What Does Derrick Rose Need to Lead the Bulls to a Title?
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Easier said than done, right?
However, Chicago didn't land the best record in the NBA for two seasons in a row by accident. The Bulls are a great team, and they have strengths that most of their opponents can only dream about.
One of the most important pieces to the Bulls' championship puzzle is that Chicago has the best defense and team rebounding in the NBA. Chicago ranked second in points allowed in 2010-11 and first in the same category in 2011-12. Chicago also led the league in rebounding last season, averaging a +6.7 rebound differential per game.
That type of production on the defensive end of the floor cannot be overlooked. The Bulls' four big men —Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Omer Asik and Taj Gibson—form arguably the top overall frontcourt in the NBA. The team wants to hold onto young assets like Asik and Gibson going forward, even if it means trading Noah or All-Star Luol Deng.
The Los Angeles Lakers won back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010 with a superstar and the best frontcourt in the league. Kobe Bryant had Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum to help carry the scoring load and patrol the paint. Bryant also had superior wing defenders in Trevor Ariza ('09) and Metta World Peace ('10), formerly known as Ron Artest.
That's another piece to the puzzle that the Bulls also already have. Deng is one of the best defensive small forwards in the game, and he helps shoulder a decent amount of the scoring load. He has the ability to play extended minutes guarding an opposing team's best player.
Do the Chicago Bulls already have enough pieces to win a championship?
Another piece to the championship puzzle is having a legitimate outside shooting threat who could stay on the floor at the end of games. The designated shooter is needed to protect a team's star against help defense, especially in the postseason.
This is another piece that the Bulls already have. Kyle Korver developed into a big-time clutch shooter during the 2011-12 season. Without Rose creating shots for him in the playoffs, he never got his chance to shine on the game's toughest stage. By contrast, Korver was coming off screens and knocking down tough shot after tough shot towards the end of the regular season.
Korver's confidence also soared near the end of the season, and his defense and rebounding improved dramatically. For these reasons, he was a solid asset on the court at the end of games. The Bulls should do whatever it takes to retain Korver. He nailed over 40 percent of his shots from beyond the arc in his first two seasons in Chicago.
So there you have it. To win a title, Rose needs a solid rebounding frontcourt that can also play outstanding interior defense, a primary defender to effectively guard an opposing team's best perimeter player and a prolific outside shooter to spread the floor. Luckily, the Bulls already have these assets.
But Chicago is missing the last key ingredient to an NBA title: Rose's wing man. The Bulls are one offensive superstar away from hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy for the first time since 1998.
Superstars can't win a championship alone. Jordan had Scottie Pippen. Kobe had Shaq. LeBron had Wade.
Sure, Dirk Nowitzki never had another go-to superstar in the Dallas Mavericks' championship in 2011, and Kobe didn't either in his latter two title runs. But Dirk was surrounded by the best three-point shooting team in the league that consisted of a slew of solid veterans, and Bryant's twin towers (Gasol and Bynum) could easily shoulder the offensive load for long stretches.
The Bulls don't have that type of offensive supporting cast around Rose.
It has been apparent in the playoffs the past two seasons that Rose is the team's lone shot creator. Deng and Boozer can create their own opportunities in spurts, but not consistently when the game is on the line. Rip Hamilton is not the answer to this problem, even when he is completely healthy, because he is not an isolation scorer. He collects his points by coming off screens and being set up by his teammates.
Until Rose has a sidekick on offense, the Bulls could only get so far in the NBA playoffs. With this current squad, they have enough to get to the Eastern Conference finals every season, assuming the team stays healthy.
But Chicago can't get past its biggest conference rival, the Heat, without another go-to scorer who could take some of the pressure off Rose. The Bulls may be able to steal a game or two against Miami in a playoff series, and every game may be close heading into the final minutes, which is exactly what happened in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals.
As long as Rose is Chicago's only legitimate scoring threat down the stretch, however, the Heat will always come out on top. They just have more firepower and scoring options in crunch time than the Bulls do.
Most of the pieces are in place for a title run. All Rose needs is a trustworthy sidekick to help shoulder the offensive load for the Bulls to become a threat to dethrone King James and the Heat.
Chicago may be close to the promised land, but until the team adds another superstar, it is still very far away.
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