Pending health, the Bulls are the favorite

Pending health, the Bulls are the favorite

If Rose can get to 100% of his explosiveness (not necessarily 100% pain free), are the Bulls the favorite to win the title this season?

For the longest time I would have put my money on the Heat. I still am awfully tempted to do so. I watched a similar fade down the stretch of last season only to see the Heat rip through the playoffs before their inexplicable collapse against the Mavericks. I thought the Heat would come back with a better bench, hungrier to win, and would dominate this season.

Emotionally, the Heat scare the hell out of me [insert your buy a dog joke here], but objectively, I can't help but note that Chicago looks like a far tougher team this year while the Heat don't. I expected the Heat bench to rock this season. They were effectively adding Udanis Haslem, Mike Miller, and Shane Battier given that the first two had so many injury problems last seasons. They haven't given them much of anything. Their bench, as inexplicable as it seems, has somehow gotten even worse.

Say what you want about the frequency of Rip Hamilton contributions, but when he's been healthy and in rhythm, he's been a big difference maker. He's given the Bulls a flurry of 20 point games in limited minutes recently, has shown he can still bring a diverse offensive package to the table and is drilling threes left and right when given Bogans like room to shoot them.

Of course the big three for Miami still look as deadly as ever. Of course they can turn it on and become unstoppable at any point, but I thought the matchups would favor Miami more this season than last, and the reverse is true instead. The Bulls need to get healthy, but if they do, they come back considerably improved.

Chicago's bringing the same great defense with more offensive firepower and an even deeper bench to the party this season. The entire playoff rotation has been battle tested in pressure situations in big games. Even Jimmy Butler, who's barely played, has been called upon to guard star players in the closing minutes of a tight game on several occasions.

Norris Cole had a hot start but has turned into hot garbage while Mario Chalmers is simply steady. The only scary thing about a Bulls / Heat matchup to me is that LeBron plays irrationally well against Chicago. I've seen him consistently make more tough shots against the Bulls than any other team. That said, objectively that's less likely to continue [not that he won't be great, but that he plays vastly above what he can do to other teams] rather than to continue.

The Bulls have the teamwork that championships are built upon. There's no doubt that everyone on this squad has one goal. To win. There's no individual agendas. There's no whining or bristling about minutes. This team has one focus and one focus only, and it has complete buy in from every individual on the roster.

Beyond the Heat, the Bulls will face a tough opponent from the west. I don't want to break down everyone out of the west, so in brief, I think the Bulls would cruise past the Spurs and Lakers. The Thunder present a scary challenge, but I think Chicago's tougher than OKC and can bring too much defense over the series.

Chicago looks like it will go into the playoffs as the #1 or #2 seed overall. That guarantees nothing. Afterall, the #1 seed rarely wins [though without breaking it down I'd suspect it still wins more than any other seed]. However, they deserve the title of favorite right now. Their body of work has been incredible, and they've done it while playing at partial strength.

They aren't peaking as a team, but they're building momentum. It's easy to envision Chicago's best basketball coming in the following two months. It's easy to see how a team which has honed all its individual pieces can finally put them together. The Bulls are presently tied for the best record in the NBA and haven't had a chance to bring out their "A" game.

It all rides on the health of a team that's remained injured all year long, but Hamilton seems over his woes, and Rose looks like he'll overcome his over the next couple weeks. If they're finally healthy, the Bulls have considerable head room to improve over the team that's already good enough to win the #1 seed. They may or may not win, but they've earned the title of favorite.

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  • "Pending health" is a massive proverbial "if." We're not healthy. Lu's hurt. Bad. And we have no reason to believe that Derek will reach 100% explosiveness -- he hasn't had 100% burst for months. I felt more confident last year having Derek MVP (*verb*) teams regularly leading up to the playoffs. That and we swept Miami in the regular season. (*rant over. leaves computer. goes to dark, cold place to worry alone.*)

  • In reply to mrasmussen11:

    Sure, health is a big "if", but I feel a bit more positive about where they're going healthwise. Derrick was starting to make his way back when he sprained his ankle. An ankle sprain has a pretty specific recovery time, and his groin should have gotten the extra rest while resting the ankle.

  • I agree.. but i have faith on my bulls to win it all this year!
    this is their time..

  • "they've earned the title of favorite"

    This and 2.00 will get you a cup of coffee at 7-11 just sayin GO BULLS!!!

  • Doug, I think you have a case of irrational exuberance this morning. Are you watching the same games I am? Have you watched Tony Parker play the last 10 games? Have you watched Derrick Rose play (or not play) the last 10 games? While I respect the Bulls immensely, from what I see, I wouldn’t make the Bulls any higher than the 4th favorite to win the title. The Bulls bench, a strength during the regular season, will not be as much of an advantage in the post season.

  • In reply to RichG:

    Tony Parker is old balls.

    Rose runs all over him every time.

    Check the stats

    I'll take Rose on one leg vs. Tony Parker from 2002.

    Screw Tony.

  • In reply to RichG:

    The Spurs won't be in the finals, but if they are, and they play the Bulls, then the Bulls are going to beat the crap out of them.

    As for Rose, sure, he hasn't been healthy, and the team has played well enough to win 2/3rds of its games with him out and effectively beat Miami twice without him. I think he's on the mend and will be healthy by the ECF at which point the Bulls might be even more deadly.

  • Too bad the bulls aren't healthy I guess.

  • "If Rose can get to 100% of his explosiveness..."
    "and Rose looks like he'll overcome his woes over the next couple weeks."

    Is this a bad joke?
    - Rose hasn't had his explosiveness since his turf toe injury (the 1st of 5 injuries).
    - Rose looks like he won't be healthy or explosive until next season.
    - Rose looks like he may not be able to play all the playoffs games - and be far below 100% in the playoff games he does play.

    Don't be fooled by the Heat's performance in the regular season. Unlike the Bulls, the Heat coasts. Chris Bosh and the bench can come alive at a moments notice, their regular season performances mean nothing. More than any team in the NBA, the Heat can "flip a switch" and raise their game two gears. The question remains - Do Bulls have a playoff gear?

  • In reply to Edward:

    Not true, Rose absolutely had his explosiveness back after the all star break.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    I disagree. Rose was 90%, but he rarely dunked after his related toe and back issues.

    But the more important issue is its doubtful Rose will be 90% in these playoffs. He currently looks like an old man on the court. If Bulls manage Rose's minutes through the first and second round it's possible Rose's health could gradually improve. But its just as possible Rose won't heal completely until next season.

  • In reply to Edward:

    The Heat might coast at times during the regular season, but if you really believe they "hold something back" when they play the Bulls, OKC, or Lakers in prime time regular season games, you are downright delusional. Besides, your "coast" argument loses its legs the second you consider the number of games Rose has missed. Even if the Heat coast, they've been perhaps the healthiest team in the NBA this year, yet can't win more games than a Bulls squad riddled with injuries to 3 of its starters including the reigning MVP? Give me a break Edward.

  • In reply to Chicagosportsguru:

    Heat don't give full effort during the regular season period.
    Not to say they don't try harder against certain opponents. However, I'm also not saying their coasting is an asset for Heat, its just that they do have another gear to use in the playoffs.

    I also think Heat's coasting is as much a charachter issue/flaw as anything.

  • Bulls can't be the favorites. Not when Thunder and Heat have a talent edge and Bulls top two players are not and probably will not be healthy...

    Who knows when if Rose will get back his explosion this year and Deng isn't getting any better. Fact remains in a close game the Heat/Thunder have closers and they ARE healthy.

  • I don't know if I'd go so far as to call them a favorite, but I certainly like their chances. In fact, I don't think there is a favorite in a post-lockout season like this.

  • The Bulls will win their first NBA championship since the Michael Jordan era, this year, if their coach doesn't make the same mistake he made last year that cost them a place in the finals against the Dallas Mavericks.
    Coach Thibs will not make the same mistake and cancel Joakim Noah out of the Bulls' lineup by banishing him to a seat on the Bulls bench.
    Bulls management are alert to this fact and I am willing to bet that Thibs doesn't make such a colossal mistake twice. If he does, he'll be looking for a job!

    By the way, when the Bulls win their first title since Jordan, I don't want to hear or to see Chicago-born journalists like Michael Wilbon and Scoop Jackson singing their praises. They've been afraid to give them their due all year.

  • The Bulls as the favorite???...that has to be a very bad joke. Even if the Bulls were healthy they wouldn't be the favorite to win the title this year. The Bulls are a regular season champion and that is all. They are not built to contend for a championship, why not a lot of you may ask...because the talent on the Bulls is just not enough. The Bulls need players that can raise their game to another level come playoff time. That's why Rose and their other top players got shut down against the Heat last year. Sorry fellow Bulls fans, but the Bulls won't be winning a championship this year not until they get players that can raise their level of play come playoff time.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    Reese1, we know that there a lot of you out there. What did you say? Calling Bulls a favorite is a BAD JOKE? !'ll talk to you when it's all over.
    By the way, faker, Joakim Noah was not among the other top players who got shut down against the Heat last year. The genius Thibs had him on the bench!
    What's this about "fellow Bulls fans" ? You're not a Bulls fan, you're a bogus hiding in the shadows and giving real Bulls fans bad advice.

  • In reply to SlamDunk:

    I will be here, I hope the Bulls prove me wrong but I doubt it. It's not about me being a true Bulls fan cause if I wasn't I wouldn't be on this blog. It is what it is, the Bulls are a team that's hurting including their star and scoring is critical in the playoffs. Someone other than Rose has to step up, will that be RIP...we will see. But again, I really do hope they prove me wrong.

  • I appreciate you've warmed to the idea, I've thought all season and even all last season the match up with Miami was pretty close to 50/50 and at full strength it comes down to who gets lucky in a 7 game series. But this is like the worst point to say "if healthy" given it just sounds like a massive cop out when you know the Bulls being healthy looks very unlikely.

    So while I agree with you in theory, if you weigh the actual likelihood of the Bulls being healthy into the odds, I'd agree with RichG that of the top 4 teams the Bulls are in the worst shape right now.

  • Yeah doug we all hope the bulls win it all but your nuts with that statement lol.

  • "if healthy" is just an excuse if they fail again.

  • In reply to rob32:

    Yep this will be their excuse, INJURIES when the real excuse is the Bulls need more legitimate scorers. Two years in a row with having the best record in the league and nothing to show for it, not even a finals showing is not good.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    The Knicks are stacked with legitimate scorers, hows that working out?

  • In reply to Chicagosportsguru:

    Yeah they have legitimate scorers that play no defense so its working out the way it should be for them.

  • I hate when people throw around the word "excuse" to dismiss any legit analysis. Injuries can be a perfectly good explanation. No one should expect to beat an elite team 4 out of 7 with your top two players hurt. That's why the two wins over Miami were so amazing. The bulls were expected to lose because of ...injuries.

    Since someone mentioned Jo riding the pine last year, he was hurt in the ECF, as were Booz and Omer. It's crazy to think that didn't impact the series.

  • In reply to Tyler Soze:

    Tyler Soze, if I didn't follow that series carefully you would have managed to get that nonsense of Jo riding the bench because he was hurt, past me, but the fact was that Joakim was benched by the genius Thibs in favour of Omer. The back-up Omer only sat out when he got injured and Thibs had to take him out.

    By the way, I visited the Celtics blog yesterday and they didn't have any lunatics like Reese 1 there, they made their points in a sane and constructive way, but nobody murdered the team.

  • In reply to SlamDunk:

    Dude, Jo's ankle was mangled badly enough that the French team initially sent him home from Euro basket. He wouldn't shoot the Tornado and he couldn't drive effectively If Thibs did anything wrong in that series, it was waiting too long to go to Big Sexy. With Jo ineffective, his mid-range game might've made it a different series.

  • In reply to Tyler Soze:

    Hey Asshole, you just revealed that you're one of those fake Bulls fans who hate Noah and was glad the genius Thibs went to the statue Omer. They did what you wanted, and guess what... Bulls lost the series 1-4.
    By the way, what does France's Euro basketball have to do with Noah's play in the NBA.

  • In reply to SlamDunk:

    Joakim Noah couldn't pass a physical to play for France a month or two after the ECF because the injury he was playing through during the ECF was still too badly injured for him to pass a physical.

    I love Noah, and I think it's fair to say Noah wasn't remotely healthy last playoffs. If he was, the effects of his non existant injury wouldn't have caused him to fail a physical a couple months later.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Nice try Doug, you're trying to tell me that Noah was injured and that's why Thibs benched him and played Omer. I followed all the Bulls' games in the playoffs and not once was Noah put on the bench because of injury.
    You're trying to cleverly link that him failing a physical MONTHS later for France in the Euro Championships had something to do with Thibs' decision to bench him in the playoffs! Not buying that convenient excuse.

  • In reply to SlamDunk:

    ...and yet again. You just can't stop the crazy train can you?

  • In reply to SlamDunk:

    I'm not saying anything about Thibs motives.

    I'm saying Joakim Noah was playing through an injury that it was severe enough that he still could not pass a physical two months later.

    I think the injury caused his play to decline significantly, and the declined level of play is why Thibs benched him. However that is speculation, the previous paragraph about joakim Noah being signficiantly injured is not speculation.

  • In reply to SlamDunk:

    That's what I thought slamdunk. Plunked by Doug himself. Any Bulls fan knows Noah was in horrific condition in the ECF

  • In reply to SlamDunk:

    Thank you for once again proving how much of a fucking idiot you are.

  • In reply to untitledreality:

    How about us both attaching pictures of ourselves everytime we post, to see who looks more like a FUCKING IDIOT?

  • In reply to SlamDunk:

    ...and yet again.

  • In reply to SlamDunk:

    I'm not mudering the team, it is what it is, I hope the team can go far but it will be difficult.

  • Well that's the #1 seed done as the Miami bench loses to the Boston bench. Interesting what the Bulls do from here, do they rest Rose for the last 2 games or do they try to play him into form?

  • In reply to Shakes:

    They'll play him, but I wouldn't be surprised if they cap his minutes at 30.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    Exactly, Rose needs to gain some form. But it worries me what Indiana might try to do to him, thinking back to last playoffs.

  • By the way Doug, what injury was Noah suffering from when the genius Thibs benched him in favor of Omer in New York, the place of his birth and in front of family and friends, and Chicago where he now lives, after a string of impressive performances in games leading up the benchings. Did he have a MYSTERY INJURY!
    Kind of getting to be a habit on a player being paid over $12M per year.

  • In reply to SlamDunk:

    Why do you think the injury is a mystery? Noah admitted he was injured and any question about whether he was faking it was answered when he couldn't pass a physical.

    I'm not sure what your point is, but these things seem like fairly objective facts:
    1: Noah played poorly against Miami
    2: Noah was playing through injury
    3: Noah was benched

    The obvious conclusion would be that playing through the injury caused the poor play which caused the benching. I'm not sure what other conclusion you are trying to reach here.

    That if Noah hadn't been benched he would have played great even though he played poorly while he did play? That Tom Thibodeau secretly wants to lose because he has a hidden vandetta against Joakim Noah? I mean, are you listening to what you're saying and really thinking about whether this makes any sense?

  • I think you're getting things confused about Thibs' actions last year and his actions this season.

    First, explain to me and fans of this blog why Noah was benched in New York and Chicago, this season, when during this same period of time he had recorded a rare triple double against a Milwaukee Bucks team (on February 22) under a tough coach like Scott Skyles, who once coached Noah with the Bulls and was aware of his game.
    After witnessing that performance Derrick Rose said, "He's just like a guard, where he's making great plays and passing it to the corners." Noah had 13 points, 13 rebounds and an astonishing 10 assists. As Milwaukee's Ersan Ilyasova noted afterwards, "How many big men can get a triple double?"
    Skiles said, "He's got the ability to handle the ball, pass the ball.He hurt us tonight." Didn't coach Thibs watch that performance?
    I could go on and talk about his 30 rebound game, also during this period, but you get the point, Doug!

    There is absolutely no sane reason for benching a player with the skills of Joakim Noah in any important Bulls game, but coach Thibs did it in New York before his friends and family and here in his home town of Chicago, this season!
    When he did it in New York they lost to the Knicks, when Thibs did it in Chicago, the Miami Heat just about had the game all locked up until with the final buzzer about to sound, a prayer from C.J. Watson of all people, threw the game into overtime. Even in overtime he treated Noah like contaminated meat and had him out there for one play before banishing him back to the bench.
    Luckily, the Bulls won the game in overtime, a gift because had LeBron James made his free throws the game would have been over and the Heat would have won and probably secured home court throughout the playoffs. So you see, this guy Thibs is a lucky son-of-a-gun.

  • In reply to SlamDunk:

    Jo is great and a uniquely skilled player, but he has off nights like anyone else. Thibs will bench anyone, including the MVP, if its in the best interest of the team. He also is willing to use a guy who has been benched if its the right situation. Remember the Hawks game when Jo sat the entire 4th until he came in to make the game winning pass. Omer isn't some favorite of Thibs that gets a free pass. He had a stretch of games where he could barely get on the court and had people wondering what was up. It takes a selective memory to think that he singles out Noah.

  • Doug, sorry about that remark about Noah having a 30-rebound game, I'm so caught up I'm looking ahead.

  • In reply to SlamDunk:

    Let's hope he has four of them against Miami ;)

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