The Chicago Bulls are 13-10 through 23 games played this season.
The team is living up to expectations as far as expert predictions are concerned but they are also performing in key categorical statistics.
The Bulls have held opponents to just under 100 points per game, which ranks 5th among all NBA teams. They are also within or near the Top 10 in both the offensive and defensive rating categories. In short, it’s so far, so good for Fred Hoiberg’s squad.
They are also starting to play at a consistent level, something that was lacking in previous years. The 1st and 2nd rotation combinations are paying dividends for the team. This wouldn’t be possible without two key guard additions, starting with Rajon Rondo.
Rondo has gotten all the run he can handle at the point guard position and is putting forth solid averages at 8.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game. These numbers mark some of the best production he’s given in recent years.
Dwyane Wade has brought a leader the team lacked through losses of both Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol. He is also giving a boost to a 2nd unit that lacks the experience. His role as a scorer, passer and leader have given the team the boost it needs to outlast competition through the course of a game on a nightly basis.
Sticking with the second unit, we have a few guys who are staying within the game flow and keeping the team relevant through starter rest periods. This unit is headlined by a few key players, being Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott, Isaiah Canaan and Jerian Grant.
Mirotic adds intrigue to any roster as he has the ability to both post up down low or spot up shoot from anywhere on the floor. His versatility is a nightmare for defenses to contend with and it adds a sense of mystery for the Bulls to take advantage of. McDermott is slowly coming along to feature both guard and forward tendencies. His fiery play is an addition the team is featuring to help get this second unit out and running early.
Canaan and Grant both provide assistance, scoring threats and an overall knowledge of the game to the table each time they step on the court. They also provide ample targets for players to sans Rondo should he get in foul trouble or fatigue throughout a game. Either one can play the point guard position, which is a depth the team can lean on if any player were to slip up or find themselves in a slump.
Taking a look upfront, the team is experiencing big play from their forward positions, They took a huge blow when they shipped Gasol to the free-agency pool but that didn’t seem to hurt the play of Gasol’s counterpart, Taj Gibson. In fact, Gibson is posting some of the best numbers of his career. Not having Gasol to lean on has pushed Gibson into a bigger leadership position and has left an open invitation for him to produce.
Robin Lopez has been a fine fill-in for Gasol. His veteran presence has brought leadership for the younger bigs the team possesses. He has also had a pretty incredible output rating with the talent he is surrounded by.
The largest question the team would be asked in the off-season was, how can Jimmy Butler respond to his critics and perform on a team that is blossomed with talent? The reality is that these other four guys featured on the court with Butler have really helped him develop consistent play. His averages still remain near the top of the NBA leaders and he hasn’t had as much pressure on him, allowing him to focus on his game rather than trying to carry an entire team on his back.
The Bulls have a bright future and the season is still young. They will be a contender come playoff time and could take any team deep in a series with their overall sound play.