It’s ridiculous how one player impacts the fate of an entire franchise. Cleveland and Indianapolis know all about that.
When Lebron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat, the organization and its fans were devastated. They lost the best player in the league, and they lost any short-term plans for a championship.
When Peyton Manning missed a season due to neck injuries, the Colts tanked; going from one of the best teams in the NFL to the laughingstock of the nation.
The cold fact of the matter is that the Bulls simply do not have the manpower to maintain the elite status that they had with Rose on the court.
That’s where the real problem lies. It has never been Derrick Rose’s knee. In fact, I’d venture to say that the problem has never even been about Derrick Rose. Forget about when he’s supposed to return, I’m worried about what the Bulls management will do to make sure that last season’s playoff debacle never happens again.
When Manning and Lebron didn't return to their teams, both organizations were left without a light in the dark. That’s what happens when you build a franchise around a single player.
In my opinion, this could be the wake up call that Gar Forman and John Paxson desperately needed, to start making big moves and add a new dimension to the team.
Admittedly, I am disappointed with the lack of moves that the Bulls have made thus far—but it makes sense.
The bench mob was fantastic, but very much replaceable. The Bulls were in dire need of a scorer, and now that the heavy contracts of the bench are out, that is finally possible.
And in reality, the Bulls simply exchanged three players:
1. Kyle Korver for Marco Belinelli
Essentially the same player; Marco Belinelli isn’t as good on defense, but is slightly better on offense. Slight downgrade, but definitely not a compromise for the team.
2. Omer Asik for Nazr Mohammed
Let’s face it: Asik was never worth the $25 million that the Houston Rockets are now paying him. I liked Omer, but he was virtually useless on offense. Seriously, he was incapable of doing much other than blocking shots.
3. CJ Watson for Kirk Hinrich & Nate Robinson
Watson was a great backup, but a terrible player to rely on. As a starter in the playoffs, he averaged 7.3 points per game, with sub-25 percent shooting. Kirk Hinrich is substantially better on defense, more capable of rising to the occasion in the playoffs and a better scorer than Watson. Nate Robinson is capable of being a more experienced John Lucas, so no harm there. Overall, huge win for the Bulls.
Also, did I mention that the Bulls will (finally) have Jimmy Butler in the mix now? Butler has proven in the Summer League that he is highly capable of being a scorer, and even more capable of being the sixth man the Bulls could so desperately use.
The great thing about all of the changes thus far is that none of them are long-term, and all of them are cost-effective.
Next season, Josh Smith and James Harden are both free agents. They aren’t even the best players available. We could possibly even see Nikola Mirotic leave the Euro league to join the Bulls.
The big changes have yet to occur, but the pieces are in place for when the time comes.
Last season, the Bulls had one superstar and 10 role players. This season, that whole dynamic is going to have to change if the Bulls wish to make it to the playoffs.
Currently on roster, there are three players whom I fully expect to assert themselves as superstars, or risk being forced off the team.
1. Luol Deng
Despite being one of the few players chosen as an All-Star last season, Luol Deng is coming off a disappointing year. This season, Deng is going to be under the pressure of proving that he’s not past his prime. If he can consistently step up as the Bulls lead offensive threat, both he and the Bulls will have a substantially better chance of surviving.
2. Richard “Rip” Hamilton
Rip Hamilton used to be one of the top players in his class. Last season, he was riddled with injuries and bad luck. If he wants to stick around on the Bulls roster, he’s going to have to return to his old form.
3. Carlos Boozer
Boozer is probably under the most pressure to perform out of everybody on the team. In his two years as starting power forward for the Bulls, Boozer has yet to impress the fans with his play. If he fails to impress again this season, he should expect to be amnestied. For Carlos Boozer, it’s do or die.
Luol Deng, Rip Hamilton, and Carlos Boozer could actually benefit from Rose missing most of the season, if they take advantage of the opportunity to claim their place on the team.
Short-term, losing Derrick Rose isn’t a positive.
It will, however, bring about positive long-term results. The team will be ready for when D. Rose comes back “too big, too fast, too strong!”