ESPN has recently wrapped up their rankings list of all 500 NBA players, with LeBron James holding his spot as the best player in the league. This article is not about his rankings though, this article is going to discuss the Chicago Bulls roster and how its players ranked.
The Chicago Bulls bolster a great starting line-up when Derrick Rose is present, but with him out indefinitely until at-least after the All-Star break in February, the line-up loses its most important piece.
With Rose – who ranked 5th overall in the rankings- out it simply means back-up point guard Kirk Hinrich (ranked 188th) and Marquis Teague (ranked 356 as a rookie) will have to step up to fill the void.
They face the most daunting task of not just leading this team but also keeping this team relevant in a revamped Eastern Conference. With the Bulls leading scorer and floor general on the bench it will be no easy task, but it is achievable.
It is achievable because of the rest of the line-up and the teams defensive presence that coach Tom Thibodeau has preached since he arrived in Chicago in 2010.
Starting for the Bulls besides Rose are Rip Hamilton at the shooting guard, Luol Deng at small forward, Carlos Boozer at power forward and Joakim Noah at center.
Hamilton is ranked at 187 and for good reason, he has been in this league since 1999, yes he won a championship in 2004 but the point is he is getting old.
We saw glimpses of what he used to be last season in high stake games not titled the Eastern Conference playoffs but more times than not he has been merely an average player who is past his prime.
Consider the fact that since 2008 his points per game have steadily decreased until they were at 11.6 last season- this was a guy who could be relied upon to score 20 points a night when he was young, but now the Bulls are resting there scoring load (while Rose is out) on a veteran player whose numbers are not in his favor.
The next player is Deng who is ranked at 37, I like this ranking because it shows respect towards an underrated and under appreciated player in this league. Deng will not be the superstar of a team, he will not be the flashy, high-scoring, go-to guy but what he is is a great role player.
He focuses on defense and hustle, he is the epitome of a hard working and selfless player. Deng kept this team alive and was -for a brief time- the name that came to mind when people thought of the Chicago Bulls until Rose was signed in 2008.
Deng has battled injuries for many seasons but doesn’t let it affect his playing abilities and I look to him as the leader of this team until Rose is back in uniform.
At power forward is Boozer, ranked at 67. This ranking adequately represents the impact Boozer has on this team, maybe not always statistically but always vocally.
Boozer is a solid defender but has been criticized for never living up to his contract despite averaging 17 points per game in 2010 and 15 points per game last season.
Like Hamilton, Boozer is going into his 10th year in the league (having been drafted in 2002), all this means for Chicago is another aging, injury prone stars.
The good news?
Behind Boozer lies a young player who has shown the defensive prowess and offensive capabilities that should make Chicago fans happy, his name is Taj Gibson (ranked 82nd).
The last starter for Chicago is Noah (ranked 36th,) on the team since he was drafted in 2007, he is a nightmare for opponents and a blessing for Bulls fans everywhere. He is a center who at times is outspoken to say the least but productive at the same time.
He averaged 10.2 points per game and 9.8 rebounds per game last season- a slight decrease from the 2010-2011 season but still good numbers- his role is not centered around offense, but rather defense where he is considered the best pick and roll defender in the game today.
His offense has been often criticized due to his unusual shooting stroke and his inability to hit free-throws (both of which he has improved on,) but his work ethic, hard nosed defense and overall passion for the game are what makes him special.
Noah will need to continue to get better in all categories to keep this team afloat in the Eastern Conference.
Overall, the rankings offered by ESPN are based on statistics, not every ranking will make every fan happy but stats don’t lie and to continue to climb in the rankings players must continue to improve their overall game. This is the key for the individuals on the Bulls as well as the team as a whole.
They are now sitting in a new look conference, where teams like the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers have all made adjustments to their rosters and in order to stay ahead of these teams Chicago must find a way to compete night in and night out even with superstar Rose on the sidelines.
If they can do that and continue to play the suffocating defense that coach Thibodeau has taught them, then they should have no problem staying in the conversation of who the best team in the East is.