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Balance of power in the East

The Bulls have finished with the best record in the NBA over the past two seasons, but no one expects that to happen again due to Derrick Rose's injury and the potential weakening of the supporting cast. However, the end record is less relevant than how well is capable of playing come playoff time. Where does this healthy Bulls team stack up in the East?

#6 The Boston Celtics

Yes, they added Courtney Lee, may have gotten a steal in Sullinger in the draft, and replaced Ray Allen with Jason Terry. In terms of off-seasons, Boston probably couldn't have done anymore than they did. It was awesome. That said, the Bulls would have kicked the Celtic's ass without Rose last year with a healthy Noah.

Outside of Rondo [who's not on the decline, but is past the point of significant improvement], the key cogs are a year older and a year worse. Terry's not much younger than Allen and is a significantly worse fit for the team. If the Bulls played Boston last year in the playoffs without Rose but with a healthy Noah, they'd have won IMO, and if Rose is healthy in the playoffs, I think Boston does little to slow them down this year either.

#5 The Indiana Pacers

The Pacers had a dicey off-season IMO. I think the loss of Darren Collison will hurt them significantly as I don't really trust George Hill as a PG, nor do I think D.J. Augustine will do anything special for them. Collison had a rough season last year, but he was the only guy on the team who moved the ball well.

While the Pacers still have the pieces to give the Bulls trouble, they scare me less than two years ago. They're a lot less thuggish than they were in the past, and I don't think they have the same physical presence as they used to.

#4 The New York Knicks

The Knicks may be a tough team to get a handle on, because in terms of talent, they've got enough to potentially top the Bulls, and anyone outside of Miami in the East. However, their two stars are both selfish guys without the best work ethic, and the result has been a team that's never come remotely close to living up to the sum of its parts.

They're additions of Ronnie Brewer and Raymond Felton probably outweigh their losses of Jeremy Lin and Ronnie Fields, and if Iman Shumpert comes back from the ACL injury they'll have a lot of perimeter athleticism to throw at Derrick Rose [or any star guard]. I could see New York dropping down to six though, and I have to admit, I've overrated them in preseason last year as well.

#3 The Brooklyn Nets

The Nets clearly made the biggest splash of any team in the NBA this off-season. Had they pulled off the Howard deal, they could have gone from scrub to superteam in one move. It's worth watching that blueprint, because if you have one star player and build flexibility, you can make a lot happen in one year.

Something to remember for as long as the Bulls have Derrick Rose.

I don't think the Nets have much staying power, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace are both going to decline significantly over the next couple of seasons, but they've got near all-stars at SG, SF, and C, a superstar point guard, and a cast of quality depth at power forward.

Their bench has a nice mix of guys with potential and role players with specific niche skills to help a team win as well.

Overall, it's hard not to like everything New Jersey did during the off-season, and if they put it all together and face a healthy Bulls team in the playoffs, then it will be a heck of a battle.

#2 The Chicago Bulls

Chicago's been lambasted by this blogger for their weak off-season, but if Derrick Rose returns to health, this team of similar caliber to the squads of the past two years. The cast they brought in largely makes up for the cast they lost. The only true thing not replaced is Omer Asik, but I think the Bulls can get more out of the big men on the roster and not lose much there.

Belinelli brings a little more creation to the table than Korver, Hinrich brings a bit more defense, passing, and common sense than Watson, and Nate Robinson plays with enough balls that they drag on the floor when he walks, just like John Lucas. The Bulls questions really all come down to whether Rose hits the playoffs healthy.

If he does, I put the Bulls at #2 in the East. If he doesn't, then Chicago could drop down to the 4-5 range pretty easily.

#1 The Miami Heat

The top of the Eastern leaderboard is easy.

Look, it's stupid to even make an argument that anyone in the East is better than the Heat. If everything falls just right for the Lakers then maybe they're better, maybe they're not, but I don't think anyone else is even seriously in the running.

That doesn't mean Miami can't be toppled by a different Eastern Conference team (including Chicago), it just means that they're the heavy favorite. Favorites lose sometimes though. That's why they play the games instead of handing out trophies at the beginning of the year.

Still, they would have been the favorites this season no matter what, but on top of that they absolutely crushed the off-season adding Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. They still don't have a center, but they effectively made it through the East last year without a center and with Chris Bosh out for most of the playoffs.

It will take a significant injury or a mighty special performance by another team for the Heat to not make it back to the finals this year.

Comments

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  • This list really exemplifies how good D Rose is at basketball... without him I'd put the Bulls below all these teams. Naturally, a huge drop off would be expected from any team with the lose of a top three player in the league, but the Bulls construction makes there fall considerably greater. Take Lebron and Durrant off their teams and they're still damn good teams. The Heat could be quite middling without Lebron though.... My point.,, hmm ... well... Uh.... Rose is good... Aren't you glad you waisted thirty seconds by reading this post?

  • In reply to Hoover:

    I agree. Healthy D-Rose has me put the Bulls at #2. No healthy D-Rose has me drop them to #6. I don't think the Thunder or Heat would suffer as much without LBJ/Durant, but it'd be pretty close in both cases, and the difference is more that both teams have multiple initiators more than that Rose is better.

  • Heat crushed it and are clearly on a tier of their own. Bulls IMO are on the second tier with Knicks and Nets. Bulls are aging just as fast as the Nets so don't see how that makes the Nets worse... Hamilton and Boozer aren't getting any younger and Deng isn't having surgery so Bulls being fully healthy come playoff time is already out the window.

    With the likely slow start meaning lower playoff seed my guess is Bulls are one and done's again this year. Too many new pieces that will not be used to playing with Rose and your going to be facing stiff comp in round one likely with a one handed Loul Deng. Bulls need way too much to go their way to have a good season this year.

  • In reply to Chad:

    Chad, I think the only reason people read your postings is to see if it is at all possible that you could be more stupid than they think you are!
    By the way, any opinion on what the great Bill Russell had to say about Joakim Noah?

  • In reply to SlamDunk:

    Micheal Jordan said great things about Kwame Brown... Means little to me what former players say about current players. Noah is a fringe top 10 center IMO. I think he is more valueable than his 10-10 stat line would suggest but thats just me.

  • In reply to Chad:

    I now see why you were in hiding. You couldn't bring yourself to say anything complimentary about Noah after years of badmouthing him.

    Well, you stayed true to form, you pig! You're comparing him to Kwame Brown. A "fringe top 10 Center."
    This the sort of trash we have on this blog pretending they're rational souls.
    I'm having a GOOD BIG LAUGH !!!

  • In reply to Chad:

    Hamilton is irrelevant, and Boozer's probably the third best guy. The Nets second/third players are aging fast which is a lot different.

    I doubt the Bulls will be one and done if healthy entering the playoffs. They could top the 2nd/3rd seed without home court if healthy.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Nets have a very solid lineup on paper.

    Williams vs Rose - is probably a wash
    Joe Johnson vs Hamilton/Belinelli - advantage Nets
    Gerald Wallace vs Loul Deng - slight advantage Bulls although with the torn wrist ligament its probably a wash.
    Mr. Kardashian vs Taj/Boozer - overall I would give bulls the edge
    Lopez vs Noah - Lopez would give them a easy 10+ scoring edge which is nothing to shrug off with a can't rebound comment. Dude is a elite offensive center surrounded by plus rebounders at every other position.

    Overal I say slight edge Bulls but if Loul plays the way he did in the Olympics and last season with his torn ligament I say Bulls won't beat the Nets in seven. Our advantage at PF isn't as big as one would think as Kris Humphries seems to play extremely well against the bulls. Loul struggles with elite athletes which Wallace is albeit on the decline in that area.

    I agree that Bulls have more long term staying power but JJ is a shooter and should be able to hang in for several years of solid production as a third option/jump shooter which maybe his role this year anyways behind Williams and Lopez. Besides a lot can change in a few years.

  • In reply to Chad:

    Rose has absolutely torched D Will when they've gone head to head. I think overall the Bulls have a slight advantage, but Rose destroys Williams.

    Also, I'm a little skeptical of the Nets, they might be a "better on paper" team, like the Knicks.

  • So what if the Bulls beat a first round opponent. Even healthy Derrick Rose was limited to poor percentages against Indiana and Miami in his last healthy playoffs. He has yet to prove post Jordan Rules sans D-Rose in a playoff setting that he can be effective especially in late game situations where he tends to get his shots blocked or forced into heaving up prayers.

    This in large part is not a knock on Derrick, but the Bulls simply lack a legit well rounded scoring partner for him. And thus why the hyper extended double teams can be employed with impunity as to getting burned. Plus they have a lot of non-threats such as Noah and Boozer whose post game is usually non-existent making him just another jump shooter.

    As I said before, IMO if Deng is fairly healthy and the Deng of old at 46% with 18ppg and Taj, Jo etc. are healthy then fine go for it. But if Deng proves limited as in needs surgery then this year is a waste, and you are going to see some ugly, ugly ass offense without Derrick and even more so with an inefective Lu. Those who are anti-tank so be it, but it is likely the only way the Bulls are going to get a second scorer for Derrick in the near term. Plus you could still hone taj and Jo's offense along with Butler making said tanking season valuable in two respects.

    Again, the Bulls will never do this nor be intellectually sophisticated enough to realize in this instance with the team crippled they should see the long term picture, and not take the short term losing as knock on them. NO Rose, no Deng, who is going to blame the rest of the Bulls players come season's end? Answer: nobody. Then you can watch Gar/Pax f-ck it all up on draft night. Yeah, second thought, skip the tank. It's just not a Chicago/Bulls reality.

  • Massively disagree with your contention that the Bulls would have kicked the Celtics ass last year even without Rose. Didn't the Celtics take the Heat to 7 games. I am not sure that the Bulls would have even gotten by the Sixers with a healthy Noah, but no Rose.

    More than a bit surprised that you left the Sixers out of your analysis, guess that you like Iggy better than Bynum. It will be interesting to see if Bynum blows up this year, for better or for worse.

    If Rose were to miss the entire season, the Bulls would be behind all the teams you listed as well as the Sixers and likely even Atlanta, battling with the Bucks, Raptors, Wizards for the final playoff spot.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    1. BigWay is right. Celtics would've taken the Rose-less Bulls with or without Noah.

    2. "The Nets clearly made the biggest splash of any team in the NBA this off-season." You forgot to include the phrase "Eastern Conference" in that sentence. Lakers made the biggest splash by far with Howard/Nash. Not even close.

    3. Philly deserves more attention, but it's hard to see which of the six teams above they can overtake. The Celtic are older, but we say that every year and they had a great draft. Plus they'll have a healthy Avery Bradley. Gotta agree with Doug's decision to leave them in the seven spot (presumably).

    In any case, thanks for keeping the conversation going during the dry spell at the end of the summer. My gal just moved to NYC, and I managed to get Nets/Bulls and Nets/Heat tickets during the pre-sale today. Can't wait.

  • Doug, I'm interested as to why you don't mention Philadelphia. That is the team that beat the Bulls this past year and arguably they have a better team this year and we even seemed to have problems with them even when DRose was at full strength. Although they gave up Iggy, they got Andrew Bynum. And Holiday seems to play well against us. Plus they got a host of wing players including Jason Richardson, Evan Turner, Dorrell Wright, Thaddeus Young, and Nick Young that could give us problems and provide slashing and three point shooting around Bynum. I'm just wondering if New Jersey is overrated right now to be third.

    I'd put the Celtics higher as they also get Jeff Green and Avery Bradley back who did not play for them in the playoffs this past year. I'd drop down the Knicks until they show they can play together and I'd replace New Jersey with Philly.

  • I'm sorry but without Rose and a legitimately second scorer, I don't see the Bulls being no higher than the sixth spot come playoff time. They had trouble scoring even when Rose was in the lineup. The Bulls need an offensive coordinator without Rose. It's going to be a long disappointing season.

  • we don't know how teams will come out. The Knicks do have a coach that values defense and if carmelo-amare can figure out how to play with each other, they could challenge the celtics for second best team in the east. With the Bulls, you get the sense that Boozer will suck right out of the gate this year, in fact the Bulls might be better off starting Taj Gibson and having Boozer come in with the second unit. We just don't know what we'll get with Butler, Nate and Belinelli. I still feel the bulls can get up to the 5th seed if Rose comes back fairly healthy and can try to make a celtics like run in the playoffs but if they can't figure it out early, it could be brutal.

  • I am not concern to the point that I think that the Bulls are the second best team in the east without Rose. I don't see how anyone can make that statement with teams making improvements to make a am serious challenge at the heat whereas the Bulls just brought in role players and no a player that would impact the Buils as much as Rose.

    I see the Bulls between 5-8 in the east not second even when Rose returns his impact won't as if he is coming off a sore ankle.

    I think Rose's limited minutes, and even his mental aspects of gaining confidence will be more of the story than his coming back as Rose the game changer. I expect Rose, to just be a sign of things to come in the 13-14 season where his play will possibility elevate him to his second MVP. Anyone that expects Rose to come back and dominate this season when ever that is, really is not facing reality. Bulls second best team in the east without Rose yea only in the fantasy league.

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