The Chicago Bulls have taken the East by a considerable margin, much to the surprise of NBA fans. They locked up the overall No. 1 seed and the home court advantage throughout the playoffs that comes with it. The team features the likely MVP in Derrick Rose along with a strong candidate for Coach of the Year in Tom Thibodeau.
The rotation in the playoffs is expected to be a deep one for Chicago, as coach Thibodeau enjoys doing to his bench. This will rank the top 10 players in importance for the Chicago Bulls.
It's very difficult to differentiate between the importance of each particular player on this Chicago Bulls team. Every person dedicates a certain flavor to the recipe for winning.
Kurt Thomas carried the load while Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah struggled with injuries. He is one of the main reasons that the Bulls have made it this far. His minutes may be few in the playoffs because of the current health of the team, but if anybody down low goes down, expect this veteran to be able to step in and play lock down defense.
Omer Asik is a great story, himself. At the beginning of the year, I had mentioned that I have never seen such an awkward basketball player in the NBA. He missed screens, misread offenses, and just didn't seem to know exactly what was happening. I believe the exact quote out of my mouth was, "Who is this awkward, lanky white guy just sitting in the paint? Oh-mur A-sick?" Credit to coach Tom Thibodeau for sticking with him and developing his skills to the point that he can become a factor for the Bulls.
The reason these two are sharing a spot is because Thomas played more towards the beginning of the season, and Asik played more towards the end. The obvious thought is that Asik will play more because obviously Thibodeau trusted him more down the stretch, but he may end up choosing the veteran, Thomas, over the rookie in the rotation.
C.J. Watson has come off the bench to play solid point guard for the Bulls when Derrick Rose needs a breather. At times, it seems as if Watson is attempting to imitate Rose by driving and putting up a ridiculous shot, and many times he is successful. He also does a good job protecting the ball and has a decent mid range jumper.
There's no doubt in my mind that C.J. Watson could be a good starting point guard for a few of the lower-tier teams in the league. At times, coach Thibodeau has put Rose and Watson on the court together, making the Bulls capable of spreading out the defense by having two quick drivers. This may be seen in the playoffs.
Trust me, somewhere down the line in this year's postseason the Bulls are going to need a big shot from their bench, and sometime Ronnie Brewer is going to have an open shot. But can he knock it down? Brewer is shooting 48 percent from the field and is averaging over six points per game.
If he can consistently hit a few shots off the bench, then the Bulls will have a good shot of outscoring the opposing bench, especially if Kyle Korver is doing the same. The more Bulls who are capable of hitting shots while the bench is on the floor, the more open threes that will open up for Kyle Korver.
Gibson has been another player who has exceeded expectation due to the injuries of Noah and Boozer, similar to Thomas. Gibson is getting over 20 minutes a game and has done a fantastic job for the Bulls. It seems that he has learned new post moves from the newly acquired Carlos Boozer as the season has gone along, and is consistently battling for boards. He is taking home seven points and six rebounds per game, which is great within a 20-minute span.
Kyle Korver is known for one thing: shooting. He is essentially a liability on the defensive side of the ball. Opposing teams naturally target him when he's on the floor but also have to change their own defense to protect against his deadly shot. Korver is shooting 42 percent from the field, but also has the reputation of being unable to hit a shot during clutch time. If he can keep his shooting up during this postseason, it will be difficult for the opposition to take advantage of the Bulls' bench.
Joakim Noah has drawn comparisons to former Bulls great, Dennis Rodman. They may not be exactly the same, but they are certainly comparable.
Noah is known for his rebounding ability, high energy, and defense. He may not be the prettiest guy on the team, but he gets the job done. Opponents' fans may be perplexed by his actions due to his energetic nature, but the Bulls love it. That sounds pretty similar to Rodman to me.
The only reason he is this low is because the Bulls proved they could win without him. The starters are interchangeable in their importance mostly due to matchups and situational basketball, but a case could be made to put Noah higher on this list.
Carlos Boozer was the biggest offseason acquisition for the Bulls. He provides the low-post scoring that the Bulls have needed since trading Elton Brand and that they missed during their last two playoff appearances.
Boozer cannot allow low posts to score on him, gain offensive rebounds, or block his shots. He has been prone to turnovers and careless shots this season, which needs to change if the Bulls are to succeed. The playoffs are time for no-mistake basketball, and the Bulls offseason consolation prize needs to earn his money as he has all season for them to contend.
Derrick Rose may have his team No. 1, wear No. 1, and be the No. 1 point guard in the league, but he's not No. 1 on this list. Why? Because he's expected to perform now. Bulls fans can assume that Derrick Rose will bring his A-game.
In both of the previous opportunities he had in the playoffs, he played better than he did during the regular season. Asking for that now may be pushing it, but Derrick Rose should continue to score 25 and dish out about eight assists per game, while leading his team during crunch time.
Keith Bogans' role is defined as such: Make two threes and play brilliant defense. That's pretty much what he's done this season, but he'll need to do even more in the playoffs for his team.
The game plan for opponents certainly isn't going to be "Make sure Bogans isn't open." It's going to be how to stop Derrick Rose. This means that Bogans, who already is open a lot, is going to have even more room to put up shots. Whether these are bricks or if they are drained will decide if Derrick Rose is going to be double teamed or not.
Luol Deng: Minute hoarder, glue guy, and most important piece for the Bulls this offseason. Not only is he the longest tenured Bull on this team, he has played the most this season. Deng knows his role as the number two or three option and he loves it.
Years ago he was expected to be "the guy" in the Windy City, but now he is in the perfect situation for him. Defenses will be so distracted by Derrick Rose, as they have been all year, that Luol Deng will get his fair share of shots, which he certainly has the ability to make. If Luol Deng struggles, is injured, or is completely shut down, it's hard to see the Bulls doing anything this postseason.