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Bulls climb to No. 1 for first time in ESPN power rankings

The Chicago Bulls claimed the top spot on ESPN’s power rankings for the first time this season on Monday.

The Bulls are riding a six-game winning streak that includes victories against the Knicks, Grizzlies, Raptors, Wizards, Lakers and Pelicans.

The Bulls moved up six spots from No. 7, supplanting Golden State for the top position.

Here’s what ESPN’s Marc Stein said of the Bulls:

“Forget the MIP. Perhaps we should have had Jimmy Butler listed in the East MVP discussion for Trimester purposes. He’s up to five 30-point games already this season … after zero in his first three NBA seasons. P.S. — Derrick Rose’s December numbers are looking increasingly Derrick Rose-like.”

On Sunday, Stein wrote a story about Butler’s improvement this season:

Even with Draymond Green making his own mega-leap in Golden State, what Butler has achieved defies explanation, even after we’ve had a couple of months to let the transformation sink in. He’s hiked his shooting percentage from .397 last season to .483, which bumped his scoring average from 13.1 PPG to 21.6 PPG and, more than any other Bull, has helped Tom Thibodeau cope with the steady stream of injuries Chicago has faced by happily taking on a league-leading 40.1 minutes per game.

He’s tireless. The offensive spike means he’s now an impact player at both ends. And Butler has been seen taking shifts at every position but center, which is why Green — despite his transformative emergence as a perimeter threat out West — would have to make another leap in-season to close the gap on the guy setting the MIP pace.

The guy who won Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors for October/November out of nowhere.

The Bulls opened the season at No. 3 in the power rankings and were ranked as low as 10th just three weeks ago.