For the second straight year, the Chicago Bulls had to play the majority of the NBA season without former MVP Derrick Rose. Despite not having his All-Star point guard, Tom Thibodeau has turned the Bulls into a defensive force, and a true competitor in the Eastern Conference.
The Bulls currently sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 40-32. They trail the third place Toronto Raptors by one game, with 10 games left to play in the regular season. Chicago’s success this season has been a result of a full team effort.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau’s commitment to defense has allowed the Bulls to be competitive in nearly every game they play, as they turn the offensive end into a nightmare for opposing teams. The Bulls hold opposing teams to 91.9 points per game on 42.9 percent shooting. Both of which are second only to the Indiana Pacers across the NBA.
One of the key signings during the season for the Bulls was the acquisition of D.J. Augustin from the Toronto Raptors. Augustin did not see much action with the Raptors, but with the absence of Derrick Rose, he has played a key role off the bench for the Bulls.
While averaging 12.2 points and 4.4 assists on the season, Augustin has provided a boost to the second unit of the Bulls, while giving starting point guard Kurt Hinrich some much-needed rest.
The leader of the Bulls this season has without a doubt been Joakim Noah. Not only is Noah the vocal leader and one of the anchors on the defensive end, but he has also been a key contributor on the offensive end. This season Noah has shown why he is regarded as one of the best passing big men in the NBA as he racked up two triple-doubles in three games earlier this month.
The Bulls have enjoyed success this season thanks to full team contributions and dedication to the system instilled by their coach.
Player to Watch in the Playoffs
Since the departure of Luol Deng, Jimmy Butler has proven to be invaluable for the Chicago Bulls. While averaging 13.0 points and 5.1 rebounds, Butler has continued to develop on the defensive end of the court. Butler is the best perimeter wing defender on Chicago, and is becoming one of the best overall defenders in the league.
The issue heading into the playoffs for the Bulls will be Butler’s minutes. On the season, Butler is averaging 38.0 minutes per game. Only Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony average more minutes per game, and during the playoffs Butler’s playing time will likely increase.
Earlier this season Butler set a franchise record with 60 minutes played in a triple overtime game against the Orlando Magic. Even though he is only 24-years-old, eventually all this playing time will catch up with Butler.
How Will Their Season End
As of today, the Bulls would have a first round series rematch from last year against the Brooklyn Nets. Expect a physical, defensive battle between those two teams, with the Bulls edging the Nets out in another exciting seven game series.
While the Bulls defense is among the best in the NBA, without Derrick Rose, their offense is not at the same level. The Bulls offense would struggle to keep pace against a second round opponent, so expect them to exit in the second round for a second consecutive NBA season.
The fact that the Bulls have had so much success the past two NBA seasons without Derrick Rose just makes the idea of his return that much more exciting. And in the NBA this year, who knows, perhaps the Bulls will have a Cinderella run through the Eastern Conference playoffs.
NBA Daily Playoff Preview is a daily series providing analysis and prediction about all things NBA.
Commentary By Eric Kummel