John Hollinger's computerized rankings have the Bulls ranked 5th. Jeff Sagarin's computerized rankings have the Bulls 9th. In the East, they trail the Celtics in both sets, and also trail the Magic in the Sagarin rankings.
Why use Hollinger and Sagarin? They show where the Bulls are right now. Right now, without an all-star who may be joining the team as early as Wednesday. Even without an all-star caliber player, out for the whole season, the Bulls are ranked, without bias, as the 2nd or 3rd best team in the east.
And he's coming back.
Derrick Rose is the engine that makes the Bulls go. He's the most important player on the team, if he were out, the Bulls would be screwed. However, Derrick Rose has been able to hold up his end of the bargain for awhile, the difference is the front court never could. Not anymore.
The Bulls finally have a front court to be feared. A year ago, Joakim Noah went out west and got abused by the great big men in the conference. This year, he held his own and significantly outplayed Pau Gasol.
Taj Gibson looks like a starting caliber PF in the NBA, Omer Asik looks like a legit backup center, and we haven't even seen Carlos Boozer yet. In the past, the Bulls always had very good perimeter play, but they never had anything on the interior to match up with the best teams whom always have strength up front.
With a healthy, integrated Boozer, that's no longer a problem. How many teams in the NBA have a better, deeper set of big men than Chicago?
Noah, Boozer, Taj, Omer
Lakers: Gasol, Odom, Bynum
Mavs: Dirk, Chandler, Haywood, Marion
Celtics: Garnett, Shaq, J O'Neal, Perkins, Davis
Magic: Howard, Lewis, Gortat
Are those frontcourts better? Maybe. I'm probably taking the Lakers over the Bulls in that group up front. The other guys? The Mavs and Magic are better with their first option, but worse at the 2nd and 3rd. The Bulls would outrun the Celtics something fierce and kill them with athleticism.
Even against the Lakers, the Bulls wouldn't be overmatched. The Lakers would just have an edge. Realistically, no one else is even in the picture. For over a decade we've been complaining about our front court, but that problem has been addressed. It's also been addressed with a group with lots of talent that complements each other well
Gibson and Boozer have quality midrange shots. Noah and Boozer can operate in the post with their back to the basket. Gibson and Noah can both play uptempo and out run their opponents. Gibson, Noah, and Omer can all protect the paint and block shots. All four can rebound the basketball well. Omer and Boozer have bulk while Noah and Gibson have speed.
It's not just the talent, but it's the way the pieces fit that give the Bulls a front court that can match up with anyone, play any style of game, and win. They can mix and match their bigs to defend against anyone or play a variety of styles of offense.
The Bulls have already shown they can play with anyone. They're never out of a game and play with passion and energy. It's the 04/05 team rebooted with more talent. A lot more talent.
The pieces are there, the bar's been raised, Chicago fans are developing expectations. The Bulls will only go as far as Derrick Rose can take them, but he's no longer driving a bus with three wheels and a lawn mower engine.