How Confident Can Chicago Bulls Fans Be About Their Playoff Ceiling?

Mike B.Correspondent IMarch 31, 2014

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 13: Taj Gibson #22 and Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls celebrate during a time-out against the Brooklyn Nets at the United Center on February 13, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Nets 92-76. 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

As a Chicago Bulls fan, do you believe your team will make a deep postseason run this year? Or are you expecting to see an early exit?

What a kooky year this has been for the Bulls. With a healthy Derrick Rose back in the mix, the team entered the season labeled as legitimate title contenders. But unfortunately, Rose would suffer a torn right meniscus in November, ending his season again.

Eventually dumping Luol Deng’s salary, the Bulls appeared ready to give up and rebuild for the future. However, the team would never enter “tank mode” as it continuously found ways to win even without two of its top players.

Joakim Noah doesn’t believe in losing on purpose, via Sean Highkin of USA Today:

There's no tanking. There's none of that. We're going to go out and give it 150%. When (our jerseys) say 'Chicago Bulls,' I want people to be proud of that. Whether we have four guys out, no matter who's hurt, we're going to give 150% win or lose. I know people in this city are proud of that.

We just want to represent. Even when I come to the game, I see the guy on the streets selling the newspaper. It's cold outside, but when he sees me drive by, he's excited. 'Alright, let's go Bulls! Get it done tonight!' I feel like I play for that guy.

To me, that's what the city represents. There's a lot of hardship. There's a lot of adversity. So I feel like, when I play basketball, I want people to be proud of their team.

Chicago has stayed relevant mostly due to suffocating, Tom Thibodeau-coached defense, MVP-type play from Noah and D.J. Augustin’s scoring punch off the bench.

Recently clinching a playoff spot, the Bulls are currently the Eastern Conference's fourth seed. It will be interesting to see how far they'll go in the postseason. 

 

Can They Get Out of the First Round?  

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 25:  Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls is defended by Kevin Garnett #2 of the Brooklyn Nets during the second quarter at the Barclays Center on December 25, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expre
Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images

More than likely, either the Brooklyn Nets or Washington Wizards will be Chicago’s first opponent.

The injury-riddled Bulls somehow managed to beat Brooklyn during last year’s first round. Nets fans are probably still wondering how their team lost to a group who was without Rose (injured) and Deng (missed final two games of the series).

But this year’s Nets team is different. Following a horrendous start, they have been one of the league’s hottest teams since the calendar flipped to 2014. They’re more experienced with the offseason additions of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, who’ve played a combined 267 playoff games.

If the Bulls end up facing Washington, they should have a ton of trouble with All-Star point guard John Wall. The Wizards are 2-0 against Chicago this season, as Wall has averaged 21 points and nine assists on nearly 52 percent shooting.  

According to Aggrey Sam of CSNChicago.com, Washington is a better matchup for the Bulls than Brooklyn:

Getting back to the Bulls, the desire for home-court advantage is a given, but though the players and coaches won't ever declare a preference for an opening-round series, taking on the inexperienced Wizards, even with their explosive young backcourt of All-Star point guard John Wall and second-year sharpshooter Bradley Beal, is privately considered a more ideal matchup than a veteran Brooklyn team, which has found its rhythm in the second half of the season behind first-year head coach Jason Kidd after a rough start to the campaign.

No matter who the opponent is, expect the Bulls to win their first-round series. Noah won’t let his team go home early. Last year vs. the Nets, his 24-point, 14-rebound, six-block effort in Game 7 powered the Bulls to victory.  

 

Can They Reach the Conference Finals?

Dec 10, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) is guarded by Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Both the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat will make it out of the first round. It’s basically guaranteed. There’s no way in the world that the Eastern Conference’s top two teams will lose to the Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Bobcats of the world.

If the Bulls do indeed reach the semifinals, a matchup with either Indiana or Miami will certainly prove to be a “get out your popcorn and watch” type of series.

The Bulls have played well against both teams, such as their March 9 overtime victory over the Heat, and a recent 89-77 win vs. Indiana.

Although Chicago has beaten both clubs twice this season, it’s highly unlikely it could knock either team out of the playoffs.

The Bulls possess a championship-caliber defense, but without Rose and Deng around, their lack of scoring (averages a league-worst 92.8 points per game) will prevent them from getting to the conference finals.

Chicago has a better chance of beating Indiana than Miami. While the Pacers are surely a great team, LeBron James and the Heat are on a mission to win their third straight title, and they’ll do whatever it takes to accomplish such a feat.

With a healthy Rose returning and the possible signing of Carmelo Anthony, the Bulls could very well make a trip to the conference finals next year. But sorry, this year will be all about Paul George's Pacers vs. James' Heat.

 

How Confident Can Bulls Fans Be?

RIO DE JANIERO, BRAZIL - OCTOBER 10: Chicago Bulls fans pose for a photo during Fan Appreciation Day as part of 2013 Global Games on October 10, 2013 at HSBC Arena in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by do
David Dow/Getty Images

Back in early January, Bleacher Report’s Jason S. Parini, wrote this:

"Stay faithful, Bulls fans. There's a lot of basketball to be played and a lot of positive scenarios that could still happen in the near future for the Bulls.”

Reading that paragraph back then, fans probably thought to themselves “Yeah right, there’s nothing positive about this season.”

But obviously they were wrong, as this has turned out to be a fascinating campaign. Nobody figured the Bulls would own the No. 4 seed in late March, that's for sure.

Fans should be confident their team will make noise during the 2014 playoffs. The Bulls roster possesses a lot of talented players like Noah, Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler, Augustin and Carlos Boozer (yes, he is talented). Plus, Coach Thibs is one of the best coaches in the business.

Chicago fans should also be confident their team will advance past the first round, although it won’t be an easy task.

The Bulls’ playoff ceiling this year, though, is reaching the semifinals. They just might take Indiana or Miami to seven games, but that’s about it. Every Bulls fan know that; they just don’t want to admit it.

 

All stats are from Basketball-Reference.com and accurate as of March 30, 2014.