|20th Overall||3rd Overall|
Stats through Jan. 22
Case could be made that all three here -- Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer -- merited consideration as All-Star reserves. Boozer is Bulls' most consistent 20-10 threat since Artis Gilmore. Noah a legit MIP and DPOY candidate. The cost is being paid in heavy minutes by Noah and Deng (and Deng's assorted dings, too).
Kirk Hinrich is too, er, "senior" for the starting role and has broken down with a variety of ailments. Richard Hamilton, brought in to complement Derrick Rose, has played only 18 games with him in 13 months and both scored less, shot worse and had lesser plus/minus ratings when in tandem.
This is the constant. As valuable as Omer Asik was in protecting the rim, the real cornerstone at this end of the floor is Tom Thibodeau. Bulls have been first or second in opponents' FG% ever since he arrived.
Losing Asik was a blow from which the second unit might never fully recover. The wholesale changes -- Kyle Korver, C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer, John Lucas III all are gone -- pinched in the first months but replacements Marco Belinelli, Nate Robinson and Jimmy Butler have been trending upward.
Same way, every day. Never too high, never too low. Preparation and execution. More than enough to win. Consistently consistent. Clever media banter? Bah! ... There -- you've been Thib-o-dized.
This season, from the get-go, was going to be all about waiting for Derrick Rose to return from knee surgery. Nothing has changed -- except maybe for the Bulls' possibilities, based on their ability to do more than tread water in his absence and on the openness of the Eastern Conference.
Assuming the Bulls can assimilate Rose into what they've been doing without too many adjustments -- and based on the 2011 MVP returning and building to a solid level with only minor hiccups -- the ceiling for Chicago is higher than anyone would have predicted a few months back.
-- Steve Aschburner
Explanation of Marking System
|Golden State Warriors||A-|
|Los Angeles Clippers||A-|
|Los Angeles Lakers||D|
|New Orleans Pelicans||C-|
|New York Knicks||D|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||A|
|Portland Trail Blazers||A|
|San Antonio Spurs||A|