July 23, 2012
Just, exactly, what can these Bulls hope to accomplish without their star point guard?
Early time tables suggest the going will be mighty rough, and that March is a realistic landing spot for Rose to return to the hardwood. But that isn’t likely going to be early enough to save Chicago’s season. After all, without Rose, the Bulls crumbled against the 76ers in the first round of the playoffs and were eliminated. Yes, the number one seed in the entire league got eliminated by the Philadelphia 76ers.
No one can be mad at the Bulls, though. The wind went out of the sails. As solid as the team has been without Rose during the regular season when he endured several injuries (18-9) in 2011, it clearly wasn’t enough to catapult the team into the next round of the playoffs.
Let’s not get things mixed up. Going 18-9 without your star player is pretty darn good. That’s winning over 66% of your games without your hands down best player.
But that’s just 27 games in a lockout shortened season. And those games were in lumps – not all at once like the 2012-13 is going to demand.
So, realistically, what can the Bulls hope for when March comes? The answer is not much.
Kirk Hinrich, while a solid defensive guard and a quality distributor, simply isn’t the player he was when his career first began with the Bulls. It’s nice to see him back with the team that originally drafted him (via a trade with the Atlanta Hawks that sent Kyle Korver to Atlanta and brought in Vladamir Radmonovic), but he’s no savior at this point in his career.
Hinrich is an average scorer, an average distributor, and a better than average defender. I love the guy, but that doesn’t describe a superstar point guard. He can start still, to be sure. He can hang. He can lead. He can help the Bulls try to stay competitive. But he isn’t going to solve the problem.
Neither will rookie Marquis Teague, despite his great talent and potential. He’s just too raw and there’s not much sense playing him ahead of Hinrich, as Hinrich is more fundamentally sound. He might be a decent spark off the bench, but he could just as easily bring very little to the table.
The Bulls aren’t without talent, as dark as this picture is starting to appear. They still have a defensive force in the paint in Joakim Noah. That’s a major asset, just as long as you don’t start getting a crazy idea that now, without Rose, Noah should take on a bigger offensive role. Because that just shouldn’t happen. He rebounds, blocks shots, intimidates, and leads. Shooting and scoring – not so much.
Carlos Boozer, on the other hand, will be called upon to step up considerably. He’s shown in the past he can put up points, and his steady jumper has range and could help Chicago stay competitive if forced into action a little more. However, he has struggled to stay healthy over the years, so that could be a problem, too.
Then there’s Luol Deng, who clearly has tons of untapped potential still, as he’s played second fiddle to Rose for the past few years. I’m not sold on him as being anything close to a superstar, but he has proven in spurts he can pour on 20+ points, and could potentially be the answer for a Rose-less Bulls squad.
But if we’re being realistic, that’s just not very likely. And all of these above-average players together, again, if we’re being realistic, don’t really equate to a formidable roster. Their bench doesn’t, either. And neither does an aging Richard Hamilton, who the team could still trade or release at any moment.
The fact is, you don’t replace Derrick Rose with some extra bodies, an old, familiar face at point guard, and just hope for the best. But actually – unfortunately – that’s exactly what the Bulls are going to have to do heading into the 2012-13 NBA season.
They won’t be gearing up for another first place finish or a title run. They’ll be trying to hold the fort down, waiting as long as possible and trying to remain as competitive as possible until March (or possibly a little sooner), until they can get some semblance of the player Derrick Rose was before his injury.