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Can the Bulls win the East?

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

By: Jacob Rayyan

The Chicago Bulls surprised many this past offseason when they traded Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks, then let Joakim Noah sign with those same Knicks. Many Chicago fans, including myself, demanded a change in the front office leadership. The Bulls, many perceived, were headed for their worst season in a very long time.

While things had already stooped low in the previous season as the Bulls missed the playoffs for the first time in five years, there were concerns that this team was going all in on the rebuilding process.

That was not the case however, as the front office rebounded by signing some quality players to fulfill the void left by Rose and Noah. The trade of Noah brought Robin Lopez to the team. The Bulls then signed one of the better true point guards in the game in Rajon Rondo. To complete the overhaul, the Bulls won the Dwyane Wade sweepstakes, bringing the player back to his hometown to play for the foreseeable future. With this new team, many fans began to get over the loss of Rose, their hometown hero.

The Bulls would field a starting five of Wade, Rondo, Lopez, Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic. The chief complaint from this team was that there was no true three-point shooter. Furthermore, there was concern that Wade and Rondo were going to take valuable possessions from Jimmy Butler, hindering the team. The last main complaint with the Bulls’ starting five was that they would be unable to cater to head coach Fred Hoiberg’s offensive system of fast paced play.

Through 15 games played this season, the Bulls find themselves at 9-6, good for 5th place in the Eastern Conference. They have been able to take advantage of weaker teams in their schedule and playing the better teams to competitive games. The Bulls currently have the second best point differential in the Eastern conference, a testament to their strong defensive game.

Jimmy Butler, now the main player on the team, has elevated his game to new heights, becoming one of the best two way players in the game. Along with guarding the best player in the opposing team, Butler has been averaging nearly 26 points per game on 48% shooting. The biggest surprise in Butler’s game has been his three point shooting. In his career, Butler has averaged less than one three point made per contest. This season, he is up to 1.5 makes per game. His season average of 42% is leaps and bounds above his 33% career average. While many would be worried about a regression from Butler, don’t expect it anytime soon.

The Bulls, despite the rise of Jimmy Butler and their strong game both on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, are unlikely to contend with the Cavaliers. They simply do not have the offensive firepower that the Cavaliers have at their disposal. While the Bulls have a solid chance of getting a playoff spot, there is practically no chance that they will be able to contend in the East for the top spot. Just getting into the playoffs, however, is a welcome surprise for Bulls fans all around. 

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