1.Derrick Rose the defender and passer: Everyone already knew about Rose’s immense offensive talent and athletic ability. However he has improved as both a man on man and help defender. Being a two-way superstar is a rare thing indeed, which will separate Rose from the Carmello Anthonys, Vince Carters and T-Macs of the league. The great ones, Michael, Kobe and Larry, all committed themselves to being a great all around basketball player, which is the sign of a not just a star but a legend, which Derrick seems primed to become. Also his assist rate has skyrocketed this year and he is now among the top seven in the league. His drive and kicks have become a staple to his game (not to mention his new fifteen foot floater), which has given space to the Bulls’s shooters.
2.The Shooting: Speaking of shooting, the Bulls’ perimeter game has taken a big step forward. Rose and Deng have both improved their three point shooting, but even more important has been the consistency of Kyle Korver, the addition of Richard Hamilton, the surprise shooting of CJ Watson and John Lucas and the shocking development in Ronnie Brewer’s shot. Add in the great mid-range shooting of Carlos Boozer and the one or two jump shots per game from Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson and a significant weakness is now a strength.
3. The Defense/Rebounds: The staple of this Bulls team besides Rose’s abilities, is the defense that coach Thibodeau brought with him from Boston. The Bulls are the best defensive team in the league, which has allowed them to compete in every game, even when the offense has stalled. Luol Deng has become arguably the best one on one perimeter defender in the league and the Bulls feature a trio of dominant defensive bigs, in Noah, Asik and Gibson. The best sign is that every young Bulls player has improved defensively over the last year. Even Boozer has improved enough to allow him to stay on the court in the fourth quarter. What makes the defense even better is that the Bulls have become the best rebounding team in the league, which limits second chance points. A dominant defense and elite rebounding assures the Bulls a chance to win any game.
4. The Bench Mob: The Bulls bench played great last year, however each player has taken another step forward. Omer Asik has become a dominant post defender and has learned to play without fouling. Taj Gibson has added a few post moves to go along with his excellent defense. Ronnie Brewer has discovered a jump shot, where last year the majority of his points came from the paint and CJ Watson has become a dangerous three-point shooter, to go along with his elite speed. With the vast amount of injuries this season, the Bulls’ bench and depth have allowed them to keep playing at a championship level.
5. Rip Hamilton: Richard Hamilton, when healthy has been exactly what the Bulls needed and has been a huge upgrade over Keith Bogans. Hamilton has fit perfectly on this Bulls team, as he can shoot, create his own shot and moves great without the ball. He has also played solid defense, which was a bit of a concern. The three year, fifteen million dollar contract is looking like a bargain, if only he can stay healthy.
1. Injuries: Most knew that the compressed schedule would cause fatigue throughout the league, but there has been a dramatic increase in injuries league wide. Sadly, the Bulls have been hampered more than most. Rose has missed time with a turf toe, which is expected to linger throughout the season, although he does seem healthier as of late. Luol Deng has the torn ligament in his wrist, which has sidelined him for weeks and will limit him on offense, especially his shooting. Richard Hamilton has been in and out of the lineup all season with a variety of injuries and is currently out indefinitely. Taj Gibson hurt his ankle and has not looked right since returning this week. Noah also missed a game with an ankle injury, but has been great since returning. Even the two backup point guards, CJ Watson and John Lucas have been sidelined with various injuries. So far the depth and talent of Rose have kept them afloat, however if the injuries keep racking up, then the Bulls cannot win the title.
2. The Road Games: The Bulls are currently in the midst of a nine game road trip and have already played among the most road games in the league, even before this road trip started. The Bulls have been dominant at home, so it hurts to see them constantly playing away from Chicago. However, the good news is that the Bulls will play more home games down the stretch than most will. However, the constant road games have got to be taking a toll on the team.
3. Boozer’s post game: Over the last fifteen games or so, Boozer has really picked up his game. His jump shot has been fantastic and he is knocking down every open look. The only problem is that he was signed to be a low post threat, but Boozer is barely going into the post. The Bulls have been looking for that back to the basket scorer for years and thought they found one in Boozer, but to date he is sticking to mid range jumpers. Boozer may be short, but his brute strength is his greatest gift, as he can bully bigger players in the post. Boozer has been effective, but would be a bigger asset if he went into the post consistently.
4. Noah’s Inconsistency: Over the last ten games, Noah has found his stride and has been the Noah that Bulls fans know and love. Before, he was struggling for one reason or another and recently claimed that he was trying to do too much in order to make up for his new sixty million dollar contract. The Bulls do not need him to be a scorer, they just need him to stick to what has made him so successful, defense, rebounding and energy. Now that he is back on track, it will be nice to see him rack up double-doubles, like last season.
5. The Lack of Scalabrine: The “White Mamba” may be a joke around the league and even to most Bulls fans, but looking past the jokes, he has been a very effective player for the Bulls. He is a solid team defender, a great passer and an all-around team player who makes the most of his minutes. When in the game, good things happen and he actually uses his reputation in order to trick other players. Every time he gets the ball, the cheering starts and the other team just assumes he is going to shoot to appease the crowd. But he either takes a great shot, or makes a great pass. His shot-fake is a thing of beauty and it allows him to get into the lane and pass to an open shooter. “The man, the myth, the legend” is actually still an effective player and it would be great to see him receive additional playing time.