The Chicago Bulls enter the All-Star break with a 27-8 record, battling the Miami Heat for the East's No. 1 seed. The top spot in the conference didn't give the Bulls an edge in the East finals last season against the Heat, who dispatched them in five games.
Is the No. 1 seed vital to get past the Heat this season? Our panel weighs in on that and more:
Fact or Fiction: The Bulls must win the No. 1 seed to get past the Heat.
Scoop Jackson: Fiction. I actually believe the opposite. They had it last season and look how that turned out. Maybe my line of thought is backwards, but the more confidence the Heat have going into a playoff series against the Bulls the better. I’m thinking (hoping to a degree) that over-confidence at some point can/will creep in and play a role. And to be honest, watching the Heat lately, they aren’t showing any real signs of weakness. So there needs to be some intangible that can work against them and in the Bulls' favor. Over-confidence -- especially if the Heat fall back on how they beat the No. 1-seeded Bulls last year in the playoffs combined with this year possibly being the No. 1 seed in the playoffs -- in Miami could actually work to the Bulls' advantage this time. The same way it worked against them versus the Heat in the playoffs last season when the over-confidence made its home here.
Nick Friedell: Fact. Like most teams, the Bulls have a lot more confidence at home. They play with more emotion at the United Center because they feed off the energy from the crowd. Privately, the Bulls players feel as if they can beat Miami on the road, but the reason they have been grinding so hard this season is because they want that potential Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to be in Chicago, not Miami. They know how much that home court advantage means.
Marc Silverman: Fiction. Here are the "musts" for the Bulls to win the title. Rose must be healthy. Richard Hamilton must be healthy and be close to the 20-point-per-postseason-game player he's been in the past. Luol Deng's wrist must hold up for four more months. Carlos Boozer must try on defense. Joakim Noah must be more consistent in the paint. Zero points against New Jersey? I understand that Noah isn't an offensive player, but he must convert more around the rim. Coach Tom Thibodeau must adjust quicker in a seven-game series. Last year he went to Kurt Thomas way too late. Would I rather the Bulls have home-court advantage? Of course. Is it a must? No. Don't kill yourself in the regular season for the No. 1 seed. The Bulls are more experienced and can win on the road.
Fact or Fiction: The Bulls need to make an impact trade to win an NBA title this season.
Scoop Jackson: Fiction. The operative word here is "need." I’ve always believed many times trades kill confidence. The Bulls have spent the first half of this season doing what they couldn’t do last season: Learning that they can win games without Derrick Rose. Everyone’s roles have been established, everyone’s expectations understood. To disrupt that right now would be not so smart. Now, if a trade happens to come along -- you know, one that just so happens to fall into Gar Forman’s lap -- that makes total sense, then the Bulls have to go for it. Look, all I’m saying is they don’t have to force anything, but they can’t afford to be stupid, either.
Nick Friedell: Fiction. The Bulls have enough to win a title right now. They need Hamilton to come back and play well in order to do so, but they do have enough. The question is can Hamilton, at age 34, stay healthy for the remainder of the season? After only playing a handful of games this season, it seems very unlikely. The only major deal the Bulls would even consider making at this point would be one for Dwight Howard. Despite his recent comments, Howard has shown no interest in signing an extension for the future.
Marc Silverman: Fiction. The key here is the word "need." The Bulls don't need to do anything. They can win a championship with the current roster if healthy. I'd still be in favor of looking into the Howard possibility. If he would sign a long-term deal to play in Chicago, (which he's given no indication that he would do), explore the possibility and call the Orlando Magic. Are the Los Angeles Lakers looking to give away Pau Gasol the way they gave away Lamar Odom? Look into that, too. John Paxson wanted Gasol a few years back, and he still has championship basketball left in the tank. The Bulls are dealing from a position of strength. Don't make a move to simply make a move. There's nothing to shake up here. But if there are good players available, don't just sit back and watch the action. Sometimes the best deals are the quiet ones. Remember the innocent trade of Tyrus Thomas to Charlotte? The return could turn out to be the No. 1 pick in the draft in 2016.
Fact or Fiction: Tom Thibodeau should limit Rose’s minutes in All-Star Game.
Scoop Jackson: There are times in life when we all are forced to play it smart. For Thibs and Pooh (Rose), this is one of those times. No disrespect to the NBA All-Star Game itself, but this isn’t the baseball All-Star Game where the game actually means something and the outcome gives one team an advantage in the World Series, in this case the Finals. So Thibs needs to put Rose on ice. Let the back relax. Give the fans about 20 minutes of brilliance and let Rose spend the rest of the game on the bench watching Howard shine in his next to his last home game in Orlando. Because as no one seems to be mentioning, Rose was the MVP of the first half of the season, and he needs to be at full strength to be the MVP of half No. 2. And that begins in the second half of Sunday’s game. Really.
Nick Friedell: Fact. Why even make make Derrick work in a game that means absolutely nothing? The Bulls need Rose for the stretch drive. Nobody will remember a thing about the All-Star Game as soon as it ends.
Marc Silverman: Fact. The "minutes debate" has taken on a life of its own in recent weeks, and it has been exaggerated by many. Let's make it as simple as possible. Is Rose nursing any sort of ailment? If he is, whether it be his back, his toe, or any other injury then limit his minutes when you can. I understand that no one in sports is ever 100 percent, but you have to do everything in your power to make sure Rose isn't limited in May and June. So if Rose's back is tight or his toe a bit sore, let him be introduced, play the first few minutes, and then get him a nice comfy seat next to Thibs on the bench. This isn't baseball where home-court advantage is on the line in the All-Star Game. It's an exhibition. Rose will have many more All-Star appearances. It is also fact that Thibs should play Dwyane Wade and LeBron James 45 minutes a piece.
Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com. Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000. Marc Silverman is the co-host of "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000.