He's one of the best help defensive centers in the NBA. He's a great rebounder, especially on the offensive end. He's a great passer, and despite appearances after three games this season, he's a good ball handler. Joakim does almost everything well except two things. Stay healthy and score, but the Bulls really need both to defeat Miami.
The Pacers took the Heat to seven games with a team much less talented than the Bulls by perpetually beating them up in the paint. Chicago will never have that offensive advantage inside unless Carlos Boozer becomes a dominant playoff player, something which few Bulls fans expect.
On top of that, the prevailing logic is that Boozer will be amnestied next season to make way for Mirotic. Nikola Mirotic may become a quality scorer, but he certainly doesn't look likely to become an interior one.
Bulls fans may dream of getting their own Roy Hibbert, but problem number two is that there are only a handful of big men in the NBA that can really trouble the Heat on offense and none of them are likely available.
The best realistic trade for one might be something along the lines of Joakim Noah for Al Jefferson, and I have to be honest, the thought of a Jefferson/Boozer front court doesn't leave me smiling and thinking championship.
Given that getting a dominant inside presence on the offensive side seems like a stretch, can the Bulls defeat the Heat with the types of players they do have? Can a team beat Miami without a dominant inside presence?
Yes. Yes they can. How do we know? The only team to do so lacked a highly skilled interior big man.
When looking back at Dallas, the one thing they really had that the Bulls lacked was a fearless shot creator who got on a hot streak. Nate Robinson was that player for a season for Chicago, and the Bulls decided he wasn't good enough to be that player again or that role simply wasn't necessary.
Maybe they knew the front court rotation was going to be short on minutes and wanted to go Dunleavy so when they inevitably have to play small, they're really still playing much bigger.
Whatever the thought process is, the team that defeated the Heat [Dallas] and the one that should have [San Antonio] did so with shooting, not with great interior play. Both teams had clutch offensive players on their bench. Both teams had guys who could knock down threes.
The Mavericks had Jason Terry creating his own shots while the Spurs had elite passing and spacing to create open looks for their role players. Of these models the Bulls aren't so far off the Spurs.
Their big men are great passers and Rose will create plenty of space once he's performing at his peak level. Can their wings knock down threes? Seems kind of dicey.
Chicago appears to want to win with just defense, but that won't get it done. There are several ways to build a great team, but I don't believe in the Derrick Rose and the defenders methodology. You need great interior play, great shooting, or great slashing. You need some pillar for your offense to stand on. Something to rely on when Rose is taken out of the game.
Bulls fans have been looking for that for several years, but the only additions in the name of offense have been guys who were low minute role players. Korver, Dunleavy, Robinson, and Watson have been the best offensive additions Chicago has made.
The Bulls still haven't injected any real improvement in offense into the lineup since Carlos Boozer arrived and until they do, they'll always be underdogs to win the championship. That said, it's easy to see the problem and hard to find the solution.