At 2-3 already this season, it’s safe to say the Chicago Bulls have gotten off to a slow start in their 2013-14 campaign. And even though we’re a long way from the start of the NBA Playoffs, many folks -- like ESPN’s outspoken and opinionated pundit, Stephen A. Smith -- have already begun to dissect the way the current roster is constructed and predict the final outcome for the team once the postseason does start.
The return of Derrick Rose has created optimism, excitement and championship expectations in Chicago, but Smith says the Bulls are no match for the Indiana Pacers or the Miami Heat and will only get as far as the second round of the playoffs this season.
"As you’ve watched Indiana elevate into a legitimate championship contender [and] knowing Miami to be who they are, we were of the belief that the Chicago Bulls were the team that could be standing in the Miami Heat’s way," said Smith, appearing on ESPN 1000’s Chicago Bulls Weekly.
"The problem is Indiana is standing in Chicago’s way, as well as Miami. And I think that as a result of that, it’s clear the Chicago Bulls are on the outside looking in as the team perceived to be the stiffest challenge to the Miami Heat. I think everybody that has been watching this season unfold recognizes already that it will probably be the Indiana Pacers [to challenge Miami].”
The Pacers, at 7-0, are the NBA's lone unbeaten team, and the Miami Heat, at 4-3, have started slowly out of the gates as well, but until someone beats them, they're afforded the respect -- and rightfully so -- as the two-time defending champions.
Smith cites the free agency losses of Marco Belinelli to the San Antonio Spurs and Nate Robinson to the Denver Nuggets – among other reasons – as the foundation for his opinion on why the Bulls will fall short of a championship this season. He says the team doesn’t have another player on the roster capable of creating shots for themselves, thereby taking the offensive burden off the shoulders of D. Rose. In other words, the same problem the team has had since the 2010-11 season.
"Don’t tell me this team, as presently constructed, is going to win the world championship," Smith said. "I’m not telling you no. I’m going to engage in a bit of hyperbole and tell you, hell no. No way does this team win a championship as presently constructed."
"If you had Nate Robinson, or Marco Belinelli, with the same guys you have on the squad now, I’d improve your chances exponentially. But with Mike Dunleavy Jr. being a spot-up shooter, with Luol Deng aging because of the minutes that are piling up … I am telling you, you do not have enough to fend off Indiana with how they’re coming, and to knock off the reigning, defending two-time NBA Champion, Miami Heat. You do not have enough."