COMMENTARY | Playing the first half of the 2012-13 season without their best player, Derrick Rose, the Bulls have still managed to forge the fifth best record (23-16 as of Jan. 19) in the Eastern Conference.
That, in the eyes of many, means the Bulls should have at least one player on the 2012-13 Eastern Conference All-Star team. Coaches select reserves, and there will be seven of them selected on Jan. 24.
Assuming it's true that the Bulls are deserving of at least one spot on the team, the problem is trying to figure which of their three outstanding frontcourt players most deserves the selection - forward Luol Deng, forward Carlos Boozer or center Joakim Noah.
Another question is whether the Bulls deserve two All-Stars this season?
Boston coach Doc Rivers made his choice when the Bulls visited Beantown Jan. 18, saying Deng and Noah deserve selection.
"Both of them deserve it, especially with their record,'' Rivers said. "I'll be surprised if both of them are not on it. Carlos (Boozer) is playing well but those two are the ones I have my focus on."
TNT announcers argued over the Bulls' frontcourt players. Noah was selected by Kenny Smith, Shaquille O'Neal and Chris Webber. Charles Barkley selected Boozer. Webber picked Deng to go with Noah.
See? Three possible choices.
Deng was a first-time All-Star last season, and common wisdom says it is easier to become an All-Star after you have already been one. He is averaging 17.4 points per game and 6.4 rebounds, after averaging 15.3 points and 6.5 rebounds last season. He is also once again leading the league in minutes played, a fact which does not seem to bother coach Tom Thibodeau one bit.
Boozer is also a former All-Star. He was selected in 2007 and 2008 when he was with the Utah Jazz. That fact, in fact, caused Bulls fans to have very high expectations for him when he joined the team in the summer of 2010, and caused him great criticism when he did not play like a superstar for his new club.
This season, Boozer is averaging 16.2 points and 10.1 rebounds, and both numbers are better than last seasons. He has also recorded 23 double-doubles so far this season.
Bulls fans would love to see Noah get the nod. There is no question he is having the best season of his career with 12.4 points and 10.6 rebounds. With backup center Omer Asik gone to Houston, he has also logged huge minutes, ranking second to Deng in that category in the entire league.
His selection would be something of a big story, considering how much criticism he took when he entered the league as a very skinny defensive specialist. He has turned into an offensive contributor, and even managed to straighten out his free throw shooting, to the tune of a 79 percent success rate.
Thibodeau said he thinks all three players could go, adding that Deng is the best of the bunch.
"I think all three deserve consideration,'' Thibodeau told ESPN Chicago. "You can make the case for all of them."
Kent McDill has covered the Bulls for three different companies: for United Press International from 1985-88, for the Daily Herald newspaper in Arlington Heights, Ill., from 1988-99 and currently for NBA.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title "100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die'' published by Triumph Books.
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