5 Reasons Derrick Rose's Return Puts Bulls into Eastern Favorite's Discussion
Chicago Bulls star guard Derrick Rose is said to be just "weeks away" from returning according to the Chicago Sun-Times, and his return is about to put the Bulls back into the tier of elite teams that are true title contenders.
Rose's effect on the Bulls is undeniable. Without Rose, the Bulls are nothing more than a middling .500 team. After Tuesday night's (Dec. 11) loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, murmurs from Bulls fans regarding the need for Rose were louder than usual.
Twitter was lit up with Bulls fans lamenting how bad it was to watch the team without their one-time MVP.
Without Derrick Rose, the Bulls are mad boring to watch.
— Joel Antolijao (@y0uareamistake) December 12, 2012
Let's examine five reasons why Derrick Rose puts the Bulls in that conversation.
1) Derrick Rose will open things up for Carlos Boozer
After Carlos Boozer's impressive 24 point, 13 rebound game Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers (Dec. 11), the stage has been set for something bigger. Chicago Bulls fans are aching for Boozer to return to the 20-10 stalwart he was in his years with the Utah Jazz. Now that he has embraced the idea of having a bigger role, he can continue to further that with Derrick Rose feeding him the ball.
Boozer must realize that for the Bulls to win a title, he must return to his vintage self. His game was never reliant enough upon athleticism that the regression in his stats and production can be attributed to anything other than a change in his mental approach to basketball.
Boozer showed in the matchup against the Clippers that he can still create good shots for himself when he is aggressive. He looked for his mid-range game and didn't force anything.
These are all things Boozer needs to continue to do when Rose returns. If he does, the Bulls can beat anyone in the Eastern Conference.
2) Kirk Hinrich will enable Rose to play off ball more
Kirk Hinrich isn't as good as he was during his first career stint with the Chicago Bulls, but he's still good enough to see major minutes. And he's still good enough that his presence on the court will allow Derrick Rose to essentially play some shooting guard. Tom Thibodeau would be foolish not to employ this possibility.
This isn't to suggest that Hinrich should start in the backcourt alongside Rose, but the lineup should be utilized especially if the offense gets stagnant. Running Rose off screens and creating plays for him to do more than isolate will diversify his game and make him a better player. And that will make the Bulls an even more formidable team offensively.
3) The Bulls now have a closer again
The Bulls have gone 11-9 without Derrick Rose this season. That's not too bad. But, they have lost seven games by seven points or less. They aren't getting blown out when they are losing. Having Derrick Rose to isolate at the end of quarters and ends of games will dramatically improve their chances of winning the close ones.
To beat the Miami Heat and New York Knicks, it requires having a player of the caliber of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. It is necessary to have someone to go tit for tat in the closing minutes of games to close them out with victories.
For all that Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer are as players, they are not the type of talents that can be isolated on the perimeter (or in Boozer's case the post) to create great looks in the closing minutes.
Rose can not only get himself good looks, but his penetration will open up easy threes for Marco Belinelli, Kirk Hinrich, Nate Robinson and Luol Deng. The Bulls perimeter offense will improve markedly with Rose penetrating, and having him to close out games is going to give the Bulls a plethora of last second options when teams are playing their best defense.
4) The Eastern Conference Is Wide Open
The New York Knicks and Miami Heat are both playing good basketball. There's no denying that. But the Chicago Bulls have done just as much over the last two seasons prior to this one, posting the best record in the Eastern Conference in both 2010-11 and 2011-12 (also the best overall record in '10-11 and tied with San Antonio for the best overall in '11-12).
With Derrick Rose fully healthy and playing his best basketball, there is no reason that Chicago can't pick up right where they left off. The assumption that Rose will return to his former self is of course a bold one, but players recover from ACL surgery a lot better than they did 20 years ago when such injuries were often looked at as career ending. Moreover, Rose works very hard and if anyone is to come back from a major setback, he is that man.
The Heat may have a Big Three, the Knicks may have Carmelo Anthony, but Derrick Rose's unique skill set and the value of having a coach like Tom Thibodeau can't be underestimated.
The Bulls function well as a unit, and for anyone who thinks the best team on paper wins the championship every year, turn your attention to this year's Lakers squad, which features four future Hall of Famers.
5) Luol Deng can return to role as second fiddle
Luol Deng has done an admirable job trying to carry the bulk of the load. He's averaging the second highest scoring average of his career with 18.3 points per game this season. The last time he posted 18-plus points per game was his third season in the league (2006-07).
Last season, Deng put up 15.3 points per game, while shooting over four percent lower from the floor (45.8 percent this season).
But Deng will be best suited as a second fiddle, and there's no real argument to be made there. He made his first career All-Star team in a season in which he shot a career low from the field last year.
With Derrick Rose drawing the attention away from him again, his shots should come easier and he'll have more opportunities to shoot open threes, as alluded to already.
Deng is not an alpha dog; he's had it thrust upon him due to Rose's injury. Both he and the Chicago Bulls will function far better when he's not being pressured to play 41.2 minutes per night. Granted, last year Deng played 39.4 minutes per game, but Tom Thibodeau needs to cut minutes back (another article for another day).
The Bulls are getting primed to make a run, and Derrick Rose is about to show the world he still is among the best at his position.