Drawing the Bulls' Eye


  • Teams: Chicago Bulls (9-8) at Detroit Pistons (6-14)
  • Date: December 7, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

In the previous two seasons, the Chicago Bulls played like championship contenders as Derrick Rose led the franchise to two terrific regular seasons. In the 2011 playoffs, they fell at the hands of the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals and in the 2012 postseason they were upset by the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round as Derrick Rose was lost for the remainder of the playoffs towards the end of the opening game of the series.

The former Memphis Tiger is unquestionably one of the best players in the league, and thus his absence has obviously been felt in Chicago as his team hovers around a .500 record. But thankfully for the Bulls faithful, the team still has arguably their most important cog: Tom Thibodeau.

That last statement might sound hyperbolic, but the Bulls have had the best defense in the league every year that Thibs has been there.

Currently, Chicago boasts the best defensive efficiency in the league, and they are playing hard and disciplined basketball despite the absence of their best player, which is no small feat.

Breaking down the Bulls’ defensive principles is actually far less interesting than just watching them compete for a full 48 minutes. Indeed, regardless of their defensive coverage and/or principles, effort is a common theme throughout.

Their players fight through every single screen, contest every shot and put always put a body on a body when a shot goes up. This might sound like what coaches teach at the high school level, and yet in the professional ranks not every player embraces the concept.

Under Thibs, the Bulls simply have no choice but to give it their all on that side of the ball. Heck, there are rumors around NBA circles that the Bulls have at times given up uncontested jumpers, but those are tough to prove.

Joakim Noah might just be the facsimile of Anderson Varejao, although their bodies differ quite a bit. The Florida product plays great individual defense and is also quite active in terms of helping out his teammates by constantly being in position to thwart opponents. If there is one area where his defensive instincts and skills differ from the Brazilian center, it would probably have to be in the shot blocking department. Noah will go after shots and spike them in the face of opponents and then let you know about it.

When the Bulls’ starting center goes to the bench, Thibodeau turns to Taj Gibson, who may just be the most mobile big man in the entire league. Chicago’s coaching staff has no qualms about allowing their back up big man to switch on screens and defend elite perimeter players out in open space. Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and the like might occasionally see Gibson defending them because he has the size, foot speed and intellect to stay with them for the most part and contest their shots.

The Bulls are obviously more than just Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson on defense, but it seems as though both players do a terrific job of illustrating just what makes the team so formidable on that front.

Needless to say, the Pistons will be in a dogfight tonight and it may well be one of those low scoring games that Pistons fans got accustomed to roughly about a decade ago.

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