Derrick Rose tore his ACL Saturday afternoon in Game 1 of the 2012 NBA playoffs versus the Philadelphia 76ers. The key question is: can the Bulls find production elsewhere to replace him in these playoffs and the first part of the 2012-13 season?
Chicago went 18-9 in games without Rose this season. C.J. Watson was the primary backup, averaging nearly 10 points and four assists with a near league average PER (player efficiency rating) of 13.31.
Watson can score, particularly when shooting from three-point range—where he converts at an over 40 percent rate—but he is a below average passer for a point guard. John Lucas, the team's third string floor leader, is feisty and aggressive, but too small to guard his position. Richard Hamilton, the team's starting shooting guard, can assume some ball-handling duties.
So, the short answer is, the Bulls know how to cope with Rose's absence and can win games without him. This is not the end of their playoff road; indeed, they should still defeat the 76ers in the first round. It goes without saying, however, it will be very difficult to replace Rose's playmaking and athletic drives late in games against tougher opponents like the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics.
To try and replace him, Tom Thibodeau and Co. should alter the team's strategy and focus on fielding the best defensive lineups. With limited playmaking ability, they should unleash Watson and Lucas, and tell them to be particularly aggressive, which is already their natural inclination.
They should also try and use the Deng-Gibson-Asik frontcourt more frequently, as it is highly effective in keeping opponents from scoring in the paint.
Looking forward to next season, the Bulls have more options depending on Rose's prognosis. If he is projected to be out 12-plus months with the ACL tear, Chicago should try and sign Steve Nash. The Suns point guard would not have a better option to win his first NBA title, and the Bulls could get him in a sign-and-trade, and then trade him following the 2012-2013 season.
If Rose's injury sidelines him for six to eight months, and he is projected to return early next season, Chicago should sign a stopgap starting PG like Andre Miller or Baron Davis, and wait out the 2011 MVP's absence.
Either way, it's a tough day for Chicago. But the Bulls will have to look to temporary replacements...and soon.