NBA Chicago Bulls

5 Keys to Chicago Bulls’ 2014 Title Hopes

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Chicago Bulls

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Flash back to Nov. 22, 2013. The setting is in Portland, Ore. The two teams facing off are the Chicago Bulls and the Portland Trail Blazers. By halftime, the Bulls were fully in control and were on their way to a big win on the road against a great team. Then, disaster struck midway through the third quarter of the game.

Derrick Rose tore the meniscus in his right knee that night after having to miss the entire 2012-13 season due to a torn ACL in his left knee. With the second devastating injury of his young career, the Bulls’ star was left with many questions about his future. The team and their fans were also left with a lot more questions about the direction the organization should choose to head in.

Fast forwarding to the present, the Bulls are still playing as hard as any team in the NBA. Without their main star, they’re managing to hold on to a spot in the playoffs. Currently sitting in the sixth spot in the playoff picture, they’re as close as one game out of the third seed.

That doesn’t mean that the season hasn’t been a whirlwind of highs and lows for the Bulls. At one point, fans were encouraging the team to consider tanking for a chance at a huge offseason. Center Joakim Noah and coach Tom Thibodeau shut that notion down as early as it came. Then, one of the city’s favorite players, Luol Deng, was dealt away weeks ago. This made it clear that if a certain player didn’t factor into the team’s plans financially, they shouldn’t get too comfortable.

It is uncertain whether the team is done tinkering with their roster, but the ultimate goal remains the same no matter who is in a Bulls’ uniform. Play hard every night and bring home the championship that you have worked so hard for.

While many feel it is unlikely that the Bulls will be in any contention for a title this season, much less be able to compete with the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, there is always a chance when you play great basketball every night. Here are five ways that the Bulls may keep their title hopes alive this season. All five are contingent upon the roster remaining intact beyond the trade deadline.

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5. D.J Augustin Should Remain Second String PG

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Bulls fans are thanking the Toronto Raptors for not being able to find room for D.J. Augustin. Before he signed with the team in December, the main backup option was Marquis Teague. While Teague isn’t a bad player, he simply couldn’t find any rhythm with the team.

Since joining the team, Augustin has played well enough to warrant a promotion to the starting lineup. It’s probably best suited that he remain on the bench for the time being as the Bulls don’t really have much firepower in their second unit. Taj Gibson certainly has been a joy to have coming off the bench; he too should arguably be starting. If Augustin isn’t a part of that unit with him, then there won’t be much scoring when the Bulls’ starters need a break.

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4. Kirk Hinrich Needs To Be Consistent

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There are times when Kirk Hinrich reminds you of the kind of point guard that the Bulls drafted back 2003. Then, there are times where you’re reassured as to why he was traded away in 2010. Since he is getting older in age, and has a great backup behind him, it’s imperative at this point that Hinrich raise his level of play.

His eight points per game aren't enough from a starting point guard. Additionally, shooting less than 30 percent from three isn’t a characteristic of his game. You can ask him to run the offense effectively and play solid defense; he will do it. The very thing he should be focused on right now is becoming more efficient shooting the ball on a consistent basis.

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3. Health Is Paramount

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

The past few seasons have been ravaged by the injury bug. None are more important than your star missing two full seasons, but all can prove costly. Joakim Noah suffered from plantar fasciitis, Kirk Hinrich is occasionally banged up and Carlos Boozer is currently working through calf issues.

If there is any hope of winning a championship this season, it will come with everybody on the roster being active and playing healthy as much as possible. Granted that coach Thibodeau only has a nine-man rotation on a normal night, that just means every player needs to be ready to log a lot of crucial minutes in case one of their teammates get hurt.

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2. Shooting/Scoring Needs To Improve

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Currently, the Bulls have the lowest scoring average in the entire NBA (92.1 points per game). Their field-goal percentage is second to last. Also, their three-point percentage ranks near the bottom of the league.

Since Thibodeau became head coach, the team has become a defensive force. The old adage says that defense wins championships. That’s true, but you won’t win much if your opponent scores a lot more than you do. Combine effective defense with efficient offense and you will find that your team is tough to beat. If their players begin to shoot higher percentages, they will find themselves to be one of the top teams in the league.

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1. Trust The System

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Thibodeau became the head coach before the beginning of the 2010-11 season. Since then the Bulls have finished first in the Eastern Conference in 2010-11, first in 2011-12 and second in 2012-13. Though championships weren’t the end result, those standings speak for themselves.

Much of the supporting casts from those squads have moved on to more prominent roles with other teams, but the core is still somewhat intact. They can remain successful if they are able to stick to the things that have gotten them their best results. In this case, Tom Thibodeau is the best asset that the team has right now. He hasn’t steered this team wrong yet.