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NBA Power Rankings: Chicago Bulls Batting Cleanup (Mostly)

What a week it's been for the Chicago Bulls. A week ago yesterday, the team blew out the Washington Wizards 105-77 on the road and then looked to head southward to three imposing challenges: the Atlanta Hawks, the Orlando Magic and the Miami Heat. If you follow basketball at all, you know what happened. But I'll tell you anyway. The Hawks got the better of them, but they beat the Magic convincingly and then drove the Heat to tears with a tenacious defensive effort that bodes well for the playoffs.

That tenaciousness showed up again last night in yet another win over the New Orleans Hornets. A letdown loss because of fatigue would've been understandable. To be honest, I would've let the team off the hook if they'd lost to LeBron James & Co. as long as they kept the game close. But the Bulls proved in both games that their defense and rebounding keeps them in pretty much every game and other teams will have to work awfully hard to get head coach Tom Thibodeau's club to acquiesce to even "acceptable" losses.

But enough with the ancient recent history. Where do the Bulls stand in terms of those ever-fascinating power rankings that we've become so enamoured with as of late? (I know, I know ... speak for yourself, Daver.) Well, as our headline divulges, if Derrick Rose and the boys were to mutate and amalgamate into a slugging corner outfielder, they'd be a cleanup hitter. Or so say most of the rankings we sampled for this post. Let's take a look.

Our benevolent SB Nation Overlords rank the Bulls fourth in the NBA. That's up to spots and lands them between the Boston Celtics and the Dallas Mavericks. "Can the Bulls keep cooking with Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer on the court together?" posits writer Tom Ziller. "It looks good, and consider that the Bulls are in position to make some serious tweaks this offseason." That seems like a reasonable attitude: This team looks poised to make a strong run into the playoffs but, whatever happens, the off-season could prove to be just as exciting.

In the NBA's very own power rankings (who knew?), the Bulls also post up in fourth place, down one (hmm ...) from the previous week and sitting smack dab between the San Antonio Spurs and Celtics. Writer John Schuhmann posits a question of his own: "If you were to look at the Bulls in a vacuum (not comparing them to other players or coaches), would you say Rose is a stronger candidate for MVP than Tom Thibodeau is for Coach of the Year?" (Long pause.) I'm sorry, John, could you repeat the question?

Hoopsworld of the Big Lead Sports network also puts the Bulls in the four spot. They bumped the team up one from last week and position them between the Mavs and the Los Angeles Lakers. Nothing particularly quotable in their assessment, so let's move on to the only rankings system I bothered to look at that didn't rank the Bulls fourth ...

Why it's our old friends ESPN! And the most recent power rankings by the Eastern Seaboard Programming Network elevate the Bulls to the second most, uh, powerful team in the NBA! Yes, that's right -- ESPN loves, they still really, really love us. The annoying Joakim Noah (Dwight Howard's words, not mine) and Co. leapt up one spot thanks to their smoking hot road trip, placing them betwixt the Lakers and the Spurs.

So there ya have it. Heading into tomorrow night's game on the road against the Charlotte Bobcats, the Bulls are 44-18, 8-2 in their last 10 and in second, yes, second place in the Eastern Conference. They're 2.5 games behind the Celtics and a game and a half ahead of the blubbering ballers from South Beach. Take a second and enjoy it, Bulls fans. The action starts again tomorrow night. Tip-off is at 6 PM Central.