6 Reasons the Chicago Bulls Will Still Be Competitive Without Derrick Rose
The 23-year-old Rose is likely out till March, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune’s KC Johnson. Until then, Chicago will need to play without him—and I predict they will stay competitive.
Can the Bulls win the championship without Rose? Not a chance. But don’t expect Rose’s absence to keep Chicago from making some regular season noise. When Rose returns in March, he’ll be coming back to a team that will be squarely in the playoff hunt and is ready for a chance at the second season.
Let’s take a look at six reasons why the Bulls will stay competitive without Rose in the lineup.
1. Luol Deng Says He’s Healthy
I argued a few weeks ago that Chicago should reignite trade talks surrounding the veteran Deng, but the Bulls seem focused on keeping the core together next season.
We can argue whether the Bulls should trade Deng, but that isn’t what Chicago will do. Deng isn’t a star and he may not be the second option the Bulls need next to Rose, but he’ll keep the team competitive in Rose’s absence.
There were concerns about his wrist and a possible surgery, but Deng has been competing in the summer Olympics in London and he says his wrist is fine.
"Did I look like I needed surgery? I'm fine right now. I feel great,” Deng told ESPN’s Marc Stein.
We’ll have to take Deng on his word. Deng averaged 15.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists in five games while shooting 31.4 percent from the field. How much of that shooting struggle was in his wrist? I’m willing to bet it was less about this wrist and more about the double teams he was seeing at every touch.
Back in Chicago, he’ll be with a better team and a far better coach. Deng may not make the Bulls a contender, but a healthy Deng can keep the team in the playoff hunt.
2. Carlos Boozer Has More Room to Operate
Derrick Rose is an excellent point guard, but his absence may be a blessing in disguise for the struggling Carlos Boozer.
As I discussed in this article two weeks ago about Boozer, the big man may be poised for an explosive season. Boozer thrives when he has room to operate down low, and with a more standard point guard in Kirk Hinrich, he may get more space. Rose is a great passer, but as a slashing point, he clogs up the lane.
Boozer has proven in the past he can carry the offensive workload. Expect him to do the same this season.
3. Kirk Hinrich Is an Underrated Point Guard
Kirk Hinrich and Tom Thibodeau may be a match made in heaven.
The veteran point guard is one of the leagues’ underappreciated players. He’s a tenacious defender and a smart player, and will fill in excellently until Rose returns.
According to Synergy Sports, defensively, Hinrich gives up .87 points per possession. That isn’t anything special, but when you break it down it becomes more impressive. As a pick-and-roll defender, Hinrich gives up .75 points per possession, good for 76th in the league.
As a spot-up shooter defender, he gives up .82 points, which is 66th best in the NBA. Opponents shoot 32.3 percent against Hinrich in spot up situations.
Tom Thibodeau is a master at getting the best out of his players defensively. Hinrich won’t wow offensively, but as a floor general/defender, he’ll be a great replacement.
Derrick Rose may be the Bulls’ biggest hope offensively, but that won’t keep Chicago’s defense from still tearing up the league.
Opponents shot 42.1 percent from the field against the Bulls, second best in the NBA. Chicago held their opponents to 88.2 points per game, best in the association.
Rose is a strong defender (Synergy Sports has him giving up just .77 points per defensive possession, 65th in the league) but the Bulls survived defensively without him last year. Thibadeau is the NBA’s best defensive coach and as long as Chicago has him at the helm, they won’t be easy to score against.
5. The Bulls Have a Solid Bench
Chicago’s second unit isn’t going to be able to go out there and win games on their own, but they’re more solid than many expect.
Nate Robinson was a fantastic signing and gives Chicago a sparkplug bench scorer they severely lacked. Marco Belinelli is also a strong scorer who has struggled defensively, but you expect a top-notch defensive coach like Thibadeau will get the most out of him.
Bulls fans and coaches are very high on wingman Jimmy Butler, who was the 30th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. While he played only 8.5 minutes a game last year, many expect to see him explode this season. He did average 20.6 points and 6.5 rebounds in the summer league, which points to a bigger role than last season.
Finally, there is Taj Gibson, a relentless defender and rebounder who would get more starting attention if the Bulls didn’t need Carlos Boozer’s scoring potential. Gibson is one of the best sixth men in the business and should compete for the Sixth Man of the Year award.
Chicago might have an easier time in the Eastern Conference thanks to the fact that their key players have all played together for multiple seasons. With the exception of the champion Miami Heat, you can easily make the case that the Bulls stand at the top of the East in terms of team continuity.
The Brooklyn Nets are talented, but they’ll need to integrate scorer Joe Johnson into the mix. Brook Lopez was injured most of last season, and he and Deron Williams never had enough time to gel properly.
Orlando is posed to self-destruct with a Dwight Howard trade. Philadelphia swapped out Elton Brand with the amnesty clause, and while they’ve got talented guards, they don’t exactly have any big men. Indiana kept it mostly together, but shifted out Darren Collision and overpaid the worse George Hill to be the starter.
The Boston Celtics may be the only other team besides the Bulls (and Heat) that don’t need to worry about continuity. They return most of their key pieces and it is hard to say that they’ll fall apart just because Ray Allen left.
When it comes to team cohesiveness, the Bulls are near the top of their conference already. That’ll be a big help when the season stars.