Chicago Bulls: Are They Ready for the 2011 NBA Finals?
The Chicago Bulls are clicking on all cylinders. They already have nine more wins than last year with thirteen games remaining on the schedule.
Their 50-19 record is tied for best in the East.
Not only are the Bulls beating average teams, but they are also beating elite teams. The Bulls are 8-3 against Boston, San Antonio, Dallas, LA Lakers and Miami.
They Bulls have MVP front runner and future Hall of Fame point guard in Derrick Rose, and are the best defensive team in the NBA.
All of these positives combined with the Bulls clicking and healthy at the end of the season should culminate in a long postseason run to the finals. Right?
Unfortunately no, though nothing would make me happier than to see Derrick Rose hoisting up the Larry O’Brien trophy, it is simply not going to happen this year.
Here is why.
If the Bulls give up one hundred points, they are probably going to lose.
The Bulls are 29th in the league at 3-13 when they allow their opponents to score one hundred points or more.
San Antonio 14-5, Dallas 15-9, La Lakers 11-10, and Miami 10-8; all of these other title contenders have shown that if the game is high scoring they can still win.
The Bulls' lock down defense generally does not give up one hundred points, and the playoff defensive intensity is usually higher, which will favor the Bulls.
But the Bulls have to be able to adapt to the flow of the game and kick up their scoring if the situation demands it.
No Shooting Guard
The Bulls use a three-man rotation at shooting guard with Keith Bogans, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer.If you took the talent from all three men and put them into one shooting guard, then the Bulls would be set. Sadly, we cannot do this, and none of these guards have played consistent enough to wow anybody.
Besides a few good games, Bogans has been worthless. Kyle Korver is perhaps the best three-point shooter in the NBA, but he doesn't play enough defense to start. And Ronnie Brewer can play defense, but struggles with open jumpers.
The guard trio has played well since the trade deadline, when there were rumors of Courtney Lee or O.J. Mayo coming to town.
But let’s not kid ourselves, when its playoff time and the Bulls are facing the best of the East every night these guards are not enough to get it done.
Poor Free Throws
The Bulls struggle from the free throw line.
They are 26th in the league in free throws at just 73.3 percent, and their opponents shoot 75.7 percent. So every night the Bulls are losing the free throw battle.
This will really hurt in the playoffs when games come down to just one or two points.
San Antonio Spurs, LA Lakers, Miami Heat and Boston Celtics all have positive free throw differentials, and shoot better than the Bulls from the charity line.
The Bulls will have to improve their free throws to have a shot at the crown.
The Bulls are injury prone. Their big men have missed too many games this season.
The Bulls frontcourt stars Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah have missed 23 and 31 games respectively.
They have both been banged up more than once this season, and the Bulls cannot win in the playoffs without them.
Derrick Rose has kept the team together, which is one of the reasons why he is the league’s MVP, but this is a dangerous path for a team that wants to win a championship.
Too Many Minutes
Luol Deng and Derrick Rose are playing too many minutes.
Luol Deng is fourth in the NBA in minutes played at 39.5 MPG, and Derrick Rose's minutes are high at 37.7 MPG. Luol plays so many minutes because the Bulls do not have a backup small forward to give him a rest, and he says he doesn't mind the extra minutes.
But it is going to be difficult for him to play at full strength late in games after playing 82 games in the regular season, especially deep in the playoffs.
I wouldn't have a problem with Derrick Rose playing a high amount of minutes if he weren't so physical. He loves to take the ball to the hoop, which often results in him hitting the floor. Rose has the ability to avoid contact in mid-air, but the playoffs are a different animal; he has to take care of his body to remain healthy. Rose and Luol need to reduce their minutes if the Chicago Bulls want them to be healthy throughout the playoffs.
The Chicago Bulls are similar to the 2009 Chicago Blackhawks. They are one year away from really being a title contender. The Bulls will gain playoff experience this year, and will use that taste of the playoffs to fuel their run to the NBA Finals in 2011-2012.
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I am a Huge Chicago Sports fan.
I am a Junior at Aurora University, and have been writing for the Bleacher Report since February.
I have a sports talk radio show that broadcasts live over the internet on Thursdays from 5:10 p.m. - 6 p.m. at aurora.edu/spartancast
Past episodes can be found on iTunes under Boom Goes The Dynamite in the podcast section.
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