I know they've only played one game so far this season and that there are still 81 more to go, but after only seeing the Bulls play for 48 minutes, I think we have ourselves a playoff team this year. I didn't quite feel that way before the season started, and I wasn't alone in my opinion. Just about every one of the four million NBA previews I saw around the blogosphere in the last few weeks and the talking heads on television said that while the Bulls have talent, they aren't going to make the playoffs this year.
While the Eastern Conference is pretty tough at the top with the reigning champs in Boston, the always strong Detroit Pistons, LeBron and the LeBronettes, and Orlando and Philadelphia looking strong on paper, there's still plenty of room for the Bulls. Of course, the biggest reason I've changed my stance on how far this team can go was the play of Derrick Rose against Milwaukee.
It was only his first game as a professional -- sorry, but I don't count preseason games -- and he did make his share of stupid rookie mistakes, but he still looks every bit like the player we saw at Memphis last season. He wasn't scared of anything on the court and he had no problem getting into the lane for his own shot or to find them for his teammates. Still, no matter how good Rose does in his rookie season, he's not going to be able to carry the team on his own.
Which is why I was excited to see the way the rest of the Bulls played as well. Luol Deng looks like he's going to earn that $60 million extension he signed in the offseason, and for the first time since he became a Chicago Bull, Tyrus Thomas looked like a basketball player with outstanding athletic skills. As opposed to the outstanding athlete who was playing basketball the last two seasons.
Also, when you look at the Bulls roster as a whole, how many teams in the Eastern Conference are as deep? Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, and Andres Nocioni all came off the bench in the first game. Two years ago when the Bulls were winning 49 games and getting to the second round of the playoffs, those three were starters. Throw in Joakim Noah, Aaron Gray, and a healthy Larry Hughes, and the Bulls rotation will be eleven men deep.
Of course, there's also a chance that a healthy Larry Hughes could end up killing the team just as easily, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. As for now, I truly think that the Bulls are a playoff team, and not just the 39-win #8 seed type of playoff team either. I mean a possible 4 or a 5 seed.
It probably sounds pretty idiotic to say this now, but come April you may change your mind.