Speculation is fun, isn’t it? We all know that the Chicago Bulls aren’t going to the Finals this year (still a delicate subject, I realize), so we’re left wondering how far they could have gotten if Derrick Rose hadn’t gotten injured.
Without Chicago in the picture, the Eastern Conference wasn’t nearly as fun as it should have been. The Miami Heat getting to the Eastern Conference Finals wasn’t unexpected, but the other half of the Eastern bracket was pretty much up for grabs.
Don’t get me wrong—the Celtics, Sixers and Hawks are great teams; but it suffices to say that I don’t think the Bulls would have been surprised by any of them with a healthy Derrick Rose leading the team.
Injuries suck, and the Bulls had their fair share of them this season. In fact, I’m pretty sure that last season provided enough injuries to last Chicago for the next decade or two. The unfortunate cost of these injuries, of course, was losing in the first round.
Back to the question at hand, though: Could the Bulls have beaten the Heat with Derrick Rose to make it to the Finals?
From an entirely biased opinion, I’d definitely say that they could. But I’m not just saying that; the Bulls actually had a team capable of earning championship rings this year.
When they lost to the Heat in the conference finals last year, it was made abundantly clear to the league that the Bulls needed a second scorer in order to go to the Finals and win. They acquired Rip Hamilton, which was a smart choice since it added a veteran scorer to the team.
What was not cool about Hamilton was his many injuries. Once again, injuries suck. Still, though, he was healthy heading into the postseason and looked as though he had regained his playoff swagger in the first game.
Richard Hamilton was the major difference in the team this year. Keith Bogans was a great defender last season, but he was incapable of offering any sort of offense for the team to build on. In the first game against the 76ers, Hamilton had 19 points. He provided exactly the type of player that Derrick Rose and the Bulls needed to make their one-two punch.
My personal favorite player on the Bulls, Luol Deng, had a strong night during that first game, finishing with 17 points and six rebounds. If he could have kept that up throughout the playoffs, especially while guarding LeBron James, he would have been the difference-maker for Chicago.
Carlos Boozer is notorious for being weak in the playoffs, but even he had 50 percent shooting for nine points in Game 1. It’s not quite the stat people want to see out of Boozer, but the fact remains that the Bulls play at their best when Derrick Rose is manning the helm.
Boozer and Hamilton make up the offensive role players that the Bulls need so desperately to keep opposing defenses on their heels. The real matter at hand, then, would be this: Could Boozer, Deng and Hamilton create enough offense to keep the Miami Heat trio from wreaking enough havoc to beat the Bulls?
On paper, I like the odds that the Bulls had. Since I’m creating an injury-free scenario for the Bulls, it’s only fair that I keep Chris Bosh healthy as well.
Starting with big men, Joakim Noah would suffocate Chris Bosh’s scoring presence for the most part, turning the Miami trio into a duo. Whether it be Udonis Haslem, Ronny Turiaf or Joel Anthony, none of those guys pose a serious offensive threat to the defensive liability that is Carlos Boozer. Although, I’m not expecting that he would have a big game against them, either.
Could the Bulls have beaten the Heat if they had stayed healthy?
LeBron is going to put up 30 points a game, even against a fantastic defender like Luol Deng. We won’t discuss that any further. Dwyane Wade would likely match Richard Hamilton’s stats, so the shooting guard battle could really go either way.
As for Derrick Rose, as long as he was guarded by Mario Chalmers, he would dominate the point. Of course, LeBron would slide down to cover him, which would leave All-Star Luol Deng to be covered by someone like Shane Battier. Let’s just say that Deng wins that battle.
I’m now going to compare the benches—not because they’re comparable, but because I enjoy jokes. It’d be easy to just say that the Bulls win that battle, but I’ll draw it out.
OK, C.J. Watson isn’t starting point guard material in the playoffs. But he did make a fantastic player to help take the load off of Rose, and he did make a clutch three against the Heat in the regular season. Norris Cole shows flashes of brilliance, but he’s not really a consistent enough player to contribute much yet. The Bulls take this matchup.
Ronnie Brewer is one of the better defensive players that the Bulls have, but aside from his hustle, he’s simply awful on offense. Kyle Korver has drastically improved on defense, and he’s one of the best specialty players in the league. Compared to James Jones or Mike Miller, the Bulls take that one as well.
The Bulls' backup big men are great, but extremely similar to the big men of the Miami Heat. Both Taj Gibson and Omer Asik are defensive freaks but lack in the offensive department. Although, to be fair, Gibson often provides sparks of energy on offense. I’d give this matchup a tie—just to show that I’m not entirely subjective.
Nobody knows how the playoffs could have turned out, so this is all wishful thinking. But wow, the possibilities would have looked good with a healthy roster.