5 Lessons Chicago Bulls Have Learned While Waiting for Derrick Rose's Return
During Derrick Rose's absence, the Chicago Bulls have had a chance to learn some new things about their team. From Joakim Noah's rise to stardom to new players on the roster, the Bulls have been able to make it work without Rose.
At 16-12, the Bulls have put themselves in a good position for the rest of the 2012-13 campaign. The fact that they've been able to find this level of success without their MVP is even more impressive.
Chicago still has a long way to go before Rose returns, and as the season continues, they'll keep building on their newly found assets.
Until then, the pieces they have put together have proven to be enough to sustain them.
Note: All stats are as of December 30, 2012 before games were played.
Offense Can Be Run Through Joakim Noah
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Joakim Noah is having his best year since coming into the league, and it's not a coincidence that it has come without Rose. Noah has been able to take advantage of being "the guy," and he has not disappointed.
Noah is averaging a career-high 13.1 points per game, but his biggest contribution might be his improved passing.
At 4.5 assists per game (more than double his career average), Noah accounts for 23 percent of the Bulls' assists while on the floor. For a center to be the second-leading assist man on a team is pretty remarkable.
Noah has shown that the Bulls can go through him when they are running their sets, something that could prove to be useful once Rose returns, as he may be able to play off the ball and use his quickness to cut to the basket.
They Need Another Primary Scorer
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Chicago's offense leaves a lot to be desired. With just 92.7 points per game, the Bulls rank 27th in the league. Without Rose's 20-plus points, the Bulls' leading scorer is Luol Deng with just 17.5 points per game.
Without a primary scorer, the Bulls' offense is taking a hit in some key categories. The Bulls currently rank 24th in the league in points in the paint due to the fact that their only player who is able to penetrate defenses is injured.
If the Bulls had another scorer, their dependency on Rose's return wouldn't be as dire.
They Need a Backup Point Guard
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The Bulls brought back their former first-round pick Kirk Hinrich during the offseason in hopes that he could fill in well for Rose while he recovered from his ACL tear.
Sure, the Bulls weren't expecting Hinrich to do what Rose did (as they shouldn't), but I'm sure they didn't expect Hinrich to have one of his worst statistical seasons.
While Marquis Teague figures to be the most likely candidate to be Rose's backup in the future, the Bulls have done little to develop him. Teague has been playing minimal minutes this season (just 8 per game), similar to how Jimmy Butler saw next to no time last season as a rookie.
It may just be part of Tom Thibodeau's coaching philosophy to not play rookies extended minutes, but in building a better team for the future, it might be smart to give Teague some more on-court experience.
Marco Belinelli Should Be Considered for the Future
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Marco Belinelli was thrust into the starting lineup after Richard Hamilton suffered a foot injury. As a starter, Belinelli averaged 15.3 points per game, a 10 points increase in his average coming off the bench.
In his time as a starter, Belinelli showed that he could score in a number of ways: he could shoot the ball well as a spot-up shooter and after coming off screens, but he could also put the ball on the floor and drive it to the hoop.
On December 29, Hamilton returned from his foot injury, forcing Belinelli to take his spot back on the bench. He continued his strong performance, though, leading the team scoring that night with 17 points.
The last time the Bulls had a complementary player to Belinelli's skill set was probably in 2009 when the Bulls acquired John Salmons. With Hamilton's future on the Bulls uncertain (via a Chicago Tribune report), Belinelli could be a good piece to put alongside Rose while the Bulls search for another star to put next to him.
Carlos Boozer Is as Good as He's Going to Get
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At this point, the Bulls shouldn't expect many big performances from Boozer; he hasn't necessarily had a bad season, but given the circumstances, he should be scoring more than 13 points per game.
Boozer still remains a very solid option offensively, and when he can get his offense going early in games, he's usually in for a big night. His performance thus far just hasn't been what the Bulls would have preferred.