Starting Five: PG Derrick Rose, SG Jimmy Butler, SF Luol Deng, PF Carlos Boozer, C Joakim Noah
Bench Players: PG Kirk Hinrich, SG Mike Dunleavy, SM Tony Snell, PF Taj Gibson, C Nazr Mohammed, PG Marquis Teague, PF Erik Murphy
Offseason additions: Mike Dunleavy, Tony Snell, Erik Murphy
Offseason subtractions: Marco Belinelli, Nate Robinson, Rip Hamilton
FACT OR FICTION: The return of Derrick Rose will change the face of the Eastern Conference.
FICTION: The Chicago Bulls 2012-2013 season was nothing short of magical. With their superstar point guard Derrick Rose out the entire season with a torn ACL, no one thought they would have accomplished what they did. Not only were they the 5th seed in the playoffs but they ousted the new and improved Brooklyn Nets and gave the Miami Heat a run for their money while battling literally every injury known to man. Sure they weren’t the prettiest team in the league when it came to offense but if you were to take away a superstar from any other team in the league, I doubt that any of them could have been as good as the Bulls.
With a record of 45-37, Thibodeau’s defensive brilliance took center stage last year. With three players worthy of Defensive Player of the Year, Chicago’s grind out, physical D even stopped Miami’s infamous 27 game win streak. But with Luol Deng leading the team in scoring with 16.5 ppg, the Bulls could never take that next step. Sure the emergence of Jimmy Butler was a welcome addition and Joakim Noah’s ever improving game helped but the Bulls still finished 29th in the league in scoring.
Now obviously with return of Derrick rose imminent, one can’t help but be hopeful for this championship bound club. But the NBA isn’t as plug and play as you may think. Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah (11.9 ppg), Nate Robinson (13.1 ppg), Luol Deng (16.5 ppg), and Carlos Boozer (16.2 ppg) all combined for the second worst scoring offense in the league. Rose will surely improve this number considerably but when a superstar like him is on the court, the rest of the team’s numbers will suffer as the opportunities just won’t be there. This will undoubtedly put a ceiling on budding star Jimmy “Where-the-hell-did-I-come-from” Butler who saw his productivity and efficiency sky rocket in the absence of Rose. And Deng will gladly be handing the scoring to Rose so he can step back into his role player position that he thrives in.
But this is what is most troubling about the Bulls this year. Their game effectively shrinks because Rose’s game relies so heavily on him attacking the basket and getting to the line that the rest of the team is little more than a supporting cast. The opportunities that were there for the team last year to average the numbers they did will just not be there which leaves Chicago to rely on a player that may never be the same again. The only player that could see a significant amount of points outside of Rose would be Mike Dunleavy. His addition to the roster gives the Bulls the 3-point shot that they sorely missed (they finished 29th in the league in three point shooting).
Now this obviously depends on how Rose plays. Coming off such a catastrophic injury we can only wait and see how he responds. The timid teases of him returning last year hint at a very seriously compromised player. He did have a year together healthy but the fact that he was cleared during last year’s playoff run and didn’t come back leaves us to wonder how intact is his confidence. But even if he does return, the Bulls won’t be able to spread the ball around nearly as much. Unless Rose can transform his game into more of a facilitator role, the rest of the team’s numbers can’t help but suffer the consequences.
Best Case Scenario: Derrick Rose returns to full form, strong and better than ever, adding a more pass oriented style that can facilitate the growth and production of Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah. Title contenders.
Absolute Apocalypse: Rose can’t regain his former self and never plays the same again, effectively closing the door on the Bulls’ championship hopes. Jimmy Butler can’t shoulder the burden of stardom and crumbles leaving Luol “This-is-Spinal-Tap” Deng to do what he doesn’t want to do.
Expected outcome: 2nd in the Central, 4th in the Eastern Conference.
Do you smell what MAMBINO is cooking? Check out the rest (so far) of our 2013-2014 NBA Season Preview series: