Beasts of the East: How Will Bulls, Celtics, and Heat Match Up?
As the NBA season comes to a close, the Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, and Miami Heat are looking as if they will finish as the Eastern Conference's top three seeds.
Each respective team has their own pros and cons in the lineup, but how does each team stack up against each other position by position?
Let's find out.
The Derrick Rose vs. Rajon Rondo talks are now heavily in favor of Rose after his ridiculous break out performance this season. He is currently the front runner to win the NBA's Most Valuable Player award by averaging 25 points per game along with just under eight assists per game and leading an often-injured, and surprising Chicago team to the one-seed in the East with only a few weeks remaining.
Rondo is certainly not a slouch, though, averaging ten points and 11 assists per game. Rondo has certainly instituted himself into the Celtics organization, destroying the title of "Big Three."
Chalmers is averaging only six points and two assists per game, mostly due to having names such as Wade, James, and Bosh on his team to hoard the ball.
Winner: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
Second: Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
Third: Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat
Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen is an interesting match up. Wade, one of the best drivers, finishers, and all around players in the game, going toe to toe with one of, if not the, greatest three point shooter of all time.
Unfortunately for the Celtics, age may come into issue. Wade still has younger legs on him than Allen does, and Allen does hit cold streaks quite often. Wade is averaging almost 26 points per game with six rebounds. His defensive presence is felt throughout a game, taking away one and a half steals per game.
Nonetheless, Ray Allen still has a deadly shot from the arc that can change the momentum of any game, or series for that matter. Ask the Chicago Bulls two years ago in that epic seven game battle with the Celtics.
Keith Bogans is the two spot for the Bulls, but has certainly been the weak point of their starting bunch, only averaging four points per game. Chicago looked into improving their second guard before the trade deadline, but did not want to give up pieces such as Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, or Omer Asik.
Winner: Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
Second: Ray Allen, Boston Celtics
Third: Keith Bogans, Chicago Bulls
LeBron James could be the most dominate force in the NBA today. He is certainly considered the leader of this race, but not necessarily by such a margin that many fans expect. This is the most essential position for each team, and could be the key to coming out of the Eastern Conference.
James is knocking down over 26 points per game while also gaining seven and a half rebounds in each contest. This season he will definitely be looking to end the perception that he cannot win an NBA championship.
Paul Pierce and Luol Deng are no slouches either. Pierce is averaging 18 points per game, while Deng is only taking home on less at 17. Each player is also grabbing over five boards per game.
Deng is a minute hoarder, with 39 per game. Therefore he is getting five more minutes than Pierce to accumulate stats, which can skew them a bit. Deng is the glue of the Bulls, but not quite talented enough to be at the level of Paul Pierce.
Winner: LeBron James, Miami Heat
Second: Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
Third: Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls
This is the closest battle that involves all three teams. Kevin Garnett, Carlos Boozer, and Chris Bosh are all extremely large assets to their respective teams, but which is the best?
Garnett no doubt brings the most energy to his team, but his stats have dwindled as his age has risen, only scoring 14 per game with nine boards. He averages the most blocks of any of the three, denying opponents just under one per game.
Bosh has the most range of the three, and also has the most finesse. He is the only one of the trio who has knocked down a three pointer this year, but is still only shooting 24 percent from downtown. Bosh has accumulated 18 points and eight rebounds per game.
Boozer was the biggest off-season signing for the Bulls. He nearly averages a double-double, scoring 17 points and nine rebounds. Boozer has struggled during portions of the season with injuries and play, sometimes throwing up questionable shot choices, but has still been a main contributor to why the Bulls have been successful.
Winner: Three-way tie
Garnett's consistent energy level brings the play of his team up during the playoffs. Bosh and Boozer, while having a nearly opposite style of game, are just about equal in talent. Each has their own advantage over the other two, but none standout enough to put them over another.
These match-ups should be some fun battles to watch down the road.
This is the weakest combined position for the three teams ever since Kendrick Perkins was traded by the Celtics. Nenad Krystic and Erick Dampier aren't much competition for Joakim Noah.
While Noah may not be the prettiest person in the world, his game is one to be admired. He is always hustling to the ball, instilling the same mindset into his teammates on many occasions. Noah is one of the best players in the NBA at going after rebounds, getting 11 per game, and is also averaging a double-double with his twelve points per contest.
The aging Erick Dampier is averaging less than four in both points and rebounds per game. Nenad Krystic cannot boast much better though, only highlighting an eight point and four rebound average.
Winner: Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
Second: Nenad Krystic, Boston Celtics
Third: Erick Dampier, Miami Heat
The Celtics bench has struggled to stay healthy, taking big hits, literally, with the sidelining of Shaquille and Jermaine O'Neal. That hurts them in this conversation. The health of those two, along with the strong play of Jeff Green and Delonte West are both essential when it comes to the playoffs, especially with the Celtics' age.
The Bulls may not have the highlight reel bench, but they certainly produce. C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver, Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer, and Taj Gibson give the Bulls a spark when both teams are resting their starters.
Watson, at times, can be seen trying to impersonate Derrick Rose. His jump shot and drive ability has seemingly improved as the season has gone along. The same can be said for big man Omer Asik who looked remarkably awkward to begin the season. Gibson has continued to improve as the season has gone along. Korver and Brewer are both three point threats that can be put in when scoring is needed.
The Heat's bench play has been less than adequate as the season has gone along. James, Wade, and Bosh often have work to do after taking their breather. Mike Miller and Eddie House bring a deep threat into the game, and Mike Bibby was a decent pick up to play reserve guard. When Udonis Haslem returns, that should provide a big boost.
Winner: Chicago Bulls
Second: Boston Celtics
Third: Miami Heat
As it so happens, Chicago Bulls' coach Tom Thibodeau improved his defensive schemes while serving as an assistant coach under current Celtics' coach Doc Rivers. Both are absolutely fantastic coaches that have created their team into a contender, Rivers doing it for consecutive seasons since acquiring the Boston version of the "Big Three."
Tom Thibodeau has taken a very average Bulls team, and I definitely mean average, posting a record of 324-324 during the four seasons before Thibodeau's arrival, and morphed them into a first place team. His defensive ideals have transitioned well into the young Bulls' roster, as he can now boast the East's best record.
Erik Spoelstra is a very underrated coach. Many fans forget that he had the best single season turn around by a rookie head coach in NBA history when the Heat gained 28 more wins than the season before he took the reigns. Although his job was "on the line," according to the media after that overrated five game skid that the Heat endured, he has still done a fantastic job of holding up under the spotlight during this pressured season.
Winner: Doc Rivers
Second: Tom Thibodeau
Third: Erik Spoelstra
Which team has the most NBA championships? The Boston Celtics. They have the most playoff experience, which definitely becomes a factor. Although they may be lacking a true center, the energy of Garnett combined with the play of Pierce, Allen, and Rondo should be able to overcome it.
Assuming the top of the standings stay the same, they should have no problem in the first round with whomever they may play. They match up pretty well against the Heat, and should beat them in six-seven games.
Assuming the Bulls make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, it could be a series for the history books, similar to what it was in 2008, Rose's rookie year, who surely hasn't forgotten the lost opportunity of that pivotal game seven in Boston where the Celtics showed their dominance.
Having said all that, I would not be surprised to see any of the three take the East. All have substantial chances due to their extensive talent and ability to take over games at any time.
Winner: Boston Celtics
Second: Chicago Bulls
Third: Miami Heat