Chicago's NBA basketball team is relatively healthy this regular season and when that was the case in the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 season they were the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. In the 2010-2011 regular season they had the number one record in the East and in the NBA overall.
Many thought that the young and hard-nosed Chicago Bulls would finally get to the NBA Finals in 2012. Unfortunately, injuries to Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng plagued the first place team and lead to a first round loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Miami Heat defeated the Chicago Bulls in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals. What could have made the 2011-2012 Chicago Bulls more likely to defeat the Miami Heat's big three (Lebron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade) if they got a shot to play them? The answer to that question is simple, Richard Hamilton within a healthy Windy City roster.
They already had the inside game, defense and superstar. They just had a very serious flaw that hampered the potential of their foundation. Understanding this flaw may open your eyes to why Jimmy Butler starting at shooting guard could be the key to the Bulls getting to the NBA Finals in 2014. It could open your eyes to what might have happened if everyone was healthy in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. The Bulls lost to the Miami Heat in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals and a lot of that had to do with having a huge hole at the shooting guard position.
Yes, Richard Hamilton wasn't the 2004 Detroit Piston's "Richard 'Rip' Hamilton". No, he wasn't an All-Star in 2011-2012. The Bulls have All-Stars in Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. Hamilton didn't need to be an All-Star. Richard Hamilton could have made the 2011-2012 Chicago Bulls better than 2010-2011 because he was capable of averaging double digits (11.6 ppg). Would Richard Hamilton's 11.6 ppg in 2011-2012 give the Bull's a better chance to beat the Heat if everyone was healthy? We will never know but it was possible. Richard Hamilton is no longer a Bull. Are things better for the Bulls with Jimmy Butler at the SG? Read on and you make the call.
Hamilton's 11.6 ppg replaced the worst scoring starting shooting guard in the NBA, Keith Bogans. Most don't realize that the 2010-2011 Chicago Bulls had one of the worst scoring starting shooting guards in the league in 2010-2011, maybe in league history. Derrick Rose was considered the Bulls entire backcourt when it came to offense in 2010-2011.
Keith Bogans would have been a great role player for Derrick Rose's team but to have an MVP point guard paired with a 4.4 ppg starting shooting guard in the line-up is just not acceptable. The Bulls still won a game against the Miami Heat in the 2011 Eastern Conference and came close to winning the others, despite having a starting shooting guard that averaged 4.4 ppg.
Hamilton's 11.6 ppg in the playoffs would have done wonders. Add that to his non-stop running style and you have a deadly backcourt. Derrick Rose and NBA Champion Richard Hamilton was a backcourt we did not get to see in the 2012 NBA playoffs for more than a game due to a league changing injury to Derrick Rose in game one of that playoff run. We may be able to see what a legitimate starting Chicago Bulls shooting guard can do with the All-Star core of Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng in the 2014 playoffs. Maybe he can make up for Richard Hamilton not being able to show what a decent shooting guard plus a healthy Bulls core could equal.
The 2012-2013 showed how deep the Chicago Bulls have been over the last few years. With injuries to all of Chicago's All-Stars (Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, and Joakim Noah) the Windy City ballers ended at number five in the Eastern Conference, defeated the Brooklyn Nets in seven games of the first round of the playoffs, and won a game versus the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Bulls fans across the country have not seen what a healthy Chicago Bulls with a legitimate starting shooting guard can do against the Heat.
It seems like we will see that in the 2014 NBA playoffs.
Derrick Rose is back, the Chicago Bulls are the third seed in the East (two and a half from first) and they are on a five game winning streak as of November 19 (includes a win versus the Indiana Pacers, the current one seed in the East. Derrick Rose is not even in his 2010-2011 MVP form. The former MVP is averaging 15 ppg, 5 assists and 3 rpg. Those numbers aren't bad but they are way below the Derrick Rose standard. We are not even ten games into the Chicago Bulls regular season. Some analyst would agree that Rose will be putting up certified All-Star level numbers by the All-Star break. Some would say that the Bulls will be the number one seed in the East by then as well, they were in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012. Why couldn't they do it again?
Chicago fans would like that but that's not going to satisfy them fully. Bulls fans have witnessed that before. Chicago sports fans want a seventh NBA Championship. They want the start of another Chicago Bulls dynasty. They want to see Derrick Rose follow-up Michael Jordan's 1990s dynasty (NBA Championships: 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998). Let's keep it real, a number one seed is nice but it's not what Bulls fans want.
How will the Bulls get past the 2013-2014 Miami Heat. How are things different than 2010-2011, the year Lebron James' Miami Heat beat the Bulls in five in the Eastern Conference Finals?
The Bulls do not have one of the worst scoring starting shooting guard (arguably the worst in the 2010-2011 season) in the NBA, Keith Bogans. The Chicago Bulls have Houston, Texas-born athlete Jimmy Butler. The Bulls don't have major injuries to Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Jimmy Butler, for now.
I reiterate, we might see what the All-Star core of Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah can do with a starting shooting guard worthy to watch out for Jimmy Butler. We almost saw it in the 2012 playoffs and in the 2012-2013 season overall. Injuries messed it all up those years. Injuries messed things up for Richard Hamilton in 2011-2012. Hamilton just might have had two rings.
The 2013-2014 Chicago Bulls have a 24-year-old, double digit scoring (11.2ppg), and defensive minded Jimmy Butler.
If the Bulls could win a game versus the Miami Heat in the 2010-2011 NBA Eastern Conference with Keith Bogans at shooting guard and against the Heat in the 2012-2013 with a depleted roster, how many games can they win with a starting line-up that consist of Derrick Rose PG (MVP and All-Star), Carlos Boozer F (All-Star), Luol Deng F (All-Star), Joakim Noah C (All-Star), and Jimmy Butler SG (24-year-old double digit ppg shooting guard)? Don't forget to add that to one of the deepest benches in the league (Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy, Kirk Hinrich, and more) and former coach of the year Tom Thibodeau. The Heat's most deadly addition since the 2010-2011 season is Ray Allen, the greatest three point shooter of all-time. Chicago added Mike Dunleavy for this year. Dunleavy isn't Ray Allen but he sure isn't a scrub. Dunleavy is shooting .545 from the three compared to Allen's .367 in 2013-2014. The Bulls can still run with the Heat's three-point shooters, inside game and defensively. They just need to have a legitimate starting shooting guard while everyone is healthy.
A Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler backcourt might be the answer if everyone is healthy in the 2014 playoffs. Let's see what happens.
Do The Math:
Jimmy Butler + (Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah healthy) > Keith Bogans (Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah healthy)
Jimmy Butler To Undergo MRI On Toe - Quotes from ESPN.com
Butler, who injured the toe during Monday nigh't win over the Charlotte Bobcats, had X-rays that revealed no damage.
"He didn't do anything," Bull's coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He's going to have an MRI this afternoon."
"Jimmy is someone we're definitely going to miss, especially with his energy and defense, and he's been knocking down shots," Derrick Rose said. "But the way our team is, if one guy goes down, the other guy's got to step up and do a great job. And that's Mike Dunleavy, Kirk Hinrich, myself when I play the 2, and we just got to fill in for him."
Paul Martinez is a freelance journalist covering music, sports and entertainment for media outlets like HipHopDX, Jam The Hype, TruSchoolSports, and S.O.U.LMAG, among others. He has also written for Rapzilla, Sphere of Hip Hop, GoodNewsFL and FNFLive. Follow the South Florida-based writer on twitter @paulmartinez305.