For starters, Taj Gibson has missed the past two games with an ankle problem. Also, John Lucas, a player who showed he can be a solid backup at point guard, has also missed the past two games.
And finally, Luol Deng's wrist issues went from being a sprain to a torn ligament. It appears Deng could be out anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple months.
This is not good news for the Bulls, who have won six games in a row and sit at the top with the best record in the NBA.
This article will try to assess what Deng's absence from the Bulls lineup will mean. Will it derail the Bulls' chances to continue their winning ways? Or will it not slow down the Bulls the way many people are saying it will?
Hopefully Deng can get well soon, but this piece will assume he's out of the lineup for a considerable amount of time.
Deng brings a lot of things to the table. He can defend, provide a threat from deep and drive to the hole. But the Bulls have some depth when it comes to shooting the ball from deep in the likes of Korver, Hamilton, Rose, Watson and even Brewer (Deng's replacement) is shooting 50 percent from behind the arc. Obviously, losing Deng will not help the offense, but this is more of an optimistic article. Let's assume the other shooters on this team can step up and make more shots while Deng is on the bench.
Next, Deng's ability to pose a threat going to the basket and to find the open man when covered will be missed. But new addition Richard Hamilton has finally looked healthy and he can handle an increased role in the Bulls offense. He's already started doing that, as he scored 22 points, had 10 assists and played a whopping 42 minutes last night. If Hamilton can add some of what Deng brought to this offense to his own game, then the Bulls will not be as lost without Luol.
Also, on offense, the Bulls lost Derrick Rose for four games, and in three of those games their offense looked as good as it has in years. Granted, they were playing below average competition, but with Rose back, the Bulls should expect to be able to handle Deng being out on the offensive end.
To go into the defensive side of the ball, we will go onto the next slide.
Obviously, if the Bulls want to win a championship this season, they are going to have to beat the Heat. They have an upcoming matchup on the road against the Heat in about five short days.
Now, this is only a regular season game and I know that. However, if Deng chooses to have surgery, he would be out for the rest of the season and the "regular season" argument is pointless. Deng will definitely be out for the upcoming Heat game, so let's just assess what his absence means for Chicago when they line up against the Heat.
When I think of Deng's absence, I think of the defensive side of the ball. When you dive further into that, I think of the one time where Deng's defensive is really needed most.
Bulls vs. Heat.
Luol Deng guarding LeBron James.
We can talk about winning regular season games all we want, but the only thing that matters is beating the Miami Heat, and to do that you need to be able to guard LeBron James. Even if you can only slow him down, you need to be able to at least do that.
Until yesterday, Luol Deng was suppose to be the guy that could do that for the Bulls. Now, it doesn't look like he'll be able to, at least in the upcoming game.
Look, Deng is our best defender, but when you look at the people backing him up, losing him isn't as hard to swallow.
Ronnie Brewer will be the Bulls new starting SF, and he's a guy that was brought to Chicago specifically for his defense. He's a phenomenal defender, and he will be able to at least slow down LeBron James. Also, Jimmy Butler was drafted specifically for his defense. Yes, he's a rookie and will most likely get smoked by LeBron, but I'm making a point that the two guys behind Deng are defensive minded.
Taj Gibson, if his ankle isn't too serious, can also guard LeBron, with the word "guard" loose and defined. Gibson is a very good defender and shot-blocker and might be asked to slow down James as well.
Long story short, Deng's defensive skills will be missed. However, the Bulls have the players and team defense to overcome his absence.
If Brewer can't step up on defense and play up to Deng's standards, if Gibson remains sidelined for awhile, if the other Bulls players can't step up on offense, well, then the Bulls are going to be in for a rough stretch soon enough.
I'm not going to be too optimistic because, let's face it, Deng is our second-best player. There's just no way we can win a championship without Deng. However, we can get by a month, maybe even longer, with him on the bench. Everything just needs to go to plan.
Rose needs to continue getting healthy, Brewer needs to continue shooting the ball well, Korver needs to get hot, Hamilton needs to get 16 and six regularly and Carlos Boozer needs to keep making it rain from mid-range. That's a lot to ask, but that's to be expected when you lose an All-Star.
I think the Bulls can get by without Deng for awhile, and when I say get by I mean win a majority of their games. Brewer can handle it on defense in any game besides when LeBron James is on the other side. To be honest, though, it's not like Deng was going to shut down James either.
And on offense, the Bulls should continue to get a boost from Rose being back, and the Bulls simply need to collectively step up. Coach Thibs is good enough to coach this team up and have them continue playing good defense while Deng is out, and that should be enough for this Bulls team to not lose their opportunity for home-court advantage in the playoffs.