Ok, I might have been wrong.
In advance of the 2016-2017 NBA season, the Chicago Bulls were not a team that looked to be playoff-bound in my estimation. Yes, the Bulls added Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo to a team that already employed Jimmy Butler, but the pieces did not appear to fit on the offensive end. Beyond that, Fred Hoiberg’s maiden voyage in Chicago did not exactly go according to plan, and on the defensive end, a path to legitimate resistance seemed questionable at best.
On cue, the Bulls have been outstanding through 16 games, making many pundits that presented fears about a lack of spacing and defensive aptitude look silly. Jimmy Butler has been the second-best player in the Eastern Conference (hello, LeBron) this season, averaging a robust 25.8 points (with 63.1 percent true shooting), 6.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game with an unthinkable 29.4 PER on the young campaign. In short, he has been the type of galvanizing force needed to bring the Bulls together, and with exceeding competence from Wade and limited exposure to Rondo (who still hasn’t been good), Hoiberg is pressing all the right buttons.
With November nearing its end, the Bulls are outscoring opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions and, over the last ten games, that number jumps to 6.7 per 100. Chicago’s performance on both ends of the floor exceeds any rational expectation, and while it might be sustainable (it’s still early), the Bulls could credibly claim an inside track on homecourt advantage in a first-round playoff series.
Where do they rank in this week’s NBA power rankings? Well, here we go.
1. Golden State Warriors (16-2, Last week — 2nd)
The time is here. Golden State hasn’t been sitting atop the rankings for a while, but the Warriors have reeled off 12 straight victories and they have been dominant in doing so. Over those 12 contests, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and company are outscoring opponents by a comical 18.4 points per 100 possessions and the Warriors sport the best offensive rating in NBA history. That seems good.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (13-3, Last week — 3rd)
The Cavs were unceremoniously blasted by the Bucks on Tuesday night, but that doesn’t stop Cleveland from landing in this lofty position. To be fair, some of that has to do with the recent downturn from the Clippers, but LeBron and company shouldn’t be punished too harshly for running into a hot night from Giannis Antetokounmpo on the road. I think the Cavs are good at basketball.