The anticipation continues to build as the Chicago Bulls are patiently waiting for the return of their superstar, Derrick Rose.
Rose, who has been out since last summer with a torn ACL suffered in the first game of the playoffs, has been working and rehabbing his way back into basketball shape and is progressing closer and closer to suiting back up in the black and red.
The Bulls, in the meantime, have been enjoying a surprisingly strong season even without their leading scorer and floor general. Chicago has benefited from the play of guys like All-Stars Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, as well as its bench mob.
Coming off the bench for Chicago are players like Nate Robinson, Jimmy Butler, and Taj Gibson and all of them have really helped to fill the scoring void left behind by Rose. This depth will only become greater, though, once Rose does return.
Having a healthy Rose in the starting lineup would mean that the Bulls would be overflowing with depth at point guard, since they also have Kirk Hinrich, Robinson, and Marquis Teague on the roster.
One of the biggest impacts of all may be that Hinrich can become much more effective off of the bench, not having to play starter-type minutes. He would be a great backup for Rose with his veteran savvy and playmaking abilities being available for small spurts.
Additionally, Robinson would have more freedom to play at either guard spot providing more depth for a position where the Bulls also have Richard Hamilton and Marco Bellinelli.
Besides the added help at the guard spots, there's reason to believe that young gun Jimmy Butler would benefit a lot from playing with Rose. Since Butler was used sparingly last year in an injury-plagued season for Rose, the two did not get a lot of on court time together.
Now that Butler seems to have developed more comfort on the court, he has been getting a big increase in minutes and has produced well as a result. It would be exciting to think about how much better he could get offensively with a guy like Rose drawing so much attention with the ball, as well.
Which bench player will benefit the most from Rose's return?
The same could be said for Belinelli or Daequon Cook, who could be great options to kick out to with Rose garnering all of the defensive focus.
Having a healthy Rose also helps to boost the play of the starting lineup. With a starting five last season of Rose, Hamilton, Deng, Carlos Boozer, and Noah, the Bulls had a +27 point differential as well as a 10-3 record when using that lineup. (via 82games.com) This season, the Bulls have been primarily using the same lineup, except with Hinrich instead of Rose. This five man group for this season has yielded slightly worse results with a +26 point differential and a 13-10 record. (via 82games.com)
With a starting five that functions better, the pressure comes off of the bench to perform at such a high level each and every night. This allows the bench mob to play their roles to the highest ability that they can and help the team exactly how they need to.
If someone's a spot up shooting specialist, then they can focus solely on that skill and know that the starting five can take care of business when the crucial moments come in a game. Having a mental attitude that focuses on a certain aspect of your own game can help you to not try and do too much and prevents a lot of turnovers or bad shot attempts.
As a whole, Chicago's bench is already a pretty solid group of players who have proven that they can really rise to the occasion of playing without the team's best player. Once Rose does make his highly anticipated return, though, the bench and the entire roster will benefit greatly and become even deeper than before.