With the NBA playoffs right around the corner, the Chicago Bulls are on fire at the right time. Winning seven straight not only earns them respect around the league, Chicago has also taken sole possession of the third seed in the Eastern Conference with only three games remaining on their schedule. This winning streak has taught us a lot; let’s see what we have learned…
The winning streak was all but over at six when the visiting Pistons were up 18 in the third quarter. Defense was lack-luster, the offense was missing a beat all game, and the tempo of the game was not in Chicago’s favor. However, sixth man Taj Gibson and role player D.J Augustin weren’t about to let streak end like that. The two bench players combined for 41 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists as Chicago roared back to beat the Pistons 106-98. That one game sums up the Bulls season. Left for dead, and somehow succeed in a full-team effort. Rose went down, and Deng was traded; however Chicago didn’t miss a beat as they find themselves in top-half of the playoff seeding. With the heart and hustle the Bulls show, and having coach Thibodeau at the helm, the sky is the limit for Chicago.
2. Re-signing D.J Augustin is a MUST
In four of the last five games for Chicago, point guard D.J Augustin has scored 20 or more. Better yet, in his last 10 games, Augustin is averaging 17.2 points and five assists a game. The 6th year guard out of Texas has blended nicely with Thibodeau’s system; providing efficient scoring off the bench and suffocating defense. However, having a breakout season includes big money… something that Chicago doesn’t have a lot of. There will be multiple teams out there looking to pay big money for Augustin’s services, but if Augustin really likes playing for Chicago as much as he says; then he wouldn’t mind taking a MLE (Mid-Level Exception) or a little more than that. Let’s hope that the Bulls culture, and the ability to “win now” is persuasive enough for the point guard to stay for another year or two.
3. Thibodeau is the Coach of the Year
Numerous line-up changes, another season-ending injury for superstar Derrick Rose, Rose’s side-kick, Luol Deng, is dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and somehow head coach Tom Thibodeau has his battle-tested Chicago Bulls (47-32) sitting at the third seed of the Eastern Conference. Miraculously, if the Bulls win out, they will have another 50-win season; their first since the 2011-12. The players give Thibodeau 110% every single game on both sides of the ball. Since Thibodeau was hired 2010, he has consistently got “average” players to take the next step and perform beyond expectations. In the past it was players like Kyle Korver, Nate Robinson, and Marco Belinelli. This year, “Thibs” has gotten swingman Mike Dunleavy and D.J Augustin to buy into the system, and both are thriving tremendously. Coach Thibodeau is a top candidate for COTY.
Honorable Mentions: Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy’s scoring spurts, and the vocal leadership of Joakim Noah
Follow Mike Albrecht on Twitter: @MikeAlbrechtt