When the Chicago Bulls begin the all-star break, over two thirds of the 2010-11 season will be behind them.
For Bulls’ fans, this season has been an overwhelming success. The Bulls have been playing at a level far and above their preseason expectations, and they have done it with key starters out for the majority of the season.
The Bulls are currently in third place in the East, and are only 2.5 games behind the conference leader, Boston. Orlando is struggling of late, and the Atlanta Hawks do not seem like a threat at present. It seems very likely that the Bulls will hold onto the third seed, or possibly finish higher.
In reality, the Bulls only need to finish in the top four so they can avoid playing Boston or Miami in the first round. Of course if they can squeak by them in the regular season standings, home court advantage never hurt a team’s playoff run.
Derrick Rose has been playing at a level most of us did not expect him to arrive at for a year or two. He is currently the front runner for the MVP award, because no player has been as instrumental to their team’s success as Rose. Most of the year he has been putting on a one man show, while managing to get over eight assists a game.
The way he has improved this year, it seems like the sky is the limit for Rose. With Rose at the helm, the Bulls’ future is limitless. However, as we have seen this year, the roster has room for improvements that will help ensure the success of future Bulls’ championship runs.
The glaring defect on the Bulls roster right is the shooting guard position.
Kyle Korver has been streaky with his shooting this year. It would be too much to expect him to shoot anywhere close to what he shot last year, but he has not really come through for the Bulls in critical moments. When you factor in his lack of defense, there is no wonder why he does not start.
Last week Gordon Hayward was even able to go to the line courtesy of a foul by Korver. Hayward shot one for two, and picked up his only point of the night.
What Bogans and Brewer lack in offensive production, they make up for on defense. This allows the three players to combine as a comparable shooting guard combination when Korver’s shooting is on.
Bogans is also more than capable of knocking down a couple threes most nights. Still, if the Bulls can draft well, or make the right offseason acquisitions, there is significant room for improvement at the shooting guard position.
Dissecting the shooting guard position at this point in the season is kind of nitpicking, so I will digress to the biggest surprise of the year. Joakim Noah and Carlson Boozer have combined to miss 50 of 53 games this season, yet the Bulls are twenty games above 500. While this is largely the result of Derrick Rose’s play and Tom Thibodeau’s coaching, Luol Deng has played a huge part in the Bull’s success this year.
When Boozer or Noah miss time, Luol Deng is a legitimate third facilitator. His impact is evident both statistically, and in the win column. If the Bulls did not have three legitimate scoring options on the floor, they would not have won as many games as they have. While Deng seldom leads the Bulls in scoring, he is averaging 17.5 points per game, and also shoots his fair share of threes.
The Bulls are undefeated in division play, but they are only 13 – 12 on the road. With everyone healthy after the All Star Break, it would be a good indicator of the Bulls playoff potential if they pick up more road wins. This is especially the case down the stretch when contenders are already playing playoff basketball.
Other than that, we will not learn much more about the Bulls until the playoffs. Their schedule will be more difficult the last third of the season, but with the return of Noah, their best rebounder and defender, it should be a wash.
Keep an eye on Omer Asik. He has played pretty well in limited minutes, and if he keeps his fouls down, the Bulls might use him a lot in the playoffs for his defensive support and rebounding. Asik is virtually always a positive player in the plus/minus department. In the playoffs, if a player is a positive plus/minus player, they should be in the game as much as possible.