Due to the fact that Miami are on fire, the Celtics are first in the East and the Magic are starting to click after their blockbuster trade, the Chicago Bulls have not been talked about enough for their play of late.
People are forgetting that Chicago has won 14 of their last 17 games and are up to third in the Eastern Conference. With Rose playing like an MVP, role players stepping up and the fact that seven of their next 10 games are against sub .450 teams, here are five reasons the Bulls are title contenders right now.
Rose's play of late has turned the Bulls into a top team in the East
Why not? That’s the exact same attitude that Derrick Rose has himself.
When asked by ESPNChicago.com last Friday if he believes he should be considered for MVP this was his response. “As long as we keep winning, I know I'm up there with the people that's in the race for it. I want to be it, so why not?“
Rose has really upped his game this season. Not only is he averaging a marvelous 23.8 PPG, 8.3 APG and 4.5 RPG, but he is also improving steadily. Last year, he only averaged 20.8 points and 6.0 assists. This is a true testament to hard work. More evidence of this can be shown by the way that his three-point percentage has improved from 27 percent last season to 38 percent this season.
And his teammates believe in his leadership ability. “When he steps out on the court, you can see his confidence, his swag.” Joakim Noah had that to say about his point guard. The Bulls are third in the Eastern Conference and have won their last four, and Derrick Roses’ MVP-caliber play has been a catalyst for their winning ways.
The Bulls are 4th in the NBA in Blocks per Game
The Bulls have proved this year they are one of the best defensive teams in the league with the second best defensive rating at 99.8.
At 42.8, the Bulls are second in opponents field goal percentage, trailing only Miami. They are also third in opponents three-point field goal percentage. The addition of Boozer to the lineup has only helped a defensive team that was already quite good with defensive players like Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose.
Keep in mind that Joakim Noah has missed three weeks so far, and when he is back, he will only improve an already superb defensive team. The Bulls are tied for the eighth fewest fouls in the league at 20.5 and are fourth in the league in blocks per game at 6.2.
All of this combines to make an exciting defensive team. It is a well-known fact that defense is vital to a deep playoff run and Chicago, with the third highest attendance in the league, are always going to be an energetic team that will be tough to score against—especially at home.
Deng has been irreplaceable for the Bulls this season
Not only are Boozer and Rose one of only four pairs in the NBA to each average 20 points, but also, Luol Deng is not far behind with 17.8 PPG.
Deng is shooting 38 percent from three-point range and has started all 32 games this year. The last time Deng started more than 69 games in a year was in 2006, and he had a career year that year. Keep in mind Deng is still learning to fit into this new offense, and his numbers are sure to improve. “By now, I know how to play with Derrick. I’m just getting used to playing with Carlos, when to cut and when to allow Carlos to be Carlos. The more we play, the more we’ll get used to each other."
Deng has averaged 21ppg over the Bulls past five home games. Boozer, on the other hand, is consistent as ever averaging just about 20 points and 10 rebounds. During a recent 10-game streak, Boozer averaged 24.8 points and 13.1 rebounds. If Boozer and Deng can keep up their hot play, the Bulls are sure to be a force in the East.
Not all of the summer signings have settled in yet.
The scary thing about the Bulls is they are not yet hitting on all cylinders.
As previously stated, Luol Deng has not yet totally fit into the offense, even though he is having a career year and is still trying to play off the two superstars. Chicago basically took half Utah’s team in the summer and not all of the new acquisitions have clicked with the Bulls as well as Boozer assimilated.
Kyle Korver, who led the league in three-point field goal percentage last year at 54 percent is shooting only 40 percent this year as he is still settling in. Shooting slumps like this usually occur early in the year. If he gets back into form, he could be the type of role player that championship-caliber teams desire.
Ronnie Brewer has not settled in yet as he is averaging 6ppg even though he averaged 10ppg and 14ppg in the last two seasons. This is mainly because his minutes are down, but the Bulls are looking for a new starter at shooting guard, and he could be the man for the job, only improving the teams depth. Combine this with the fact that Taj Gibson is going through a sophomore slump (8rpg down to 6rpg, 49% FG down to 44%FG), and it looks like the Bulls have nowhere to go but up.
Noahs' energy and presence can't be replaced.
Three weeks gone and Chicago is still going strong without him.
Their energetic star center was having a breakout season before he went out for an injury, and he is sure to make an immediate impact as soon as he comes back to full health. He is expected to be back in February. His points per game jumped this year from 10.7 last season to 14.7 this season. At 11.7 rebounds per game he is a consistent double-double threat—something that is vital to a team that wants to make a deep playoff run.
He is just the type of player that thrives in the Bulls system because he rebounds consistently, is intelligent and exciting on defense, can carry the scoring load and has a knack for making the big hustle plays. Expect the Bulls to be grateful to have their starting center returning to action once his thumb heals.