I think it’s safe to say that the Chicago Bulls have surpassed everyone’s expectations this season. I for one, never thought the Bulls would be leading the Eastern Conference at this point in the season with a 51-19 record and looking favourable to claim that #1 seed.
And that’s all been down to one man – superstar point guard Derrick Rose. The #1 pick in the 2008 draft has shone this year, stepping up his game and leaving opposing guards trailing in his wake, unable to cope with his blistering speed.
Rose has averaged 24.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 7.8 assists this season, ranking 7th in the NBA in scoring and the highest-scoring PG in the league. Rose’s play has been the catalyst for the Bulls’ success this season, and he was worked on some of the weak elements of his game, such as his outside shot, to make him more polished offensively.
Derrick Rose is my choice for MVP. Without him, the Bulls would not be number 1 in the east. Dwight Howard puts a strong case for MVP, particularly considering his monster February. But the Magic are the fourth seed, behind the Celtics, Heat and of course, the Bulls.
Lebron James has had another strong season, but the fact that he plays with two superstars in Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade will count against King James, as well as the fact that Miami’s record isn’t as good as many predicted (49-22, compared to the 70+ games that many were expecting them to win). Whereas Amar’e Stoudemire, despite a strong start with the Knicks, has struggled recently and the Knicks’ record isn’t exactly good at the moment.
MVP debate out the way, how far can the Bulls go in the playoffs? I’m not sure. But I’m thinking Eastern Conference finals. Ultimately I believe the Celtics will prevail and reach the Finals, as they have been there before and have a wealth of veteran experience.
At this point it looks like the Bulls will get a team like the Pacers, Bucks or Bobcats in the first round, which they will progress from. After that I’m not too sure, as defences will try (“try” being the operative word) to shut down Rose and stop his influence on the game. I just think that the Bulls are a piece short of a title (mainly a two-guard, as Keith Bogans isn’t the answer). By that time, the Celtics will be struggling and the Bulls can challenge the Heat for dominance in the East.
What do you think? Can the Bulls and Rose win it all this year? Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Rarely in basketball, or in the sports world for that matter, do you see one decision, one moment that completely rips out the heart of a franchise, even an entire city. That’s what happened last Thursday, when Lebron James ditched the Cleveland Cavaliers in favour of joining his Olympic buddies Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, swapping Ohio for the bright lights of South Beach and the Miami Heat.
So what remains for a team that won the most games during the regular season for the last two years? Overnight the Cavs went from championship challengers to playoff hopefuls because of Lebron’s departure. The question is: are the Cavaliers lottery-bound next season or do they have what it takes to compete in an Eastern Conference that has seen the likes of Miami, Chicago, Orlando, Boston, Milwaukee and New York only get better in the last week.
Cleveland have a new coach in Byron Scott, who has the talent to ensure that the team don’t sink into obscurity at the bottom of the East in the forseeable future. Scott has experience on struggling teams, previously taking the Nets and the Hornets from the lottery to the playoffs. But does the roster have what it takes to compete in the East?
The Cavs still have most of their roster intact, only losing Lebron and backup center Zydrunas Ilgauskis to the Heat, as well as losing Shaq to free agency. They have Anderson Varejao at center, Mo Williams at the point and JJ Hickson has been told he will be the starting power forward next season, with Antawn Jamison coming off the bench. Role players like Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon are still on the roster, but the Cavs lack a go-to-guy, someone to carry the scoring load and take charge, just like a certain number 23, that is not the most popular guy in Cleveland right now, especially at the Gilbert household.
That’s the problem. All of the big-time free agents now have homes and the only way the Cavs have a chance of getting someone as good as Lebron anytime soon is by winning the Lottery next season. Cleveland had to wait until Lebron made his decision, ruling out the chance to go after young free agents like Rudy Gay, who could have been their plan B if they definitely knew the King was leaving. The Cavs also missed out on trading for Al Jefferson this week, who they were heavily linked to but signed with Utah instead.
So far, the only player the Cavs have reached out to is Houston guard Kyle Lowry, whom they signed to an offer sheet today. Houston are expected to match Cleveland’s offer, leaving the Cavs back where they started. They have been linked with a move for Atlanta Hawks forward Marvin Williams today, where Shaq would be sent in a sign-and-trade to Atlanta for Williams.
The only problem is that Williams isn’t the answer if you want to compete with the best in the East. The former no.2 pick averaged 10 points for the Hawks last season and only signed a new deal last summer, meaning the Cavs would be stuck with his contract if it didn’t work out. My answer: go for someone with a lot to prove, someone like Tracy McGrady. Sign him to a one-year deal, see if he has anything left and T-Mac should at least provide the same scoring as someone like Williams.
I expect the Cavs to struggle next season and unless they sign a proven scorer at the wing positions, they could be lottery bound. I don’t expect them to be in line for winning the Draft Lottery anytime soon, but maybe that could be the best outcome after Lebron’s defection – someone to revitalise a city heartbroken by the departure of their favourite son…