The mothership at SBNation.com has released their NBA Power Rankings for Week 9 of the season.
The Bulls, who had ranked third in the Eastern Conference for the last couple of weeks, have dropped to fourth -- this is both a surprise (because they have a better record than the Magic, ranked third) and not a surprise (because they have suffered injuries, particularly to Joakim Noah, and didn't play well in either New York or Detroit, despite winning in OT against the Pistons).
The key to SBNation.com's ranking is this:
The cushy upcoming schedule is quite a boon though, because the Bulls are starting Kurt Thomas, and will eventually need to start giving Omer Asik some real minutes, if only to caution against injury to Thomas. The Bulls in many ways are still a bit of a mystery as to how good they really are, because the core of Rose-Deng-Boozer-Noah has only played together for nine games.
Meanwhile, ESPN.com's NBA Power Rankings, which rank the entire league instead of separating it by conference, have the Bulls ranked fifth -- up from sixth overall last week. There are only two Eastern Conference teams ranked ahead of them by ESPN, the Celtics and the Heat. Of the Bulls, ESPN says:
If they had to lose Noah, this was the time. Four of Chicago's first five games without their chairman of the boards came against teams with losing records, as will nine of the next 10. Quite a gift for the holiday season.
The gift begins tonight when the Bulls host the Milwaukee Bucks; the only game of the next ten against a team with a winning record is Jan. 8 against the Celtics. This is a time when the Bulls will have to hang in there until they can get back to 100% healthy.