5 Worst-Case Scenarios for the Chicago Bulls Down the Stretch

Bob Bajek@bobbajekAnalyst IIIMarch 22, 2012

5 Worst-Case Scenarios for the Chicago Bulls Down the Stretch

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    The Chicago Bulls seem to be in great shape as the NBA playoffs are drawing nearer, but a lot crazy things can happen between now and the playoffs.

    Despite the Bulls winning so many games without Derrick Rose and Richard Hamilton, there is some cause for concern in how these last 17 games could adversely affect the Bulls come playoff time.

    Here are the five worst-case scenarios for the Bulls during the stretch run.

Bulls Stick with John Lucas III Instead of Mike James

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    John Lucas III is lighting it up, but don't expect that to keep up.

    Even though Lucas scored 24 and 20 points against the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic, respectively, he is a streaky shooter who lacks size (5'11", 165 pounds) defensive skill and was a journeyman his entire career.

    Lucas will definitely cool down, as defenses will figure out how to neutralize him.

    The question is if the Chicago Bulls will still have veteran point guard Mike James on the roster.

    James is a savvy veteran who offers more size (6'2", 188 pounds) and is a better passer and defender.

    James has been cut twice this season after signing 10-day contracts, and has been brought back a third time due to continuing injuries to Derrick Rose and C.J. Watson. 

    If either Rose or Watson gets hurt in the playoffs, James provides a better backup option than Lucas.

Derrick Rose Loses His Rhythm

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    Derrick Rose is resting his strained groin right now as the Chicago Bulls keep rolling on without him.

    But the 23-year-old Rose has missed 15 games to injury and will probably miss a few more before the playoffs begin.

    While the Bulls want Rose to be 110 percent when they gear up for the Eastern Conference playoffs, the reigning MVP might be a bit rusty.

    Rose's game requires him to have an established rhythm with his teammates. D-Rose is the central component to the Bulls' offensive attack.

    However, players like Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng are taking more an offensive load without Rose and just playing their games.

    Sitting out helps Rose's health, but his rhythm with his teammates and his basketball conditioning might be adversely affected if he misses a significant portion of the remaining games.

Richard Hamilton Doesn't Heal Properly

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    Many Chicago Bulls fans are probably wondering if Richard "Rip" Hamilton is really Resting in Peace.

    The much touted Hamilton, who signed a three-year deal with the Bulls this December, has missed a whopping 33 games this year to various injuries, the latest being a shoulder sprain suffered March 5 against the Indiana Pacers.

    Hamilton was picked up to solve the Bulls' lack of scoring production from the shooting guard position. Right now, the Bulls are winning with Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver, but Chicago needs Hamilton to be healthy come the playoffs to win.

    Without Hamilton, the Bulls won't go very far.

Carlos Boozer Stops Playing Aggressively

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    Carlos Boozer has been playing like a new man ever since February has rolled around.

    The 6'9" Boozer has asserted himself as a viable post threat and has assumed the responsibilities as the Bulls No. 1 offensive scoring option since Derrick Rose is sidelined.

    Boozer's effectiveness down low has helped the Bulls to an 11-4 record sans Rose and has given the Duke alum much needed confidence.

    A major reason why the Bulls lost to the Miami Heat last year was because Boozer couldn't get it going inside. What Boozer needs to do is continue to play aggressively even when D-Rose returns from his strained groin injury.

    Chicago needs Boozer to be successful offensively if it wants to win in the playoffs.

    If Boozer reverts back into a timid power forward who doesn't try establishing a good post presence, the Bulls will be in trouble.

Bulls Lose Focus

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    Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has done a marvelous job with his squad the past year-plus on the job, and he has managed this success by keeping his athletes focused.

    The Bulls are currently an NBA best 39-10 and an impressive 11-4 without Derrick Rose in the lineup.

    With the Bulls comfortably ahead of the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference playoff standings, the Bulls will get the No. 1 seed again if they don't tank the remaining 17 games.

    However, what if the Bulls begin to lose their focus?

    Locking a playoff spot and eventual high seed early could make Bulls' players begin to look ahead to potential playoff matchups instead of worrying about their current regular season opponents.

    Not being focused will result in poor hardwood performances that could lead to poor mental preparation for the playoffs.

    If the Bulls begin to lose their focus, they would have a higher chance for being unpleasantly surprised by an upstart postseason foe.

    Bob Bajek is a featured columnist for the Chicago Bulls. He is also a freelance reporter and can be followed on Patch.com and Twitter.