The consensus about the 2009-10 Chicago Bulls was pretty simple: They'd be OK, but not good, and certainly not great.
The Bulls are doing their best to challenge the consensus.
Chicago 6-4 start to the season is the best since 1998. That's encouraging enough, seeing as it puts the bulls on pace for about 50 wins, more than enough to avoid an eight seed and a matchup with the Celtics or Magic in the first round of the NBA playoffs. That would be nice.
But more than wins and losses -- after all this season is less about results than about setting the table for next summer's free agent bonanza -- it's the flashes of competency that ought to have Bulls fans excited.
Joakim Noah is a legitimate NBA center. Brad Miller didn't lose much as he aged another year. Luol Deng has returned from injury and provided an added scoring threat, not to mention a lock-down perimeter defender. And Bulls rookies Taj Gibson and even James Johnson have proven (Gibson especially) they have the chops to compete at this level.
All this has taken place while Tyrus Thomas, the Bulls' most athletic player, has been injured, and while Derrick Rose has struggled with defenses' sudden willingness to key on his penetration. When Rose adjusts, the Bulls should be much more potent on the offensive end.
In the meantime, the Bulls are doing it with an eighth-ranked defense, a huge improvement from a year ago. If the offense comes around, look out. These Bulls might not be so mediocre after all.
Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger. He is the editor of Yahoo! Sports's college basketball blog The Dagger and a contributor to Inside The Hall. Follow him at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com, or on Twitter.