38-16. Be honest, who thought it'd be so good?

We've all heard the story by now. Derrick Rose is an MVP candidate, Joakim Noah has missed 30 games and Carlos Boozer has missed 18. So what is it that makes the Bulls such a hard-nosed competitor?

For years and years, the obvious weakness on the Bulls was big man depth and especially inside scoring. But something overlooked in those needs was phsycial defense on the interior.

Second-year man Taj Gibson, rookie Omer Asik and Kurt Thomas, who is rumored to being the inventor of fire as well as the wheel, has been a three-headed monster for the Bulls all year long. If someone had stated before the season that those three would play arguably the most important role on a team with a .704 winning percentage, it would have been met by raised eyebrows and awkward silence. In fact, the reaction would have had an uncanny resemblance to the media members listening to Rose utter the words ''Why can't I be the MVP?''.

Gibson, who has had a nightmare of a season off the floor with several deaths in his personal circle, has deserved the outmost respect for his game this year. While struggling with grief all year long, he's been able to put it aside on the floor and some of the best defense you'd find at the power forward position. His footwork and positioning on the court has been nothing short of elite, and he's developed into an elite shot-blocker. He already has 83 swats in the 52 games he's played, and that's in only 22.8 minutes a night.

Gibson has also worked wonders as the third big, as he can replace both Boozer or Thomas if one should be in foul trouble. While not having the physique or strength of a center, the 6'9 lenghty Gibson has yet to shy away from the challenge. When overmatched, he backs off his man, just a little, and attempts to go for the block.

Luckily for Gibson, he isn't forced to play a lot of center minutes due to the emergence of Turkish rookie center, the 7'0 tall Omer Asik.

Finally coming over, two years after being drafted, Asik has made the most of his minutes. His body language and appearance may look awkward, but Asik's game is anything but. At just 24 years old, Asik knows how to defend the pick and roll, and understands proper rotations. Sure, he'll make the occasional mistake here and there, but that's only natural when adjusting to the NBA game. Asik has accepted big challenges and, like Gibson, is a fierce shot-blocker, swatting over two per 36 minute he's in there. At 255, Asik is strong enough to maintain his ground on the floor, and he's agile enough to disrupt plays at the rim. As expected, Asik's offensive game has some ways to go but it hasn't proved to be a problem. Grabbing 1.2 offensive rebounds a night, in just 11.6 minutes (second highest rate on the team), Asik is been able to often lay it back in using the glass, which is a strong sign of high IQ in the post.

Not to be forgotten, it's worth noting that Asik drips of offensive potential from a pick and roll perspective. When he's learned the in's and out's of proper NBA spacing, Asik should be a viable offensive option down the road. He sets strong picks, and is quick to rotate his body going to the basket. He has good hands and catches the ball well, while also being able to finish plays above the rim. He's not projected to be as good as Joakim Noah, but his development could have a similar path.

At 38 years young, Kurt Thomas is tied with Brian Scalabrine for having the worst per minute scoring average on the entire Bulls squad, at seven points per 36th minute. However, you wouldn't believe it if the stat sheet didn't say it. Thomas, a 16-year NBA veteran has filled Joakim Noah's shoes perfectly, averaging six rebounds a night in 24.3 minutes. While obviously not an offensive-minded player, Thomas is still fully capable of stepping back for the 12-15 foot jumper and hitting it with regularity. But it's his defense that's worth talking about. Thomas takes charges better than most NBA players. He beats people to the spot, puts his arms down the side, and accepts the physical punishment of being knocked to the floor hard. More often than not, his plan works and the call goes his way.

When Ben Wallace was signed back in 2006, the Bulls expected a strong defensive effort every night from the center position. Wallace, who at the time had turned 32 and lost quite a bit of his athletic ability, never lived up his former Defensive Player Of the Year standard, and was shipped out after just a year and a half. Kurt Thomas, right now, is doing what the Bulls hoped Wallace would do. He's keeping players out of the post, he's rebounding the basketball at a decent rate, he's taking charges and he's using his 260 pound body (his reported weight of 230 is 16 years old) to give and take nightly beatings from opponents.

Add in a versatile defender in Luol Deng, the pure size of Boozer, the defensive improvement of Derrick Rose, a defensive head coach in Tom Thibodeau and a healthy Joakim Noah, and this team has the defensive tools and personnel to make a trip to the NBA Finals this year.

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  • Great Analysis on Asik's impact. Some guys who want to trade Asik for a SG are using his evaluation from 6 months back. From what I have read, he picked up basketball late and was injured for a while in the last 2/3 years. Unless we find a super upgrade in the next few years like an Howard or a starting type SG, we shouldn't trade Asik.

    About Gibson, it looks like has some kind of defensive genes. It seems like his natural instinct is to play defense. But that said, if we have to trade any of our bigs, it has to be Taj. But if Taj puts on some muscle, he would be much more effective.

  • I expected 36-18 at this point before season started and 54-28 at the end with a healthy team. I did not expect Noah and Boozer injuries. DRose and Deng have played beyond expectations.

  • In reply to adocarbog:

    ditto..

    doug & mr happy are the only ones who doubted or didnt believe..

  • In reply to Yunqn:

    Yunqn915,

    Don't be CLUELESS.

    I was the one who predicted they would have a successful WEST COAST trip and I also accurately predicted what their record would be the last few months.

    So get your info right or just shut-up. Either way, works for me.

  • In reply to Yunqn:

    FYI:

    Things are right where I thought they would be, at this point in the season.

    I said the Bulls would be behind BOS and MIA in the standings. Are they?

    That said, I'm a bit surprised DRose has been this good, MVP good. And I'm also surprised that THIBS has coached this well. He seems to have gotten his early season struggles and questionable coaching moves ironed out.

    That aside, I still think the Bulls need Melo to win it all. I believe teams will double DRose in the playoffs and force Luol Deng (or the other Bulls' wing players) to beat them.

    I don't trust Luol Deng for that job.

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    And you're right on point Happy, the Bulls defense will help to keep games close in the playoffs but the better offensive teams in the east that will direct their defense to double up Rose which will cause someone else to step up to score. Bulls still have time to make some sort of move to help with the perimeter scoring but will they? It would've been nice to have Melo but it looks like he's on his way to the Knicks and the Nets look like fools for coming back to the trade discussions.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    Here comes the homer hate...

  • In reply to Reese1:

    I for one will save my breath.
    I'm bored with all Carmelo Anthony/Bulls discussion.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    Yes, I think most of us hate the Melo homers.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    +1, Happy is right. Even if rose is good, he cant play that way(san antonion game) in 7 games, most of all when he'll get doubled. Thursday night he wasn't doubled. When he is off, bulls will need shooters to capitalize on his double-teams. But Brewer cant shoot and deng is too inconstistant. The best solution is be Melo but apparently he wont get him because bulls want to keep their "chemestry"lol. But at least, they should add a simple shooter to make opponents pay for doubling Rose.

  • In reply to deewaves:

    Chemistry is everything, makes players make plays, hustle and cover for each other. Our defense is 100% good while our offense with Noah will be more than enough to win it all. Only thing that can derail us is if we hit upon a NY Knicks type team (shooting wise from earlier in the season) that beats you on pure shooting despite being out rebounded, out assisted, out hustled etc.

  • In reply to adocarbog:

    he is only a superdefender, super-rebounder, a stimulator in energy. please can u explain me what noah add in offense frankly ??

  • In reply to deewaves:

    OK I'll bite. What Noah does on offense? Every game Rose will drive into traffic, miss a few layups and Noah puts back or cleans up with offensive rebounds. Also he can pass in traffic and initiate fast break points. The guy, aside from a jump shot is a very complete offensive player.

  • In reply to adocarbog:

    a complete offensive player ? there a large hole between noah and gasol or KG ! "aside from a jump shot" u cant make a jump shot then that'S it, u cant be efficient in basketball no matter your spot.

  • In reply to deewaves:

    League average for all players (not just centers) 10 feet and out is around 39% and that's right about what Noah shoots. Not bad for a guy who played a good portion of the season with a semi-useless hand and we're constantly told has the ugliest shot in the game.

    Go take a look at the centers in the NBA, they're a pretty sad lot, only Howard, Lopez and Horford average more points a game than Noah this year. There's only 11 centers averaging even 10 points a game. Center is just not a position you expect much offense from in the NBA, Noah is actually well above average for his position offensively when you consider the passing and ball handling ability he has.

  • In reply to DontLetsStart:

    all i mean is the noah's return will barely improve bulls offense.

  • In reply to DontLetsStart:

    We are watching this Bulls team blossom before our eyes. In real time we are seeing them improve from month to month. It is an exciting time because we don

  • In reply to adocarbog:

    Agree a lot on this. I can't think of any championship team which added a significant player(top 5 player of that team) in the middle of the season...Maybe in Detroit with Rasheed Wallace. Thibs probably runs a lot of complex defensive/offensive sets which even a great player will not pick it up easily to run it in sync with the current group because understanding the plan is one thing and running it as a team is totally a different thing. That's why most of us are fans and not coaches or FO people;-)

  • In reply to deewaves:

    NO the best solution is be Lebron, Wade, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Kobe among others that we have no shot in hell of obtaining without giving up most everybody besides Rose or even including Rose.

    that is why all the Melo talk has been nothing more than Mappy douche baggery.

    Lets seee how soon Melo wins a title in NJ or NY for that matter.

  • In reply to deewaves:

    Great post, highlighting the importance of interior defense and depth in becoming a championship contender.

    All everybody ever talks about is the wing scorers, but ulitmately in the playoffs you have to play defense and the bulk of that defense is played by your interior players and determined by your interior depth.

    While Thomas has been a huge surprise, he probably should not have been if we had just watched the tape of him last season in Milwaukee after Bogut got hurt.

    Asik like Noah, was someone who I liked almost immediately upon seeing him play, even though he was/is raw, particularly on the offensive end. I said early on that he could develop along a Noah like path and become Noah lite, just taller/bigger. Lets hope that he doesn't develop too much and become unaffordable to the Bulls before we can lock him up to a second contract.

    Taj, who was my big man pick at 26(well before the draft)is too small/short and not offensively skilled enough to be a legitimate full time starter in the NBA, but he is an awesome backup or even platoon player, especially with the Ben Gordon of power forwards(Boozer) as your starter.

    If you remember the championship Bulls always stockpiled bigman depth(just like the Celtics and Lakers have been doing lately), even though outside of Rodman and Grant non of them were top flight NBA talent. Jordan and Pippen could not have done it without them.

    Look, no doubt we can use one more wing scorer, specifically a starting quality 2 guard, but we have to acquire one judiciously without gutting our team(especially our bigman depth).

    Rome and most championship teams in any sport were not built in a day, so lets see what the new CBA brings before we do anything rash.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I'm with you Bigway; would love to see the Bulls keep Taj and Asik and use the MLE to get the SG we need in the summer (CBA permitting)

    If you read the Knicks Blogs at present the majority are against the Melo trade as Dolan/Zeke have now set it up; giving up too much depth for one superstar player just doesn't get it done. I know come playoff time most coaches will use a 7-9 man rotation but your squad also needs the depth to contend with matchup issues. Taj might be the backup big against Magic but Omer would be the backup against the bigger Lakers: similarly with Ronnie/Kyle; you can't use Kyle at the 2 (as Thibs tends to finish most games at present) against Kobe and DWade where Ronnie's D would be more valuable than Kyle's O.

    Offence wins games; Defence wins Championships!!

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Nice analyis on our bigs who have pleasantly surprises us this season with the injuries of Boozer and Noah this season.
    WE....could....go....all...the...WAY!!!! :-)

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Boozer is the Ben Gordon of power forwards. Haha, That's a good one!

  • In reply to Reese1:

    Just read that the Bulls might be trying to get Rasual Butler from the Clippers. He was playing extremely well for the Clippers earlier in the season but I guess he fell out of the rotation.

  • In reply to joeacook3:

    Saw that too.
    I hadn't heard his name mentioned until I read it in Sam's piece.

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    I trust Deng more than I trust myself. He is good as gold for us, behind Rose our best player by far.

  • In reply to adocarbog:

    the most consistent player on the team.. not to mention his 3pt shooting is by far better then ever

  • In reply to wilson23:

    -50

  • In reply to wilson23:

    Someone posted here awhile back that wing scorers are like the "wide receivers" of basketball.
    You win with defense and a good line.
    Interior strength and good D are the B-Ball equivalent.
    Melo is TO.

  • In reply to Waldock:

    You win with a Great Quarterback, defense and a good line.
    DRose, interior strength, and defense are the B-ball equivalent....
    Sorry, but you get the idea.

  • In reply to Waldock:

    And OK, maybe Melo isn't TO, but maybe Ochocinco.

  • In reply to adocarbog:

    If you look at all the teams winning championships there is always a top 20 big player(at that time)at PF/Center on that team. No wing player or guard has won a championship without one including MJ.
    MJ had Grant/Rodman, Kobe had Shaq/Gasol, Wade had Shaq or the big man is the main guy like Duncan, Shaq,Hakeem.
    The question is can Noah be that guy(need not be Shaq/Duncan level)but a top 20 player. If Noah/Boozer combo(Defense/Offense)can be that high level guy, the Bulls have a chance this year.

  • In reply to adocarbog:

    that's why he never score in the 4th quarter !

  • In reply to deewaves:

    You sir are an idiot!

  • In reply to adocarbog:

    you sir are a blind fan = dumb ass

  • In reply to adocarbog:

    Doug, a terrific analysis and one with which I completely agree. I was frankly thrilled to see Asik getting some quality 4th Q minutes against the Spurs. That shows how far he has come and how much Thibs has grown to trust him. I'm excited to see him develop further - IN A BULLS' UNIFORM. I'm in the "no trade till after the season plays out" camp.
    Unless, of course, Doug, we could coax soon-to-be Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman out of retirement...(sorry, dumb joke based on one of Doug's recent posts)...

  • In reply to adocarbog:

    i been expected this.. i was the only one on this site saying this & talking about the magicial 3rd year for players(rose)..

    ive ALWAYS SAID IT.. and im proud to be saying it now..
    i still dont understand why we still get underrated by alot of people..(boozer missing asg)

    like i said i expected this and the people who read my post all saw that i been saying this..

    we were a 50 win team last season!..
    how many times do i gotta remind people.
    we traded john salmons & tyrus .
    2 of our key players into our division & went 0-10(i think) with joakim hurt..and mind you hinrich missed time with a wrist injury & tyrus missed time for an injury himself & add on that rose started off injuried and taj was just a rookie who was starting and was trying to adjust to the game..

    we also lost ben gordon who was involved alot in our offense and with all that being said.. we still won 41 games and had ALOT of fluke losses..

    the kings game & etc.. i can name alot..

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