In large part due to their dynastic title run in the ’90s, the Chicago Bulls are rarely compared to other teams, but this year’s model, compares quite well with the 1999 Sppurs, the first of their recent title teams.
No, no one on the Bulls reminds me of David Robinson or Tim Duncan (in fact, it’s kind of amazing that except for the brief era of Artis Gilmore, a vastly under appreciated player the Bulls have not had a dominant pivotman). And of course no one in that Spurs backcourt (it consisted of future head coaches Avery Johnson and Vinny Del Negro) reminds me of Derrick Rose. But there are other salient points of comparison.
Those Spurs won their first title in a lockout shortened season. They did so in the second full year of a regime in which they would play lockdown defense (Tom Thibodeau as the new Gregg Popovich doesn’t take much imagination). Those Spurs led the league in defensive rating that year performing far and away better than the other teams (these Bulls actually don’t lead in Defensive Rating yet but they are moving fast toward taking over the lead). In their first year of this alignment, the Spurs fell short in the playoffs against a star-leaden team, the Stockton-to-Malone Utah Jazz, but the Spurs in 1999 excelled against a series of ensemble teams in the playoffs including the Ewing-less Knicks against whom they won their first title. At this point in the season it’s feasible for Bulls fans, likely still smarting from last season’s ECF loss to the LeBron-D-Wade Heat, to plot a playoff route that includes series victories over Indiana and Philadelphia en route to a win over Denver or Portland.
It’s too early to forecast such things, but similarities are similarities.