The 1 Advantage Derrick Rose Gives Chicago Bulls over Other Title Contenders

Haddon AndersonAnalyst IAugust 27, 2013

The 1 Advantage Derrick Rose Gives Chicago Bulls over Other Title Contenders

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    Derrick Rose's comeback will be a featured storyline of the 2013-14 NBA season. This is largely because Rose's presence makes the Chicago Bulls contenders. 

    Specifically, what is the one advantage Rose gives the Bulls that situates them ahead of other title threats? Rose is quite a sizable piece to the championship puzzle, and his return could likely vault Chicago past other aspiring franchises.

    The distinct influence Rose bestows lies at the core of this. He contributes in such a unique way, providing ingredients in Chicago's repertoire that other contenders are lacking.

    This slideshow examines this, zooming in on elite squads and revealing the advantage the Rose-led Bulls have over them.

    One thing is for sure: All NBA contenders should fear Rose and the Bulls. With their past two playoff campaigns derailed because of injury, they'll surely be on a mission to prove their potency.

     

Los Angeles Clippers: A Dominant Scorer

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    We'll start this conversation with the top-tier clubs from the Western Conference, and it's only fitting to begin with the team who many feel have the game's best point guard: Chris Paul.

    Can you imagine an NBA Finals matchup between Paul and Rose? The fight for the Larry O'Brien trophy and supremacy as the league's top floor general would create an epic series. 

    Rose and Paul actually haven't battled each other since December 30, 2011, in which Rose (29 points, 16 assists and eight rebounds in the win) got the better end of Paul (15 points, 14 assists and four rebounds). While this is just one game, it's undeniable that Rose is beyond capable of outshining Paul.

    In particular, Rose supplies the Bulls an advantage in terms of a dominant scorer. While coach Doc Rivers and the new-look Clips are talented, it's questionable if they possess a bona fide point-getter.

    Paul is more of a distributor, Blake Griffin's inconsistent jumper is a concern, and while a spark plug like Jamal Crawford has his moments, he's also unreliable.

    Rose's penetration abilities, which feature savvy handles and athleticism, enable scoring opportunities in an instant as he carves defenses off the dribble. This favors Chicago late in ballgames when a "closer" is necessary.

    Paul can beat his man with regularity, but he is by no means the finisher of D-Rose. After gaining a step, Paul is usually targeting a teammate for an open shot. While in some ways this is just a stylistic difference in the arsenals of Rose and Paul, it still holds weight.

    Rose simply has a gear that Paul does not have, and as a result, Rose hands the Bulls the edge in this potential encounter. 

Golden State Warriors: More Balance

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    With the addition of Andre Iguodala, the Golden State Warriors appear poised for NBA contention. A backcourt of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Iggy certainly ignites fear in opponents.

    However, Rose's reinsertion into Chicago's rotation gives the Bulls more balance than Golden State.

    Curry and Thompson have super-quick triggers, and Iguodala isn't afraid to hoist his shot as well. While this trio will surely have their games and stretches where they look unstoppable, they'll also struggle when facing a well-coached, defensively adept team that forces low-percentage looks.

    Coach Tom Thibodeau will devise formulas that will force the Warriors out of their comfort zone, disrupting the chemistry between their lethal backcourt weapons.  

    Due to Rose's return, Chicago has more solidified roles amongst their perimeter players. Rose is their alpha dog, Jimmy Butler is their emerging three-point weapon, slasher and suffocating defender, and Luol Deng is their glue guy who thrives in the little things.

    They each know their identity, and this leads to effective balance, which in turn creates more efficiency against top-notch squads. This harmony, driven by Rose, presents the Bulls with the favored position over the Warriors.

    Simply put, while the Warriors are a surging bunch that is rather flashy, the Bulls are a well-run machine. They'll exploit even the most high-powered foes due to their offensive steadiness and defensive grit.

     

     

San Antonio Spurs: Injection of Youth

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    The San Antonio Spurs seem unfazed by their increasing age, and it wouldn't be shocking if they again steamrolled their way to another NBA Finals.

    If this happens, and they meet Chicago, it would pose quite a coaching clash between Gregg Popovich and Tom Thibodeau. There would also be an array of intriguing matchups (Rose versus Tony Parker, Joakim Noah versus Tim Duncan and Luol Deng versus Kawhi Leonard).

    With Rose in uniform, Chicago receives an injection of youth that would be problematic for San Antonio. Tony Parker is now 31 years old, and Duncan (37) and Manu Ginobili (36) have seen their finer days. Keeping pace with the ripe and swift legs of Rose would be a difficult task.

    While Parker is still extremely productive, checking one of the most athletic point guards in the league is not an ideal endeavor. 

    One might argue that San Antonio's age didn't slow them down against the Miami Heat in the 2013 Finals, a series the Spurs barely lost in seven games and one in which they likely should've won (if it weren't for a Game 6 debacle).

    If their declining bodies almost beat LeBron James and Co., then why should the Spurs worry about Chicago? 

    Here's why: Against Miami, San Antonio conveniently matched up against the Heat's athleticism. Youngsters Danny Green and Leonard defended Dwyane Wade and James on the wings. Parker's defensive responsibilities weren't heavy, as he was pitted against under-utilized Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole.

    San Antonio's matchups are completely different against Chicago.

    Parker would defend Rose, which would not only be troubling in and of itself, but it would also extract energy that will strain Parker's offensive game.

    The Spurs' outlook against the Bulls is unpromising because of this, namely because Rose's infusion of youthful agility prompts defensive concerns that even Pop may not be able to solve.

     

Houston Rockets: Nobody to Guard D-Rose

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    The Houston Rockets are a compelling bunch with the addition of Dwight Howard. The signing of "Superman" should spring them into the thick of things in the Western Conference.

    Houston's star-studded cast should surely cause problems for anybody, even Chicago's pesky defense. 

    They possess a glaring issue against the Bulls, though: They have nobody who can guard D-Rose. This delivers the Bulls quite an advantage.

    Last year, according to 82games.com, Houston's backcourt posted some rather unimpressive defensive ratings, including Jeremy Lin (1.07), James Harden (1.08) and Chandler Parsons (1.06). 

    Part of these high ratings is due to Houston's style of play, which is high-paced and features plenty of early shot attempts. This automatically results in some decreased efficiency defensively because more shots are given to the opponent as a result.

    However, the Rockets' defensive struggles can't solely be chalked up to their "run-and-gun" aggressiveness. While they're compiling core pieces that are pushing them towards competing for a championship, they're still missing backcourt players who reduce the productivity of the league's best.

    Because of this deficiency, Rose should expect to have a field day against the Houston guards.

    One might argue that the likes of Howard and Omer Asik will thwart Rose's penetrations to the rim, blocking or at least altering his plays in the lane.

    This is a valid factor, but there are a couple things to consider here: 1) A phenomenal rim-protector doesn't cure all defensive miscues; and 2) Often times, if a big man helps on a drive, it leaves his assignment open for a layup or free to gobble up an offensive rebound.

    To illustrate how Howard and Asik won't consistently clean up the mess left by the backcourt, consider Asik's previous defensive ratings when he was a member of the Chicago Bulls. Then compare it with his rating from 2012-13 with Houston (these ratings were found via 82games.com).

    YearDefensive Rating
    2010-11 (with Bulls)0.94
    2011-12 (with Bulls)0.94
    2012-13 (with Rockets)1.04

     

    This is a drastic change. Asik was a defensive monster in Chicago because they had superb defenders across the board.

    Things are much different in Houston. He patches up some of the mistakes (evidenced by his lower rating than the aforementioned players), but good big men simply cannot plug up all defensive leaks. That's the bottom line.

    Houston's defensive ineptitude on the perimeter will bite them, and Rose and the Bulls should strategically capitalize on this. 

Oklahoma City Thunder: Offensive Fluidity

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    A NBA Finals matchup between the Bulls and the Oklahoma City Thunder is not only plausible, but is also one that would be filled with intrigue. Envision three of the Association's brightest young starsRose, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrookfighting for their first title.

    The natural thought is that the Thunder trump the Bulls because they have two superstars to the Bulls' one. But such an assumption is misleading because Rose gives the Bulls an advantage in terms of offensive fluidity.

    Since the Thunder's run to The Finals in 2012, they have become less and less fearsome. First came the James Harden trade, then came the less meaningful but still notable departure of Kevin Martin.

    As a result, the Thunder are looking at a 2013-14 season in which they'll primarily trade shots between Durant and Westbrook. 

    These two studs are so talented that this alone will get them places, maybe even another trip to The Finals. However, they lack fluidity because their weapons are now limited, and their approach will be rather predictable.

    While Durant and Westbrook at least have each other, Rose has a well-rounded supporting cast that understands their roles.

    In particular, Jimmy Butler's ascension establishes a whole new asset in Chicago's repertoire, and the likes of Noah (an All-Star last season), Deng (an All-Star the past two campaigns) and veteran Carlos Boozer (a two-time All-Star) establish stability in Chicago's offensive output.

    Throw in stellar bench contributors such as Mike Dunleavy, Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson, and it's apparent that the Bulls have a bevy of threats.

    Since the Bulls are arguably a better defensive team than the Thunder (evidenced by the charts below), the main issue here is: Can the Bulls score enough points?

    Oklahoma City Thunder

    YearOpponents Points Per Game 
    2010-11101.0
    2011-1296.9
    2012-1396.5

    Chicago Bulls

    YearOpponents Points Per Game
    2010-1191.3
    2011-1288.2
    2012-1392.9

     

    Without Rose, they definitely cannot concoct enough offensive production. With Rose, they can and should, especially when considering their recent improvements and their now well-balanced makeup.

    While the Thunder may still have more star power, Rose produces continuity in Chicago's offense, which should be enough to tilt such a bout in Chicago's favor.

Brooklyn Nets: Chemistry

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    We now shift the conversation to the Eastern Conference, where there are four hungry, championship-caliber teams. One of those hopefuls is the reconstructed Brooklyn Nets, who now boast an intimidating starting lineup of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez

    While the Nets are formidable on paper, they likely won't be as scary once the ball is tipped. Last year's Los Angeles Lakers were even more astounding on paper (Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard), but they barely clawed their way into the playoffs.

    Here's the main issue: The Nets are loaded with talent and marquee names, but this does not guarantee unity.

    The Rose-driven Bulls, on the other hand, should mesh together marvelously within Thibodeau's system, giving them a decisive nod when it comes to chemistry. This is especially valid considering that Chicago's starting five is pretty familiar with one another.

    This isn't the case for Brooklyn, as Pierce and Garnett now step into the fold. What's more, how much do these two veterans (Pierce will be 36 years old in October, Garnett is 37) have left in the tank?  

    One major reason to doubt Brooklyn's cohesion is that all five starters need touches. They are all accustomed to this. While this does provide them with a handful of weapons, it's also a recipe for conflict.

    Can a guy like Joe Johnson, who is in his prime and playing on a maximum contract, accept a supporting role in which he only averages 13-15 points per game?

    Can the feisty competitors of Pierce and Garnett willingly embrace complementary niches in the offense?

    And, is D-Will capable of leading them deep into the playoffs?

    After all, the Nets couldn't even oust the completely depleted Bulls in last year's playoffs. Do the additions of Pierce and Garnett suddenly make them a more prime contender? This is highly doubtful, especially when considering how the Bulls now regain the 2010-11 MVP.

    The focus of this discussion should instead center upon how Rose unquestionably lofts the Bulls ahead Brooklyn. He serves as Chicago's clear leader, and the rest of Chicago's starting unit grasps their roles in a healthy manner.

    This fosters greater chemistry that elevates the Bulls over the Nets rather convincingly. 

Indiana Pacers: Chicago Has the Best Player

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    The Bulls and the Indiana Pacers should have a brutal battle for Central Division supremacy in 2013-14. They are similar teams, both with a defensive tenacity that should fuel their contests with physicality and toughness. If they meet in the playoffs, we should anticipate it going seven games.

    While the Pacers should give the Bulls everything they can handle, the Bulls should come out on top. This is namely because Chicago boasts the best player amongst these two Eastern Conference stalwarts. A healthy D-Rose administers this slight advantage.

    The Bulls and Pacers are so much alike that numerous matchups are likely to cancel out each other. For instance, Noah versus Roy Hibbert, Deng versus Danny Granger and Boozer versus David West are all pairings that are close to even.

    The Pacers hold the leverage at shooting guard where Paul George is more accomplished than Chicago's Butler. However, the discrepancy here is likely not as wide as what it might appear.

    In 2012-13, Butler limited opposing shooting guards to a PER of 7.0 per 48-minute production, according to 82games.com. This is beyond stellar. It is remarkable.

    Compare this rate to George's in the following table. Also note the rather surprising PER in terms of offensive production. (These stats were found via 82games.com.)

    PlayerOpponent Counterpart PER (Shooting guard)Offensive Production PER (Shooting guard)
    Jimmy Butler7.0 (including 16 PPG given up per-48 minutes)13.4
    Paul George17.6 (including 27.6 PPG given up per-48 minutes)12.3 

     

    George's digits were better when analyzing the small forward position, but with Granger returning, shooting guard will be George's primary spot.

    While George certainly has facets to his game that are at another level than Butler, they're by no means on completely different playing fields. In fact, Butler could unsurprisingly have games in 2013-14 where he outplays George. 

    This brings us back to the main point, which is that the Bulls assuredly have the best player between these two clubs. Since they are nearly the same at the other positions, Rose's grasp on the point guard slot fixes them ahead of the gritty Pacers. 

    Indy's floor general, George Hill, is no slouch defensively, but he is limited on the offensive end. It's highly unlikely that he'll ever outdo Rose, and it's very likely that Rose will best him en route to a Bulls triumph. 

     

Miami Heat: More Well-Rounded

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    Who knows what would've happened if Chicago got a healthy chance at Miami in the past couple of playoffs? Hopefully this will finally occur come the spring of 2014.

    If it does, the intensity of such a series will be through the roof. Joakim Noah might be screaming before the opening tip is even thrown.

    Since the Big Three joined Miami in the summer of 2010, the Bulls have caused Miami troubles. In this span, the Bulls are 7-4 against the Heat during the regular season. Yes, it is just the regular season, but it is telling nonetheless. When the Bulls are healthy and clicking, they pose problems for the Heat's skilled core.

    Without Rose in 2012-13, Chicago still split with Miami in the regular season, but they then were ousted by them in five games during the playoffs. During that series, the Bulls performed adequately from a defensive standpoint, but they lacked firepower offensively.

    Rose cures this problem when he's active because his talents instigate a whole new feel in Chicago's offense. Precisely, his comeback gives the Bulls an advantage of being more well-rounded than the Heat.  

    James, Wade and Chris Bosh have two championships under their belt, but the one last June undeniably revealed their vulnerability. While James is still out-of-this-world good, Wade and Bosh are regressing, and the rest of Miami's team is suspect.

    They have vivid holes in their frontcourt where Noah, Boozer and Taj Gibson have a definitive stronghold. Furthermore, Chicago's versatile perimeter defenders, Butler and Deng, are more than capable of at least containing James and Wade.

    As a result, Miami should greatly fear Chicago, particularly because Rose's presence now provides them with the premier threat they need offensively. This solidifies Chicago's unit as more well-balanced.

    For the Heat to three-peat, they'll need to jump on LeBron's shoulders. It's doubtful that even LeBron can carry such a weighty load. He'll need Wade to be his old self and will need more assertiveness from Bosh. Chicago will likely prevent these efforts from occurring, and their overall team-oriented approach could be just the recipe that eliminates Miami.

    Indiana and San Antonio almost did this in the 2013 playoffs, and both of them are well-rounded ball clubs that are top-tier defensive forces. The Bulls are similar, except they now receive a major jolt of life with a 24-year-old, former MVP in their midst.

    His addition to a blossoming supporting core should equal the all-around mix needed to dethrone the boys from South Beach.