features almost completely different players than last season.
It just goes to show the greatness of the defensively minded Tom Thibodeau. He could take any player, whether he's a good defender or not, and implement him into a system that has been working for the past three seasons. Players like Nate Robinson and Kirk Hinrich have been good perimeter defenders in the past, but the system has made them into better defenders.
In the previous two seasons, the Bulls have ranked fifth and 12th in offensive efficiency in 2011-12 and 2010-11, respectively. However, they plummeted to 24th this year, and it's no surprise, considering that their primary ball-handler and best scorer has been out all season.
It's expected that the offense will run much more effectively when Rose returns, but there's still no timetable for that, and it's still questionable if he's even going to play at all this season.
The Bulls have quietly compiled a 39-31 record and the fifth best record in the Eastern Conference, but they will not go that far with their ineffective offense. It all depends on how well Rose plays when he steps onto the court again.
Until then, the Bulls' offense will continue to struggle.
The thing that separates a good player from a superstar is consistency. The Bulls possess a bunch of good—and even great—players ranging from Nate Robinson to Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah.
Although Noah and Luol Deng are All-Stars, they aren't superstars because they can't keep up a high level of consistent play every game.
Noah is having the best season of his career, but there are times where he seems non-existent, and his team has suffered because of it. Deng has been playing great defense on the opposing team's best wing players throughout the season, but sometimes he just can't score the basketball on offense.
Boozer falls into a similar category, except he's had more up and downs since he came to the Bulls than any other period of his career—but he has been playing well recently. Robinson, at times, looks like he's the best scorer on the court, but other times he can't find the basket.
There's no question that everybody on the team could contribute, but can they contribute at a high level for an entire season and the playoffs? Probably not.
The Return of Derrick Rose
If there's one thing that has been mentioned more than anything else, it's the hyped-up return of Derrick Rose.
Although this season has been more about the injured superstar, there's nothing more recognizable about the Bulls than Rose's imminent return.
Years from now, people will look back at the 2012-13 Chicago Bulls season and define it as the season when Rose was recovering from his ACL injury on the sidelines. They won't remember the fact that Joakim Noah garnered his first All-Star selection, or that Jimmy Butler rose from obscurity to become a major contributor to the team.
This season will forever be remembered as the return of Rose.
Unfortunately for the Bulls, Rose still hasn't seen a single second of playing time yet. His recovery seems to have went smoothly, as he was cleared to play earlier this month (via ESPN), but he's still unsure of his return.
There's No Quitting in Chi-Town
This Bulls team reminds me of the Boston Celtics, primarily because it plays with incredible effort every single night, no matter who it's up against.
The Bulls' relentless energy and hustle was on full display last night, as they toppled the defending champion Miami Heat—along with their 27-game win streak—at the United Center.
We saw a team that wasn't rattled and had no fear going up against the best team in the entire league. Deng proved why he was selected to the All-Star team this year, as he recorded a team-high 28 points on 10-for-22 shooting.
Even if Rose does not end up returning this year, the Bulls won't back down to any opponent in the playoffs. They are still an elite team, and they have a chance to defeat anybody in the league through sheer work-ethic.