The Chicago Bulls must be careful with Derrick Rose's recovery from major knee surgery, because the team cannot be expected to return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1998 without its star point guard being as healthy as possible.
The Bulls will certainly challenge for, and likely win, the Central Division title this season, although it will be more difficult as the Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks continue to improve. But becoming Eastern Conference champions is a near impossible task without Rose in the lineup.
Will the Bulls win the Eastern Conference title this season?
Rose is the one offensive threat on the Bulls roster who defenses have to gameplan extensively for each game.
The Bulls will still be a difficult team to defeat even without Rose because their defense is so strong, but not having an elite scorer in the playoffs will hurt them tremendously against teams such as the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks.
To beat the playoff contenders mentioned above, you must have a top-tier scorer who can carry his teammates when the rest of the team is struggling offensively.
All these teams have one or more of these kinds of players.
At the moment, the Bulls don't have a player who can take over games offensively. The lack of a big man who can score 17-plus points per game also makes Rose more important in the offense.
Chicago's championship hopes will rest on Rose's shoulders until the team acquires another superstar player. His importance to the Bulls' chances of success is arguably greater than any player, which is one reason why he was the MVP of the 2010-11 season.
The Bulls have an opportunity to be an Eastern Conference power for many more years, but for this to happen, they need Rose to be healthy enough where he can play his normal game without any limitations.
Even if he needs an entire season to recover fully, Rose should be given all the time needed to come back properly.
Chicago cannot win the East if he's not able to play at a high level.