"Kingmaker" -- ESPN Analysts last season.
There's been a lot said of this Bulls team this season, and very little of it has been about ex-Piston Richard Hamilton. Hamilton has only contributed a handful of games in 2011-12, grouped together in stretches that are punctuated with long rests due to injury. In 21 games (all of them starts), Hamilton has contributed only 11 points and a few rebounds and assists. This is unfortunate for the Bulls, as they spent $10 million to retain him for this season and next. Hopefully he'll pay off for them in the playoffs...
He probably won't, though. On a related, statistically advanced note-- for nearly every season in his career, Richard Hamilton has had the worst Defensive Rating of any player on his team. He either owns it himself or nicely shares it with another over-rated defender... like Tayshaun Prince, for example.
Game Tips at 6:00p.m. EST
Chicago Bulls: 45 - 14 (21 - 8 road)
Detroit Pistons: 22 - 37 (15 - 13 home)
After missing 13 of their last 15 games, Derrick Rose returned for the Bulls on Thursday night for a win over the Miami Heat. Rose didn't contribute much, scoring just 2 points on 13 shots. This is quite forgivable, of course, since Rose is still shaking off the dust and his Bulls still pulled out a win over their top conference rival (against whom they're 2-1 this season).
Rose is likely to start against Detroit tonight, and the two full days of rest since playing the Heat should help him see a return to form. The Bulls shouldn't feel a rush to push Rose into a full 36 minutes, however, since the first seed in the conference is theirs to lose. But enough about Rose, though. Let's talk about the Bulls best asset, its frontcourt.
Reaching back to those advanced metrics again and you'll see that Joakim Noah is a very close second to Rose in terms of productivity. He's not the guy you pick first when building a team from scratch (that honor clearly goes to Rose), but he is the type of guy you grab to quietly and effectively anchor your frontcourt. His numbers are just that-- quiet, but his impact on the game is registered statistically. The Bulls are at their best on both ends of the court when Noah is playing, as he individually presents a 23-point margin in offensive vs. defensive ratings.
Noah's defense largely neutralizes his frontcourt partner's greatest weakness. Carlos Boozer isn't effective on the defensive end, but he makes up for this with a fantastic low-post offense. Boozer is averaging 15 and 9 this season on 53% shooting, scoring with dead-eye efficiency at the rim and from 17 feet. The guy has taken a lot of heat throughout his career, but the Bulls have put him in the best position he could be in, paired with a defensive center and given the green light to score from all over the court (within the three point line, of course, like a power forward should).
There is a lot more to say about this team. It's bench is nasty (outscored Miami's bench 47-7), Luol Deng is deserving of a paragraph to himself, and their coach's name is a ton of fun. Thibodeau. Its like onomatopoeia for when you drop your remote.
Keys to the Game:
Feed the Moose: He's hungry.
Defend the Post: According to Synergy, the Bulls have the best post-up offense in the league. It might be a good time to let Ben Wallace enjoy the twilight of his career. Oh, and maybe we could get that beast of a rookie some burn? It's time to get cracklin'.
Eh, never mind. Lottery balls: This team has an upgrade over Detroit at just about every starter and bench position, and they're now at full strength. A win tonight would be exciting, but it's terribly unlikely (Detroit has lost 14 straight to the Bulls) and there are only six more games this season after tonight. There's a time to be a hero. There's also a time to try to find a hero in the draft when you really, really need one.
Question of the Game:
Remember when all those writers at ESPN and elsewhere were talking up Richard Hamilton like he was the missing link for the Bulls? They must not have been watching Pistons games last season.