The 22-10 Bulls are off to one of their best starts in recent years, and according to two NBA power rankings out this week, they're the fifth-best team in the NBA.
The mothership at SBNation.com ranks the Spurs, Heat, Celtics and Mavericks ahead of the Bulls, and says of Derrick Rose's team:
The good: It took exactly zero hours and zero minutes for Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer to get comfortable with each other. The Bulls went 12-4 in December, with Boozer averaging better than 20 a game on 54 percent shooting.
The bad: The Bulls turn the ball over too much; Rose's 3.6 per game separate him from the true top tier of the NBA's point guards.
The frightening: Chicago is No. 2 in the NBA in defense (as of Monday) ... with Joakim Noah on the shelf for the past month!
Even so, the Bulls miss Noah's rebounding and have struggled in recent games against mediocre and bad teams, even while winning those games. Until Noah returns, let us hope there is no repeat of the embarrassing loss to the Clippers.
ESPN.com's power ranking has the same four teams ranked ahead of the Bulls, and says of Carlos Boozer's team:
Only Miami and San Antonio can top the Bulls' 13-2 record since Dec. 4. And we've barely seen Boozer and Noah together yet. And they still might upgrade at SG before the trade deadline. This team was not overhyped.
The Bulls are headed for their best overall regular-season record since 1997-98 -- you all know who was playing for (and coaching) the team back then. At fifth-ranked in the entire league, the Bulls have a shot at going past that first-round playoff exit they've had the last couple of years. But can they go farther? ESPN says, noting the Spurs are off to a 29-4 start:
Of those past four teams to start 29-4 or better, three of them went on to win the championship: Chicago (30-3) in 1995-96, Boston (29-4) in 2007-08 and Chicago (29-4) again in 1996-97. Only the 2004-05 Phoenix Suns fell short after their 29-4 start ... but don't forget that the Suns were undeniably hurt by the facial injury suffered by Joe Johnson that postseason.
The Bulls will play another one of those winnable games against the Raptors at the UC Tuesday night.