After a two-year hiatus from the postseason, the Chicago Bulls are a half game ahead of the Detroit Pistons for the seventh playoff seed.
At the middle of the NBA season, the Bulls were looking like they were again headed for the NBA Lottery with their poor play and lackluster effort.
After the trade deadline the Bulls seemed to find resurgence on the team and started to play great basketball night-in and night-out. They currently just capped off an impressive 9-3 record in their last 12 games and are looking like a sharp basketball team.
There are four main reasons why the Bulls are starting to come together and play great basketball:
1. John Salmons and Brad Miller come to the Bulls
The Bulls made a great trade dealing Andres Nocioni away to get veterans John Salmons and Brad Miller. Since Luol Deng went down with an injury, Salmons stepped up into the starting position and has been nothing but stellar.
Salmons is averaging 19.6 points per game in 38 minutes of play and has shown signs of brilliance in games as of late. When the Bulls need a basket, Salmons is always there to answer the call. He came up with some big shots down the stretch in close games and is having one of the best seasons of his career.
Brad Miller is the low post scorer the Bulls desperately needed. Though he is not the quickest, he provides an inside presence the Bulls did not have earlier in the season. Miller is averaging 12.6 ppg and 7.6 rebounds per game.
Though Miller does not start, he gives the Bulls the lift they need from the bench when the starters are not getting it done. He also serves as a mentor to the younger forwards Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah.
2. The return of Kirk Hinrich
Earlier in the season Hinrich suffered a thumb injury that sidelined him for four months. Since his return, Hinrich gives the Bulls the defensive edge while he is on the court. Some of Hinrich’s defensive assignments have been none other than Lebron James, Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant.
Though the stats might not show it, he slowed down those superstar players. Being one of the captains on the team, Hinrich is there to lead the Bulls into the playoffs and provide his defensive specialties to help the team win.
Don’t get me wrong, Hinrich can also produce some baskets. He has the ability to turn on his offensive game when needed and can explode for 30 points in a game.
3. Rookie sensation Derrick Rose
This guy is a future all-star. With his ability to take anyone off the dribble, Rose makes his living driving to the basket while leaving defenders stunned. Not only does he have the ability to take defenders to the hole, but he can also take that jump-shot whenever needed.
Rose is averaging 16.5 ppg and 6.2 assists per game in his rookie season. Rose has really started to learn how to take control of games when his team needs it the most. He has taken many big shots for the Bulls and no doubt has become one of the team’s leaders. All he needs now is playoff experience, then he will be very hard to stop in both the regular and postseason. Can you say Rookie of the Year?
4. The development of Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas
I thought these two players were going to be the next Eddy Curry and Kwame Brown, but they have really started to come alive in the second half of the season. Both players have increased their level of play and brought intensity to a team that really needs it.
Thomas is having a breakout season averaging 10 ppg and just under seven boards. He also shares the role of shot-blocker with Noah.
Noah is not offensive minded, but is averaging seven rpg and has stepped up his defensive play in the post and is known as the teams “hustle player.” He and Thomas have really shown their defensive mindedness when it comes to rebounding and blocking shots. These two can only get better … hopefully.
So there you have it. There is your recipe for why the Bulls are headed straight into the postseason picture. Look for this newly rejuvenated team to make some noise in the playoffs. They may just surprise you.
Jeff De Chavez is a junior journalism major from Elk Grove Village. He is the Scout sports reporter.
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