Our society is, inescapably, one of imitation. If one movie studio is working on the giant 'earth-is-about-to-explode' film, another studio will try to beat them to the punch with the same story line and different actors (Armageddon/Deep Impact). If the music that is selling is performed by an effeminate teenage boy who appears to model his look after a woman's softball coach, then there will be an agent finding another Justin Bieber post-haste. It's not always so commercially depraved; it's natural, to a degree-in the wild it might show up as Batesian Mimicry.
And let's be honest, within sports it happens constantly. "If you want a plan to build a contender, just look at the 'insert championship dynasty here' team." If you just copy this team's model, greatness will follow. Naturally this is a bit misleading - for one thing, it factors out the randomness/luck that has to be a part of any sustained greatness by a franchise. For another, it makes the giant leap that most of the variables between locations will be constant, or at least comparable. But one of the things that people do is try to create order out of chaos, and make sense of the randomness-and sports is no exception in that regard.
So it makes some sense to try and draw parallels between the Orlando Magic and the Chicago Bulls, right? After all, they are both teams with, really, one superstar (Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose). They are also both teams that have played one "quality" team so far this season (Portland and the Lakers-quality in quotes because the actual quality of the Lakers has yet to be established.) They are both teams that have also beat up on lower-quality teams, and lost a game to someone they should not have lost to. They are also both teams that are probably going to be in/near the top half of the Eastern Conference come playoff time. And you can continue to stack up similarities if that is your preference.
Offensively, the Magic are coming in to this contest averaging 95.7 PPG, which is 14th in the league. The Bulls are averaging 97.1 PPG, which is 9th in the league. On the surface those stats don't seem notably dissimilar. Their is some difference, however, in where this scoring comes from. For the Bulls, the primary weapons thus far seem to be Rose, Deng, and a bit of Boozer. They get fairly adequate numbers, on the other hand, from Noah, Brewer, Hamilton, Gibson, Watson, and Korver. Orlando's scoring situation looks a little different. Orlando's main scorers have been Anderson, Howard, Turkoglu, and Redick. Their secondary numbers come from Richardson, Davis, and Nelson (with a cursomary reference to Duhon required at this point.)
One of the major differences, then, in the offensive production is the sheer number of scorers. Chicago has a deep bench-with about a 10-man rotation, and that bench contributes. Orlando's rotation seems to be more of the 8-9 man variety (depending on how you feel about Q), and they don't seem to be quite as effective as Chicago's unit (particularly if you consider Redick an outlier, in the Manu model). Of course, it's pretty early in the season to make any inferences about either of these 2nd units.
The defensive statistics are closer than the offense: Chicago holds opponents to 86.6 PPG (2nd in the league) while maintaining a defensive rating of 95.2 (also 2nd), while Orlando holds players to 88.4 (3rd). Both teams have coaches that emphasize defense in Thibs and Van Gundy-but Orlando has a force of nature to clean up errors made by perimeter players while Chicago seems to have more of a team commitment to defense.
But there is one thing that these teams have in common that will probably define this contest: inconsistency. Both teams have demonstrated that they can play brilliantly when engaged and inside their offensive/defensive scheme. But both have also demonstrated that they can stumble around the court like the All-Zombie-Living-Dead-All-Star-Team.
No matter what occurs tonight, this is an early-season test for both teams that will help us figure out who's the real deal . . . and who's just an imitator.