It's been a long time since the Chicago Bulls have been relevant. I'm talking about the Michael Jordan days, of course. Yes, basketball fans remember Derrick Rose and his tenure, leading the Bulls to victory. However, the Bulls will always be synonymous with Air Jordan and his supporting cast.
Still, there hasn't been much to cheer about since the G.O.A.T. retired from the Bulls. Chicago has been terrible with their picks and signings, consisting of players such as Elton Brand and Ben Wallace. But things appear to be on the upswing for the first-place team in the Central division.
So what has been the secret formula for Chicago's success? For starters, Zach LaVine finally has a sidekick. DeMar DeRozan has been as good as advertised, averaging 26.1 PPG and 4.0 APG. You also have a strong presence on the boards in the Windy City, led by Nikola Vucevic. The center is averaging 10.9 RPG (9.2 of those on defense), leading an assault on all missed shots.
Lonzo Ball has also embraced his role as a floor facilitator. He looks comfortable in the Bulls offense, distributing the ball well and finding open looks with ease. With Ball becoming a key player, Chicago has become a tough team to deal with.
The biggest part of Chicago's success has been their defensive toughness, with part of their success being on the boards. However, they also create turnovers, averaging 8.8 steals per game. All this leads to the Baby Bulls averaging 102.7 PPG allowed, making them tough to score on.
Chicago isn't alone at the top of the Eastern Conference, though. There's also the surprising Washington Wizards, who have the best record in the conference at 10-3. There's also their division rivals, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Like the Bulls, the Cavs have used defensive prowess to sit at 9-6, allowing 101.1 PPG. Also like the Bulls, Cleveland's doing it without their iconic superstar, this time without LeBron James. Nobody expected these three teams to sit atop the conference, yet here we are.
While LaVine and company might not be Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, it's refreshing to see Chicago basketball relevant again. The defending champions, the Milwaukee Bucks, have been sluggish out the gate, the Indiana Pacers have been listless, and the Detroit Pistons are rebuilding. Still, it's an exciting time to see both the Cavs and Bulls duke it out for early supremacy in the Central division.