Bulls: Ranking the 5 Bulls Facing the Most Playoff Pressure

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Chicago Bulls

Zach LaVine (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

The Chicago Bulls have a lot riding on this postseason. They opened the year as a dark horse and rose to the top of the Eastern Conference. That rise was short-lived, though, as they fell from Mt. Olympus and are now facing Cerberus in the first round.

Their first-round matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks is the haves and have nots match that has happened plenty of times in the NBA. Milwaukee has playoff experience, stronger role players, and a better star.

Chicago naturally has a puncher’s chance, but that puncher’s shot is similar to an average Joe running up on prime Mike Tyson.

Rough.

The worst part of this situation is the fact that they are entering the series without their full roster. Losing is an easier pill to swallow when a team is at full strength. There aren’t any what-ifs. It’s clear to see what needs to be fixed– whether it’s the coaching, role players, or the stars.

Chicago doesn’t have that luxury but will still be judged based on how they compete with Milwaukee. There are five people within the organization who have more to prove than others during this postseason.

Let’s take a look at those people.

5. DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan’s tenure in Toronto was very successful on paper, but he’s often remembered as coming up short. The Raptors failed to get to the NBA Finals despite being the one seed on multiple occasions.

They couldn’t get past LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers often. They became known as world-beaters until they had to play the Cavs. Once they got a matchup with Cleveland they reverted to “LeBronto.” He was booted to San Antonio in a trade for Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors won the NBA Championship the next year and the San Antonio Spurs had an early exit in the playoffs.

His Spurs teams continued to underachieve with the core of DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, and Patty Mills– leaving Gregg Popovich constantly scratching his head at his star’s motor and urgency.

There are always critiques about DeRozan-led teams lacking leadership stemming from the man himself.

This season seemed to be the year where DeRozan dispelled those rumors. Chicago looked like a legit contender, and DeRozan was their clear-cut leader… or so it seemed.

That momentum crashed once Lonzo Ball went down. The Bulls fell from first to sixth and DeRozan’s MVP case withered away. In that stretch, Tristan Thompson and Zach LaVine have visibly tried to step into that leadership role but haven’t had as big of an impact. Donovan has taken the blame, but the star player has to be the team’s leader in some capacity for there to be success.

DeRozan is clearly one of the league’s top 25 players. But the difference between those guys in the top ten and DeRozan is the leadership skills and ability to take over games at will. This playoff run is a chance for DeRozan to either show he is on that level or if that narrative about him will continue.

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