Chicago Bulls Are Playoff Paper Tigers Without a Healthy Derrick Rose
This isn't to say that Chicago's showing without the team's most valuable player is to be scoffed at. The Bulls are eight games over .500 down Rose and currently locked in as the Eastern Conference's sixth seed. But let's not beguile ourselves into thinking they're going to make some sort of championship run as is.
Let's also not capitulate that entering the postseason "as is" isn't a genuine possibility. Rose may be dunking again, but he has previously acknowledged he wouldn't hesitate to sit out the entire season.
Should Rose's season-long absence become a reality, the Bulls are in trouble. Heaping piles of it, actually.
All of us at one point or another (admit it) entertained the notion of Chicago contending without Rose. Victories over the New York Knicks, Miami Heat and even Los Angeles Lakers really left us believing that the Bulls were a championship convocation to be reckoned with.
With the exception of a series of victories over the Knicks, however, there isn't much to be taken away from Chicago besting certain powerhouses on occasion.
On any given night, any NBA team can beat another. Over the course of a seven-game series, though, "any given" doesn't apply as potently. Factions such as the Bulls will regress to mean during that time.
Take Chicago's last 12 games, 10 of which came against playoff-bound opponents. The Bulls went 3-7 in those 10 contests. Five of those seven losses came by 10 or more points.
When facing playoff-caliber teams on a consistent basis, Chicago has struggled, at times relying too heavily on their defense and continuously being betrayed by a fragmented offensive attack.
Nothing has been more telling than the last three playoff-worthy opponents the Bulls have faced.
Chicago held Boston to 71 points and still lost, combating such a meager point total with a scant 69 points. In that game, no one scored more than 12 points for the Bulls and they shot just 36.5 percent from the floor as a collective.
Moving on to their bout opposite the Heat, they scored just 67 points while holding Miami to 86. That the Bulls were able to hold the Heat, who rank first in offensive efficiency, to just 86 points is a testament to their stingy defense. That they couldn't muster up more than 67 points, though, is proof of their offensive deficiency.
Once again, the Bulls shot a regrettable 37.3 percent from the field and their leading scorer (Nate Robinson) tallied just 14 points.
Things didn't get any better when Chicago traveled to Oklahoma City.
Not only did the Thunder's offense torch the Bulls' fourth-ranked defense for 102 points, but they held them to just 72 on 29.1 percent shooting.
Capable as Oklahoma City and Miami's defenses may be, they're not top-five assemblies. Prior to their outing against the Bulls, the Thunder relinquished 111 points to the Minnesota Timberwolves, who rank 21st in offensive efficiency.
Still, Chicago wasn't just unable to snag a victory, but couldn't even remain within striking distance. How does that bode well come playoff time?
These are the types of teams the Bulls will be facing in the postseason. Ententes with balanced attacks like the Heat, Pacers and even Knicks are going to pose problems for a Rose-less Chicago squad.
That's just the danger of playing one-sided basketball. The Bulls are one of the most impenetrable defensive forces the league houses, but they rank 23rd in offensive efficiency and are just 9-17 when allowing opponents to score 90 or more points. Not 100 or more, 90 or more.
Rose shifts Chicago's entire offensive blueprint. He presents the team with a robust scorer that it currently doesn't have. Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Robinson simply aren't as threatening as Rose, nor are any of them as effective as the primary offensive option.
Of course, the cosmetic makeup of these Bulls is vastly different. But that doesn't mean his impact is any less significant. In the 39 games he played last season, Chicago scored at a rate of 110.7 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor, easily exceeding that of the 102.9 its posting this year.
If Derrick Rose doesn't return, when will Bulls be eliminated from playoffs?
This isn't exactly news, though. We all knew how integral Rose was to the Bulls' offense, how important he was to the team's overall performance.
On some level, however, many of us hoodwinked ourselves in to thinking that the Bulls are more than a fringe playoff contingent without Rose.
Which they're not.
That said, the Bulls are still a postseason-caliber team all the same.
They're just not one that will go very far.
*All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports and 82games.com unless otherwise noted.
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