Chicago Bulls Major Player in the Eastern Conference Again

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So the Chicago Bulls didn’t get LeBron James. Or Dwyane Wade. Or later, Carmelo Anthony.

It doesn’t seem to matter.

Sitting pretty atop the NBA’s Central division at 12-8 heading into Friday’s huge 8 p.m. match-up with the Los Angeles Lakers at United Center, the Bulls should be right in the thick of things for the Eastern Conference championship despite not landing one of the biggest names in basketball in the off-season or via trade.

Let’s take a look at some things to like about Chicago:

  • Defense, defense, defense. It’s tough to find many teams in the league who appear as set for the long haul defensively as the Bulls. It’s actually downright scary to think about how ridiculous the team’s defense would be had LeBron come to the Windy City. First-year coach Tom Thibodeau was regarded as one of the game’s top defensive assistants while in Boston. Center Joakim Noah has become a rebounding machine and one of the league’s best young defensive big men. Free-agent acquisition Carlos Boozer, who missed the first 15 games of the season with an apparent broken hand, has averaged 5.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in his first five contests of 2010-11.  Point guard Derrick Rose is capable of locking down opponents on the perimeter. Speaking of whom …
  • Derrick Rose. It really astounded me to hear analysts worry about the Bulls’ lack of a legitimate No. 1 scoring option heading into the season. Rose is that guy. His 30-point effort in the Nov. 23 meeting with the Lakers in Los Angeles should be fresh enough on everyone’s mind. The third-year guard has not scored less than double-digit point totals in Chicago’s young season, and that doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon. Granted, the Bulls would benefit from more 3-point attempts by shooter Kyle Korver or the acquisition of a consistent long-range threat, but a go-to guy is not an issue in Chi-town. No. 1 is your man.
  • A weak division (at least right now). The next-best record in the Central belongs to the Indiana Pacers, who boast a 10-10 mark heading into their Friday home matchup against Charlotte. The third-best? Milwaukee at 8-13. While it’s still early in the season, there doesn’t seem to be a surer thing in the division than Chicago. With a solid record boosted by wins against Central opponents, the Bulls could quite conceivably lock up a top-3 seed and, depending on whom they draw in the first two rounds, could cause some matchup woes on defense.

While the Bulls’ upside might very well have been higher had they reeled in a LeBron, a D-Wade or a Melo, the team’s prospects remains high. Don’t be shocked if you see this team make a deep playoff run come April.

–Drew Allen

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