(Derrick Rose picture via www.bleacherreport.com)
The playoffs have finally descended upon us and now it's time to separate the contenders from the pretenders. People have talked about the Miami Heat. People have talked about the Oklahoma City Thunder. But is anyone talking about the Chicago Bulls? And if people are, should they?
The Bulls once again had a big regular season. In this strike-shortened season, the Bulls finished with 50 wins, obtaining the best record in the NBA and locking up homecourt advantage for the entirety of the playoffs. But this year, they did it most unconventionally.
The Bulls brought in veteran shooting guard Richard "Rip" Hamilton from the Detroit Pistons in hopes of him being able to relieve some of the pressure on Derrick Rose. But what the Bulls didn't expect was the injuries to pile up. Rip hasn't even played 20 games this year, as he has dealt with a groin and shoulder injury. He's been back in the lineup for a good stretch, but can we expect to see the old Rip Hamilton or will we see him continue to breakdown like he has all year?
Rip hasn't been the only player with an injury this year. Derrick Rose suffered five separate injuries this year and missed a ton of the season as well. Luol Deng also is playing with a torn ligament in his wrist and has been toughing it out all year. He has missed some games as well. But despite all of this, the Bulls have made it through. And some may wonder why or how they have. They have made it through because of their bench.
At some point and time, Kyle Korver, John Lucas III, CJ Watson, Omer Asik, Taj Gibson and Ronnie Brewer have stepped in and picked up the slack for the Bulls. With this added experience, the Bulls have an advantage with depth and potency coming in off the bench.
But is this more experienced bench going to be able to help the Bulls make it to the next level? The answer is no. The Bulls will only go as far as the star power of Rose and the veteran leadership of Rip will lead them. When Rose gets doubled, Rip is their best threat and playmaker and he has to be effective. Another huge factor will be the play of Carlos Boozer. The Bulls brought him in to help lead their team and now it's time for him to step up. He disappeared in the Miami series last year and has played uneven against them this year. He has to give them something in the post so they can at least have a little bit of a semblance of a post game. In the end, defense can only carry you so far and the offense has to step it up. It should be interesting to see if they are ready or if they are just following the same path they did last year in their Conference finals' embarrassment versus the Heat.
What are your thoughts? Do you think the Bulls are ready to take the championship this year or do you think their regular season was Fool's Gold?