How This Year's Chicago Bulls' Defense Ranks with the Best in Franchise History

Bob Bajek@bobbajekAnalyst IIIFebruary 29, 2012

How This Year's Chicago Bulls' Defense Ranks with the Best in Franchise History

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    The Chicago Bulls have a stifling defense this year, as it's been their staple to a 28-8 start.

    Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau believes in a strong team defensive concept, which has Chicago as the second-best defensive unit in the NBA

    While the 2011-12 Bulls are making their mark defensively, how does this team stack up with the best defensive teams in franchise history?

    Read to find out.

8: 2011-12

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    Even though the Chicago Bulls are having a  splendid defensive season, the season isn't over yet, and that's why it is at the bottom of this list. 

    The Bulls are giving up 87.9 points per game (second in the NBA) and have a defensive rating of 97.7 (second), allowing 80 or less points in 11 games. Small forward Luol Deng has been a solid on-ball defender and center Joakim Noah has been a perfect help defender. 

    Reserve swingman Kyle Korver is historically a poor defender, but he has been rotating better this year and moving off the ball quicker to close shooting gaps.

    Bulls star Derrick Rose has continued his steady improvement in staying in front of his defender and contesting shots.

    The Bulls do a good job swarming the ball, as seen in the above video when three Bulls defend Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant on the baseline in the Christmas Day game.

    Another thing the Bulls do well is half-court trap defense as demonstrated in the 76-74 win over the Atlanta Hawks. With this strategy, the Bulls would disrupt the ball-handler with soft but firm zone pressure as half the shot clock would be used before the Hawks even could run their offensive set. The Hawks' shooters would in turn settle for bad shots, or the Bulls would contest the shots well.

    This defense might rank higher, but we will know only when the season is over.

7: 2010-11

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    When Tom Thibodeau came to coach the Chicago Bulls, he brought a team-oriented defensive system that relies on help defense and fluid rotations.

    The Bulls finished the season second in points allowed (91.3) and first in defensive rating (100.3), allowing 80 or less points in 15 games.

    Former Bulls shooting guard Keith Bogans played physical defense and provided good help defense for Derrick Rose. Luol Deng and Ronnie Brewer were the lockdown defenders.

    Center Joakim Noah played at another level, gaining NBA All-Defensive Second Team honors with 15 votes. Rose (14), Deng (11), Bogans (two) and Brewer (one) also received votes.

    Coach Nick from analyzes how the Bulls do well in a team-oriented defensive style.

    The Bulls do a no middle defensive strategy where the defender lines his feet up to prevent the ball-handler from driving the lane. This forces the ball-handler outside and take low-percentage shots, forcing everything to the baseline

    The above is an example of this practice in the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat. Noah stays in front of Dwayne Wade as he was practicing no middle like Coach Nick said. Thus, Noah drives D-Wade to the left of the middle and had his arms up because he was in a proper defensive stance.

    Ice is a strategy of taking away the sideline pick and roll. The defender forces the defender to the baseline and the screener's defend sinks back into the lane to take away the drive.

    The video shows how the Bulls are very effective at this.

    Another thing the video shows is the Bulls do a good job in closing out on the perimeters to prevent three-point shooters from getting a clean look even on crispy passing.

    This team ranks seventh because it couldn't stop LeBron James and the Heat in the playoffs.

6: 1992-93

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    The Chicago Bulls had another strong defensive year, but not as good as the other championship years.

    The Bulls were second in points allowed (98.9) and seventh in defensive rating (106.1).

    Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen again made the All-NBA Defensive First Team, and Horace Grant made the All-NBA Defensive Second Team.

    Even though the Bulls had lock down defenders, they could play well as a defensive unit.

    In Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Bulls were winning 95-94 with seconds left in a 2-2 series. New York Knicks forward Charles Smith was blocked four times by Jordan, Grant and Pippen (twice) and B.J. Armstrong scored on a fast break layup to clinch the game.

    The Bulls surrendered 96.5 points a night during the playoffs, including four straight games giving up 105 or more points to the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals.

5: 1990-91

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    The 1990-91 Bulls won their first ever NBA championship this season, and they did it with great defense.

    The Bulls were fourth in points allowed (101.0) and seventh in defensive rating (107.2).

    While the Bulls didn't hold opponents to 80 points or under during the regular season, Chicago stepped it up in the playoffs.

    In six playoff games, the Bulls shut down opponents to 86 points or fewer. Overall, the Bulls allowed 92.3 points in the postseason.

    Michael Jordan was All-NBA Defensive First Team and Scottie Pippen was All-NBA Defensive Second Team.

    During the championship years, the Bulls had a different style of defense. With Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant great on-ball defenders, Bulls coach Phil Jackson had more man-to-man defense with occasional soft zone mixed in.

    In the above video, Jordan and Pippen were both shut down by the Detroit Pistons' Mark Aguirre during Game 1 of the 1991 Eastern Conference finals.

4: 1991-92

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    Another year, another championship for the Chicago Bulls during the 1991-92 season.

    The Bulls were third in points allowed (99.5) and fourth in defensive rating (104.5).

    In the playoffs, the Bulls again clamped down on opposing offenses as they allowed only 94.2 points per night.

    Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen both made the All-NBA Defensive First Team, with this being the first time Pippen will gain first-team honors.

    Scottie was a lockdown defender who would be physical in forcing bad shots, jump the passing lanes like no other, block, steal the ball at will and was good at blocking fast breaks.

    In the above video, Jordan forced Penny Anderson of the New Jersey Nets into a 10-second backcourt violation.

3: 1996-97

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    The Chicago Bulls' second three-peat also consisted of amazing defensive teams, with power forward Dennis Rodman taking Horace Grant's spot.

    In 1996-97, the Bulls' defense gave up 92.3 points a game (sixth) and had a rating of 102.4 (4th), allowing 80 or less points in 14 regular-season games.

    Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen once again made the All-NBA Defensive First Team.

    Chicago pumped up the intensity in the playoffs, surrendering just 87.2 points per contest.

    The Bulls particularly gave the Miami Heat (94.8 points per game) and Utah Jazz (103.1 points per game) huge fits. The Jazz were held to 87.2 points while the Heat mustered just 78.6 points.

    The above video shows Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Heat, where the Bulls won 75-68 while holding Miami to 33.8 percent shooting from the field.

2: 1997-98

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    When the 1997-98 season began, the Chicago Bulls knew this would be the last go-around for a potential NBA championship.

    Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson's contracts were all up after the year ended, and they wanted to make the best of the situation by reclaiming their mystical glory.

    The Bulls were third in scoring defense (89.6 points) while third in defensive rating (99.8), allowing 80 or less points in 14 regular-season games.

    By this time, it's not surprising that MJ and Pip made the All-NBA Defensive First Team.

    Defense once again won a championship for the Bulls as Chicago gave up 86.1 points in the postseason.

    Against the Utah Jazz and Charlotte Hornets, those teams each could only score 80.2 points per game as the Bulls stifled their offensive effectiveness. The Jazz and Hornets scored 101.0 and 96.6 points in the regular season, respectively

    Holding the Jazz to that point total was especially impressive as Karl Malone and John Stockton were Hall of Famers who excelled offensively.

    The Bulls made history in Game 3 of the NBA Finals as they limited the Jazz to a Finals' low 54 points along with 30 percent shooting and 26 turnovers. Highlights from that contest are provided in the above video.

1: 1995-96

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    The greatest Chicago Bulls' defensive squad goes to the greatest Bulls team of all time—the 1995-96 club.

    The Bulls won an astounding 72 games that year and most of the credit could go to suffocating defensive play.

    Chicago added lockdown defender and prolific rebounder Dennis Rodman to the squad and along with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen dominated the entire NBA.

    Jordan, Pippen and Rodman worked so well together and individually that they all were selected to the All-NBA Defensive First Team.

    During the regular season, the Bulls were third in points allowed (92.9) and first in defensive rating (101.8), giving up 80 or less points in nine games.

    The postseason was even tougher for opponents as the Bulls gave up 86.8 points per matchup. Chicago limited the Orlando Magic and Seattle Supersonics (who both scored 104.5 points in the regular season)  to 84.75 and 89.2 points, respectively.

    In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, Magic star center Shaquille O'Neal was schooling Bulls' centers Luc Longley and Bill Wennington. Bulls coach Phil Jackson decides to put Rodman on Shaq to slow the big guy down. And the Worm delivered by boxing Shaq out and hindering Superman's backing to the post move. Rodman solid base would push Shaq back further then he was used to. This resulted in numerous misses by Shaq.

    In the above video, Rodman uses his physicality to his advantage in driving Supersonics forward Brickowski crazy to get him ejected late in Game 3 and to tick off Shawn Kemp in Game 4. The Worm's disrupted the Supersonics' concentration, which cost Seattle the NBA title.

    Bob Bajek is a featured columnist for the Chicago Bulls. He is also a freelance reporter and can be followed on and Twitter.

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