This is the toughest to prove, but here goes.
Chicago is in the middle of a renaissance and it starts from Derrick Rose to Tom Thibodeau on down the line.
The main thing here is focus and experience.
Rose is such a fierce competitor, constantly going at the likes of C.J. Watson, Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer (who's showed the most improvement averaging 1.4 steals per game in limited minutes), that the guard play on the Bulls is a water-tight ship, especially since the departure of Kirk Heinrich and Chris Duhon.
The three guards who back up Rose have done an admirable job when he's his 10 minutes per game. Bogans and Brewer are controlled yet intense neophytes in the school of Thibodeau and Rose, but their ability to learn on the fly and keep pace was more evident against good teams like San Antonio and Boston.
With four guards more apt to the point, the position—which is the most important on the court—is well stocked for the Bulls, whose run-and-gun style needs a player able to man the break at all times.
This leads to another championship squad necessity: a midrange and long-range game.
Here the Bulls have Luol Deng, whose consistency is frightening, and Kyle Korver, arguably one of the best three-point shooters ever. The combination of these two is similar to the best-record Spurs combo of Matt Bonner and Manu Ginobili in the drive-and-dish-out capability inherent in this guard-dominated squad.
Deng is deadly from 10-18 feet, though not as good at one-on-one plays, and can hit them on the break with as much efficiency as in a half-court set. Korver is a bomber, whose deadeye aim is good for ninth overall in three-point shooting percentage (42 percent), and he's come through in the rhythm and with timeliness so far this year.
The only teams that match up with this combo offensively are the Spurs, Celtics and Heat; yet we'll break down just how each can be beat.
San Antonio Spurs
First, the Spurs, who lost by 10 to the Bulls on February 17th, have no answer for Rose, who dominated play with 42, eight and five. But also instrumental and telling in that game was the combined play of Kurt Thomas and Carlos Boozer—two hard-driving veteran forwards that cleaned up the boards and gave the aging Spurs' interior defense massive fits.
Also, Brewer played solid D on Tony Parker, and displayed his athleticism by sparking a late run with Rose on the bench. Yeah, this is a regular-season game, but the Bulls have the Spurs' ticket because they're quicker, more intense defensively, clean up the boards better and have an unstoppable force at point guard that Tony Parker just can't check.
Next, the Celtics, who just lost a March 30th battle to the Bulls, are in deep trouble because the Bulls have blood on their minds after the tough '09 playoff loss. The Bulls, at this point, simply do what the Celtics do better a lot of the time, even without Rose in the picture. Chicago can run, shoot from deep, defend, help out in the post and rebound more effectively than aging Boston.
Then, with Rose in, it just gets ridiculous. The fire he's built up for the first team that knocked him out of the playoffs is intense. The way he attacks the Celtics defense and makes Rondo look scared gives you the sense that he will never let this team own him again—they're Rose's Pistons.
Finally, the Heat are probably the biggest problem because they have bigger, physical guards and deep range—just check out James Jones and Mike Bibby. But the Heat have a self-destructive sense about them that sees missed opportunities and big shots bricked in the clutch. Miami's interior defense is lacking the physicality of a Boozer or Noah, who are more willing to get down and dirty than Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem or Joel Anthony. And Boozer is more talented around the basket than Bosh and Haslem combined, while Noah's gritty second-chance nature would outdo Anthony any day of the week.
Yes, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will be nearly impossible to stop, but taking Bosh out of the equation has shown their weakness, and the Bulls interior can do that. One star and a bunch of solid role-players is better than three stars any day. Why? Because basketball is a team game and money really doesn't buy championships.
These teams pose the most serious threat to the Bulls and are the steppingstones the Bulls have to cross physically and psychologically since several members of all three teams have put the Bulls out of the two previous playoffs.
Then there's coach Tom Thibodeau, who seems like a perfect fit for the Bulls, and is in many ways.
But the most important of these is running and defense.
Thibodeau has brought the "Running of the Bulls" back to Chicago, and it is a very welcome sight. Players like Deng, Korver, Brewer and Noah shoot in rhythm more often than not, and the break is the place to do it. The Bulls are also good second-chance opportunists and bang the boards hard in the half-court set, and while looking for put-backs on the break. This is why Chicago has been unstoppable all season
They are scrappy when they need to be, controlled when they ought to be and downright mean in the paint. This physicality is because ex-defensive coach Thibodeau won't allow missed defensive assignments or opportunities slide, and these turn into easy buckets for the Bulls and plenty of room for Rose to run his show.
Above all, Rose is the reason they're here.
His electric, captivating and courageous play has Chicago and NBA fans cheering again. He captures the popular imagination of his team and his followers like few else.
He's pass-first, and extremely peripheral, but he knows when it's his time.
That is why Thibodeau has given him the free reign he deserves—it's reserved for transcendent players like Rose.
Having the point guard as the glue is most important, and that is why they don't often win MVPs. Because the brightest light is on them, they need the toughest skin and most personable demeanor. Magic Johnson had that and was a winner. Isiah Thomas had it too. Steve Nash is also a rare talent with skill and poise.
Derrick has it, his team is 59-20 and no one stands in his or his team's way.