Thursday, March 3, 2011

As I See It: No More Mr. Nice Guy ( Bulls Eastern Conference Playoff Outlook )

  It is that time of year ladies and gentlemen, the time where the line in the sand gets drawn. Seeds are planted and champions are grown. Playoff positioning. None other like that in the National Basketball Association. Undoubtedly no other league has a better postseason. In each series teams that fans salivate over meeting in the regular season battle it out to a maximum total of 7 games and at least 4 games. I'm getting goosebumps writing about it!

  So let's take a look at this year's Chicago Bulls playoff situation. It can be comfortably assumed, that given their current Conference standings that they will make the playoffs. As reported, the Bulls have found their missing link for depth at the shooting guard position with signing 6'7'' SG Rasual Butler, bought out by the Los Angeles Clippers after the trade deadline.

  Rasual Butler has scored 44% of his points against Eastern Conference teams at .333 from the 3-pt line. In his last two games he's averaged 16 minutes and 5.5 points per game. A significant added bonus, given that the Bulls are currently a top-tier defense with a middle-of-the-road offense (20th overall scoring.) Butler's last game played for the Clippers against the defending NBA Champion Lakers, he was 2-4 from the 3-pt range for 6 points, a rebound and an assist. This all in 18 minutes played.

  If he shoots at anything near the same percentage as he has in seasons past, than the addition of Butler to the Bulls roster instantly makes them Finals contenders. Coach Tom Thibideau has already expressed to Butler what his intentions are for him on the team-- wait for your opportunity and seize it. With Thib's emphasis on defense, the added length at the 2 spot with flexibility to play the 3/4, and the Bull's opportunistic position in the Eastern Conference standings, Butlers role could pay huge dividends in the push for playoff seeding. Matching up with the long Lakers and big Celtics

  If the playoffs were to start today (a reference I usually care not to address..) this is how the matchups would look:

  Eastern Conference
  1. Boston Celtics
  2. Miami Heat
  3. Chicago Bulls
  4. Orlando Magic
  5. Atlanta Hawks
  6. Philadelphia 76'ers
  7. New York Knicks
  8. Indiana Pacers

  The Boston Celtics have traded away their junk-yard dog post presence in Kendrick Perkins, and sparky Nate Robinson, for Jeff Green and Nenad Kristic. Looking to get bigger for a potential matchup against Orlando ( Dwight Howard, Brandon Bass, ) or a rematch against the Lakers ( Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom.) It has yet to be written if that move strengthened the No. 1 defense in the NBA, but essentially the move was made primarily for the playoffs and secondarily for playoff seeding. They currently hold the series advantage against the Bulls at 2-1. In the entirety of those games there is only a 6 point differential between the scores. With both teams the top 1 and 2 defenses in the NBA, the Boston Celtics are undoubtedly the Chicago Bulls biggest foe in the playoffs besides the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference.

  The Miami Heat are the brightest dark horse in dark horse history. Assembled this recent summer of future Hall of Famers and NBA Champions, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh all signed contracts this summer to form a "Super Friends Championship Factory" in South Beach. Things thus far have gone according to plan, with a few bumps in the road along the way. In a 3-way race with Boston and Chicago for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, the Heat are learning to play as a team as the season unfolds. I have them locked for a championship. Just not this season. They will either see New York or Orlando in the 2nd round and that is all she wrote...

  The Orlando Magic have been there, done that. They have been to the NBA Finals, only to lose to Lakers for their first taste of post-Shaq championship blood. They have done the playoff fight, only to fail at the grail. They are without a doubt all in this season with Dwight Howard on the tail end of his contract and observing the current climate of the NBA, with CBA's looming and stars teaming up. To win now is an understatement, so the Magic have rebuilt. Unlike the Celtics the Orlando Magic went for perimeter scoring, bringing in former Magic F Hedo Turkoglu, and swingmen G Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas. Making the Eastern Conference one of the deepest its been in recent years.

  Exit Philadelphia and Atlanta, enter The New York Knicks. That's right, the New York Knicks are playoff contenders. It almost sounds naughty coming off the tongue. Feels like you should wash your mouth out with soap. But with Chauncey Billups, Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire headlining the Big Applegangers at Madison Square, it will be the hardest three games a team will have to win away in the second round.

  If the Knicks get anything resembling Galinari and Felton as a supporting cast in Landry Fields and Anthony Carter, then they will definitely be on upset alert when teams like Miami, Orlando, and Boston come up in the first or second round. New York should settle in nicely at the fifth seed, playing the likely loser of the first seed battle between Boston, Miami, and Chicago.
 The NEW York Knicks

  This is looking to shape up to be one of the greatest NBA playoffs in history. And looks to create future rivalries for years to come. The Beasts in the East vs The Black Mamba's quest for 6 kills. The newly built Knicks and the quest for a reemergence of the Garden, the ageless Spurs and their modernized uptempo system, the new playoff look Thunder and Kevin Durant's catalyst into NBA supremacy.

  Through all this pressure the Bulls have remained unaltered. Beating the NBA's best and proving that they should be feared in the postseason. But at the end of the day we all know what talks, and what walks. So stay tuned to see how this one shapes up!

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