Derrick Rose's Strong Return Means Bulls Will Challenge Heat in East

Kenny DeJohnAnalyst IIIOctober 28, 2013

WICHITA, KS - OCTOBER 23: Derrick Rose # 1 of the Chicago Bulls controls the ball against Reggie Jackson # 15 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during the NBA preseason game on October 23, 2013 at the Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Shane Bevel/NBAE via Getty Images)

Derrick Rose is back and healthy, and that's great news for the Chicago Bulls.

With Rose back at the helm, the Bulls have a legitimate shot at challenging the Miami Heat for the Eastern Conference title.

Rose was absolutely incredible during the preseason. He averaged 20.71 points, five assists and 3.3 rebounds while shooting an incredible 44.4 percent from deep. Rose also had a player efficiency rating (PER) of 34.97.

Rose was a huge reason why the Bulls went 8-0 in preseason play. He'll once again be the catalyst for the Bulls in the regular season and his return to the starting five could be enough to knock off the defending back-to-back NBA champs in Miami.

The Bulls managed a 45-37 record last season without their superstar point guard. That record was enough to earn them the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. It took the Bulls seven games to defeat the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs, but the Heat proved to be too much for them in the semifinals, as their five-game series was never dominated by Chicago.

With Rose back in the lineup, the Bulls stand to improve significantly. It's not easy to pin an exact win total to the team given the fact that there are still some lingering questions about Rose's health moving forward, but the Bulls could be in line for a 52-win season if he stays healthy.

More importantly, though, Rose's return means the Bulls can match up much better with the Heat.

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Rose's defense is enough to make a difference by itself. The combination of Rose, Jimmy Butler and Carlos Boozer or Joakim Noah is more than capable of defending the likes of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, respectively, making the contests between the two clubs exciting to watch this season.

Chicago was at a noticeable disadvantage in the semifinals of last season's playoffs with either Nate Robinson or Marco Belinelli guarding Wade, but that won't be the case in 2013-14.

Rose makes the Bulls a much more cohesive unit, and that's scary for opposing teams when considering the fact that Chicago already ranked third in the NBA in points per game allowed last season. The Bulls allowed the opposition an average of just 92.9 points on 44.3 percent shooting each time out.

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Miami was still able to figure out the Bulls in the playoffs, but that had a whole lot to do with the mismatches on defense. Not having Rose on offense obviously didn't help either.

Chicago's former NBA MVP will also make invaluable contributions with the ball in his hands. Last season, the Bulls lacked a legitimate playmaker to facilitate the offense and take big shots at the end of quarters or games. The Bulls were mostly a defense-first team, but with Rose back in the lineup, they are arguably one of the most well-balanced teams in the league.

Rose's ability to make plays near the basket and set up his teammates on the perimeter when he's doubled is a quality that suits the Bulls perfectly. They have very good outside shooters in Luol Deng and Mike Dunleavy, and Rose will hook up with them often this season.

It won't be easy to defeat Miami in the playoffs, but Chicago has a legitimate shot at it. The return of Rose makes this Chicago team much more dangerous on both offense and defense. The presence of Rose alone is enough to propel the Bulls to new heights.