It's not pretty. It's not efficient offensively, it's not high scoring basketball. However, the Bulls stand at 3-2, and so far, everything we saw in preseason has been true in the regular season as well. The Bulls offense is putrid, unwatchable, scary bad while their defense has been eye poppingly good.
Before the season started, I would have made the Bulls favorites in six of their first 20 games. Out of their first five games, I would have made them favorites in one. Can they keep knocking off teams we'd assumed would be better?
The glass is half full approach:
So far, they've beaten really good teams. This is a sign, that in fact, you are a good team. Thus, the Bulls simply might play better than most people thought they would this season and come out with more wins.
Also, despite a solid start, they really haven't played to their potential. Be it injury or slump, Derrick Rose's offense hasn't come close to matching what last year, yet alone show the improvement we expect this year. He's made strides on defense, but he has a lot of head room to play better, and I think all Bulls fans are expecting that down the stretch.
On top of that, Kirk Hinrich and John Salmons have not been able to shoot the three to save their lives, and they aren't doing much better inside the arc either. This doesn't seem like a trend that's likely to continue all season.
Offensively, the Bulls are the fourth worst team in the league in points per possession, but their most potent offensive players are all playing at career worst levels [okay Rose's career is short, but still] so far. The offense simply has a ton of potential for internal improvement.
On top of the guard play, Luol Deng, one of the biggest question marks, is back. There's no question about it. We may never see 52% from the field Luol Deng again, but we're going to see active, productive, Luol Deng. He's playing like a beast, killing guys for rebounds and defending at a very high level.
Tyrus Thomas has also missed a game and played another while under the weather, and James Johnson hasn't seen the court yet. There's still some pieces left on this roster which can contribute more than have had the opportunity to do so.
In the end, the Bulls are 3-2 in games we'd have predicted a 1-4 start to the season with the hope of getting one upset in the four losses giving us a 2-3 start. They've showed they can defend some of the best teams in the league, and if it weren't for the Celtics game, the Bulls might be leading the league in defense.
The glass is half empty approach:
On the other hand, there are signs that things may not be as peachy as we'd like.
First, when you have a team that absolutely needs to grind out wins, then you're going to struggle whenever you aren't putting out 100% intensity all the time. The Bulls lead the league in back to backs on the schedule, and they're going to really struggle on the second half of those when they can't lean on some great offense and need to play up in the faces of opponents with tons of hustle all the time.
Also, it's worth noting that hustle teams that lack firepower are destined to struggle in the playoffs. We'll get a lot of wins in the regular season because we can simply "want it more". The NBA season is a grind, and we all know that not every team shows up every night. In the playoffs, your opponent always wants it and always shows up though. Even if the Bulls finish with 50 wins in this style of play they'd probably struggle in the playoffs.
Another problem is that when you're grinding out every team and mucking up the game, you can take down good teams, but you're also heavily susceptible to losing to bad teams as well. Especially bad teams with a lot of three point shooters. When the Bulls go up against teams like Golden State, where they should be favorites, can they contend with a team that fills up the box score offensively with a really fast and loose offense?
The Bulls defense has been great while the offense has been bad. However, when you look at the floor spacing, you wonder if the offense can rectify itself while if the Bulls lose any mental edge the defense could fall apart.
Well, I like to be an optimistic realist. In other words, if there are two views and both are reasonable, then I'll expect the one with the better outcome to happen. It's just easier to get through life that way. Besides which, I already picked the team for 45 wins this year, no reason to get off that bandwagon now.