Despite what BSPN and FS1 may attempt to portray, there are teams other than the Los Angeles Lakers in the National Basketball Association. One of those teams is the Chicago Bulls, who have not been not only been one of the unforeseen surprises of the not just the Eastern Conference, but the entire NBA. The Bulls currently sit second , as of the writing of this article, and have done so largely under the radar.
With the success the Bulls are enjoying , the question is how far can this team go? Could they finish the season as the top seed in the East? Do they have it in them to win a playoff series or could they even be the conference representative in the NBA Finals?
Why it could happen
In short they are a good ballclub. The Bulls boasts DeMar DeRozan (28.6 ppg) , who is playing at an MVP level, Zach LaVine ( 24.6 ppg) , who made his second all-star team this season and former All-Star Nikola Vucevic (17.9 ppg) . All three of these players, even Vucevic who has been up and down this season, can have huge games on any given night. Coby White provides scoring punch and a needed lead guard off the bench. Lonzo Ball , Alex Caruso Patrick Williams and rookie Ayo Dosunmu provides aggressive and active point-of-attack and perimeter defense. The athleticism of Derrick Jones Jr and Javonte Green aides in their defensive versatility and green also provides a bit of shooting. In short, the Bulls have a multi-faceted offense led by three All-Stars, that is ninth in scoring 112.4 ppg and fifth in offensive rating at 113.8 The defense currently sits at 21st but that should improve significantly once they get their best defenders back, just in time for the stretch run heading in to the post season.
Why it count not happen
The inability to beat good teams
This season the Bulls are a dismal 0-14 against the top three sees in the East and the West this year.
A breakdown of this futility:
- 0-3 v Mami Heat
- 0-2 v Milwaukee Bucks
- 0-4 v Philadelphia 76ers
- 0-1 v Phoenix Suns
- 0-2 v Golden State Warriors
- 0-2 v Memphis Grizzlies
As it relates to the Eastern Conference teams, these are the clubs that would likely stand in the way of a deep Chicago playoff run, and if they can’t beat them now, it’s difficult to conceive how they could do so in a much more intense postseason setting. Could they ineptitude against these top-tire teams be an indications the Bulls are not as good as a lot of people thought?
The defense of the Bulls is currently ranked 21st, allowing 112.4 points per game. That number and ranking can be a bit misleading, as Chicago is without their three of their best defenders in Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and Patrick Williams. Williams to a lesser extent, as he has only played nine games before suffering a wrist injury, but certainly when Ball and Caruso were in the lineup the Bulls were a much better defensive basketball team, ranking ninth in the Association. While they are set to get those two back, and possibly even Williams, closer to the end of the season, the hope is that they can get reacclamated to the lineup and return to the level of defense they were playing prior to their respective injuries. If they cannot, the Bulls time in the postseason may be much shorter than anticipated.
Playoff Experience ( or the lack thereof)
Of Chicago’s top three players, Zach LaVine has never played a minute of postseason basketball, Nikola Vucevic , has a pair of first round exits to his name; DeMar DeRozan, who has been to Conference Finals against the LeBron James-led Cavaliers team, did not have the best showing and appeared to fold before he and the Raptors were sent packing on multiple occasions. Although Alex Caruso and Tristan Thompson have experience being integral parts of championship teams, that pedigree needs to rub off on the rest of the team to help stabilize the more inexperienced members of the team so they are not consumed by the moment.