The Chicago Bulls are essentially writing off the 2013 NBA season. They won't officially tell you that, but it's clear they have based on the moves they've made in the offseason. This is illustrative of the dangers of building a team around one superstar.
The issue here is that the Bulls offense is entirely predicated on the things that Derrick Rose can do. Primarily this includes two things: score and distribute.
Rose has an ability to virtually explode to the rim when he's healthy. His first step is so quick, and his ability to weave through traffic is so extraordinary, that defenses have to cheat him when he's on the court. If you want to see both of those abilities on full display, just watch the video below.
Now, it's easy to just get caught up in what Derrick Rose does when he scores, and how that helps the Bulls while he's on the court, but it's not just the scoring. What he does to help the players around him makes him special.
Because he's such a threat to score, teams will converge on him every time he starts to penetrate. As a result, the other players on his team are left wide open for jump shots. He has tremendous court vision.
Rose's ability and willingness to pass are far underrated.
Stats like assist-to-turnover ratio don't really establish how good of a passer Rose is, because that lumps all turnovers together. He has 4.8 assists per bad pass. That's better than Rajon Rondo's 4.6, Steve Nash's 3.7 or Ricky Rubio's 3.6.
He also finished eighth in pure point rating last season, ahead of "pure point guards like Jason Kidd, Ty Lawson and Deron Williams.
Of course, I'm told stats don't mean everything. So look at the visual evidence.
For an example, look at these screen caps starting from the 2:28 minute of the video above.
In the first picture, notice how the Bulls get into their set offense. Rose has the ball out on the perimeter, Noah is coming in to set the pick and every defender on the Clippers is within reach of their man.
Kyle Korver and Rip Hamilton are out on the corners, and neither has a shot.
In the second cap, Noah has set the pick, and Rose has gotten around Chris Paul. All five defenders are essentially in the paint to try to stop Rose. Look at where Kyle Korver and Rip Hamilton are, though. They have enough time to eat a "$5 Footlong" before taking a shot.
Surprise, surprise. Rose kicks it out to Korver, who easily drains the three.
Here's another cap from the same video at the 40-second mark. Rose penetrates to the corner, the Clippers collapse on him and he hits Boozer at the elbow, who then sinks the jumper.
Again at the 1:35 mark, look how open Joakim Noah is when Boozer penetrates and the defense collapses on him.
This is the essence of the Bulls offense, and it's not just anecdotal evidence. The Bulls are a far superior offense while Rose is on the court, and it's visible in the team stats as well as Rose's.
While Rose is on the court, the Bulls' effective field-goal percentage is three percent better, and they score five more points per 100 possessions.
When Rose went down midseason with injuries, the Bulls had the second-best offensive rating in the NBA. They fell to fifth after he went out.
Further evidence, and perhaps more telling, is what happens to the Bulls individually when Rose is on the court with them. Look at each of their effective field-goal percentages when he is and isn't on the court.
The Bulls' three most prolific three-point shooters last year were C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver and Luol Deng. They were far more prolific when they were on the court with Rose.
Watson shot 55 percent from three while he was on the court with Rose, compared to 38 percent while Rose was on the bench. Korver shot 49 percent with Rose and 41 percent without him. Deng shot 41 percent from deep with Rose and 34 percent without him.
This demonstrates that Rose is creating open shots for his teammates from deep, and they are converting on those attempts at an incredible rate.
This is not the mere product of Rose's talent, either. It's the product of literally having an offense designed around Rose's talents. Those who are critical of Rose's high usage rate fail to realize that Tom Thibodeau was hired based on the offense that he designed, which was premised on Rose having a high usage rate.
But this also exposes a flaw in the manner in which the Bulls were built. It's all turkey and gravy while Rose is healthy, but when he gets injured the problem arises that you can't just go out and get someone who can do what Rose does.
Without someone to do what Rose does, the system doesn't work the same. The system revolves around a high-usage point guard who can break down defenses, and then either score the ball or hit the open shooter.
There might be a couple of players who can accomplish what Rose does. Westbrook can break down defenses and score, but he's not as good of a passer. Rondo can break down defenses and set up teammates, but he doesn't have the same ability to score the ball consistently.
The combination of talents Rose offers is what makes him unique, but the problem with unique is that it's impossible to replace. Once that player is out, the team can't compensate for the loss over the long term.
Teams that have two stars can shift the burden to one when the other goes out. It's how the Heat kept winning when Dwyane Wade went out. It's how the Lakers survived while Kobe Bryant sat out games in 2010.
It also prevents what happened when the Bulls faced the Heat in the postseason in 2011. Having a second star is preventive medicine. It prevents opponents from keying on one payer.
The Bulls have a superstar in Derrick Rose. When he's healthy, the Bulls are a bona fide contender. When he's out, though, they're just another playoff team. Noah, Deng and Co. are quality role players who can keep the Bulls there.
But the Bulls see a chance to rectify the problem by setting themselves up to shed enough salary that, when combined with the potential amnesty of Carlos Boozer, will allow them to have another player who will come in and have the ability to carry the team for stretches.
That was "Plan A" when they courted LeBron James and Dwyane Wade two years ago, and it's "Plan C" now after giving "Plan B" a two-year run. Chicago fans need to show infinite patience right now and wait until next offseason to judge this one.
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