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The 2013 Bulls were capable of very little on offense. This will likely change next season, but how much?
Since hiring head coach Tom Thibodeau prior to the 2010-11 season, the Bulls have been a top-six team in defensive efficiency each year. Defending is clearly the coach's top priority, and Chicago has established itself as the prototype when it comes to keeping opponents' points off the board.
In Thibodeau's first two seasons at the helm, the Bulls' offense—led by Rose—was stellar as well. Their 108.3 points per 100 plays in 2010-11 ranked 11th league-wide, and their 107.4 figure the following year ranked sixth in the association. Over those two seasons, Rose was a lock for 24 points and eight assists each night out.
Without its main contributor in 2012-13, Chicago's offense fell through the floor. And the basement. The team came in at 23rd in offensive efficiency.
On shots outside of five feet, the team shot 36 percent. They shot a dismal 31.5 percent on all jump shots.
Without Rose, the distribution duties fell primarily on Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson. The team's leading scorers were Luol Deng with 16.5 and Carlos Boozer with 16.2 points per game. For comparison, in 2010-11—Rose's last full season—Rose averaged 25 points per contest, but his distributing skills allowed for both Boozer and Deng to drop more than 17 per night (17.4 for Deng and 17.5 for Boozer).
This year, the Bulls will likely drop shooting guard Rip Hamilton, who morphed from missing piece to washed up has-been in record time. The team will likely look to free agency or the draft to find a starting 2, unless Thibs chooses to insert Jimmy Butler there, where he would be slightly out of position.
The Bulls will be among the top of the league in defense. That much we know. What we don't know is how the offense will shake out next season. Rose will score his points, and has the ability to dish, but will he have the weapons beside him in red and white?
And if he does, what kind of team will the Bulls be offensively? The team dropped from fourth in three-point percentage during 2011-12 to 21st this past year. A career 31 percent shooter from downtown, Rose has never earned his paycheck from the arc—that's usually where his teammates have come into play.
But where is that support coming from in 2014? Kyle Korver has long since fled to Atlanta, and Hamilton's career very well may have finished in Rose's absence.
Outside of Kirk Hinrich, Jimmy Butler was the only guaranteed-to-return Bull who shot above 33 percent from three-point range, and he only attempted 1.3 per contest.
The personnel calls for an outside-in attack, with Deng, Boozer and Noah the primary recipients of Rose dimes. If Boozer isn't in Chicago next season, that only adds to the uncertainty.
Rose will improve the Chicago offense on his own, but he can only be part of the solution. Will the team do enough to work the offense back to the heights reached in 2010-11? Or will they continue to be the defensively elite but offensively inept team that the 2013 Bulls were, with Rose's individual talent thrown i?
The latter may be enough to win basketball games. A lot of them. But championship teams have very few weaknesses, if any. And an offense without direction begs to be defeated in May and June when defenses lock down the most.