This prediction is partly based in the East's mediocrity, but Tom Thibodeau and the Chicago Bulls have proven before that you can't expect them to die without Derrick Rose.
Yes, this year's Rose-less Bulls have less shot creators than last year's. No one expected Chicago to sorely miss Nate Robinson or Marco Belinelli in 2013-14, and it shouldn't come to that.
Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer can hold up as the rocks of the offense, while Jimmy Butler is improving as an off-ball weapon and Kirk Hinrich is a stable presence at point guard. If Mike Dunleavy or Tony Snell can turn into a reliable bench scorer, the Bulls won't be significantly worse off than last season.
Either way, the Bulls still boast the third-most efficient defense in basketball.
With Deng, Butler, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, Chicago can keep points off the board without Rose. The Bulls rode those guys to a fifth-place finish in defensive efficiency last season, so with Butler growing and Deng playing for a contract, that staunchness can be replicated.
The .500 Atlanta Hawks don't have third in the East locked up by any means, and no one is showing signs of breaking out. That seed is open for the taking, and the Bulls have shown that they have the means to take it—with their superstar or without him.