Chicago Bulls: 3 Ways Tom Thibodeau Can Still Win Without Derrick Rose
Head coach Tom Thibodeau thought—or at least he said he did—the Bulls could overcome the injury to their star.
"We do feel we have more than enough to win," Thibodeau said.
But losing to the Philadelphia 76ers in six games proved that was not the case.
Now, the Bulls are faced with the challenge of being without Rose for at least half of the regular season, as the timetable for his return appears to be sometime in February or March.
The Bulls were able to stay afloat in the regular season without Rose in 2011-12, sporting an 18-9 record in his absence. However, there is a new cast of supporting characters this season.
Much of the famous "Bench Mob" (C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and Omer Asik), which has been key to the Bulls' prior success, has left the Windy City. It will be up Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and others to keep the Bulls in playoff contention while Rose is out.
Here are three ways the Bulls can still win without their superstar.
Defense and Rebounding Remain Tops in the NBA
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Without their version of Superman, the Bulls don't have the firepower to compete with the high-flying offense of the Miami Heat, but they do other things well enough to stay competitive in the Eastern Conference.
Defense and rebounding have been the staple of Thibodeau's squad, bringing over the philosophy of the Boston Celtics.
Last season, the Bulls gave up the fewest points in the NBA (88.2 per game), while opponents shot less than 43 percent from the field. This is largely due to Thibodeau's in-your-face defensive style and the shot-altering size of Noah, Boozer and Taj Gibson.
The Bulls were also the NBA's leading rebounding team last season, hauling in more than 46 per game—with nearly 14 offensive boards. It is much easier to win when you average more than six rebounds than your opponent each game.
This year, the Bulls return many of their leading rebounders: Noah (9.3 per game), Boozer (8.2 per game) and Gibson (6.5 per game). However, Rose's absence will leave a void to fill, as he averaged three boards per game last season.
Nevertheless, expect Thibodeau to continue to have a stellar defensive and rebounding team that can grind out victories without their top scorer.
Loul Deng Leading the Way
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Despite missing significant time with an injured left wrist last season, Luol Deng was named an NBA All-Star for the first time in his career.
It was a well-deserved honor for one of the most underrated players in the league the past five seasons.
Deng averaged more than 15 points and six rebounds last season despite playing in only 54 games. His injury hampered his shooting however, as he totaled the lowest shooting percentage of his career at 41.2 percent.
However, while he decided to forego surgery this summer to participate in the Olympics, Deng said his wrist is feeling much better (via ESPN.com). That is good news for Bulls fans, as the nine-year veteran will be relied on to carry the bulk of the scoring load while Rose is sidelined.
He can't slice up defenses like Chi-town's beloved hero, but Deng, one of the top 10 players in the Eastern Conference, can keep the team in good hands.
Point Guards Pick Up the Slack
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Solid point guard play from C.J. Watson and John Lucas III allowed the Bulls to remain competitive in Rose's absence last season.
Now, the new trio of Kirk Hinrich, Nate Robinson and Marquis Teague will do their best to keep things running as smoothly as possible.
No point guard in the league can replace what Rose brings to the table, but all the Bulls need is a reliable distributor who can score at opportune times. Chicago hopes Hinrich is that guy, as he returns to the Bulls after averaging career lows in points and assists last season.
The Bulls will need him to be closer to his 2009-10 form when he averaged nearly 11 points and 4.5 assists per game.
Robinson, who had a successful campaign for the Golden State Warriors last season, is also a big pickup. "Nate the Great" averaged more than 11 points and four assists with the Dubs, shooting better than 42 percent from the field. Expect Robinson to have an immediate scoring impact when utilized.
The Bulls will also have a viable option in Teague, who was selected in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft. Teague averaged 10 points and 4.8 assists for the national title-winning Kentucky Wildcats last season—showing his ability to run the show for a successful team.
Bulls fans will still miss Rose, but there is enough ability at the point guard position to keep Chicago in the chase for the playoffs until he comes back.