Originally written on Crossover Chronicles  |  Last updated 11/14/14

I was looking at the standings the other day and was a little surprised to see the Chicago Bulls have already clinched a playoff spot.  I mean, we still have a month left in the season and they clinched about a week ago.  All this is happening with Derrick Rose missing an extended period of time with a groin injury.  You're not supposed to have the best record in the league when the league's reigning MVP has missed 17 games and the lock out shortened season has made said schedule grueling.  Still, there the Bulls are, 40-11 with the league's highest point differential of 8.4 points per game. 

Translation: They're not just beating teams, they're beating the crap out of teams. 

From their head coach to the 12th man on the roster, it's entirely possible the Bulls are the perfect regular season team.

If they're not the best defensive team in the league, they're a close second.  The Bulls rank in the top five in every defensive category except three point shooting percentage against.  Only Philadelphia can match them in team defense.  What sets the Bulls apart is they lead the league in total rebound rate.  So they're forcing people to miss shots with their team defense and then they're limiting teams to one shot.  On top of that, they're number one in offensive rebound rate, which gets them extra shots at the basket.  The offensive rebounding stat is key, because even without Rose in the lineup, the Bulls are able to get extra shots. 

Despite only having a regular big man rotation of four guys, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson and Omer Asik are all exceptional rebounders and Noah, Gibson and Asik are all great defenders.  This is without question their greatest advantage over any team in the league.  It's not that any of these guys are elite, all-around talents.  It's that they're all really good players who fit in to Tom Thibodeau's system.  Additionally, because they're all so interchangeble with the exception of Boozer, no one player is going to get played too many minutes (the same cannot be said for Rose and Luol Deng though).

Despite their success so far, the Bulls still have some unknowns heading in to the playoffs.  First and foremost, is Derrick Rose going to be healthy going in to the playoffs?  I mean really like 100 percent healthy.  If he's not he's either not going to be as effective getting to the basket, going to settle for jumpers more often than not or he's going to hurt himself again trying to be as aggressive as he normally is.  Second, are they going to get any contribution from Richard Hamilton?  Will he get healthy in time for the playoffs and if he does will there be enough time to get him in the flow of an offense that is a well oiled machine at this point?  The larger question is is this team any different than the one the Miami Heat took care of in five games during the Eastern Conference Finals last season.  Barring an magical upset from Orlando over Miami in the second round, it looks like we're headed for the exact same set up as last season. 

Will we see a repeat of the last year's result?  I'm inclined to say yes, but if there's a team that can prove us all wrong, it's the Chicago Bulls.


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