The Chicago Bulls stand at 30-20 without their MVP, Derrick Rose, and they have silenced the critics several times. During the off-season the Bulls completely renovated their highly praised bench but judging from the progress the Bulls have made this season I believe this bench is even better than last year’s. Their current bench with Nate Robinson, Kirk Hinrich (who has been a started in Derrick Rose’s absence), Marco Belinelli, Jimmy Butler, and Taj Gibson has not lost a step defensively but they are also much more effective offensively. As great as Kyle Korver was at the 3-pointer, he couldn’t find his own shot and handle the ball like Marco Belinelli can. Jimmy Butler was a rookie for the Bulls last year and didn’t get much playing time so this year he took advantage of many opportunities to play more minutes with injuries to Luol Deng and Richard Hamilton. Jimmy Butler, like Ronnie Brewer in the past, is a versatile defender of point guards, shooting guards, and small forwards, but unlike Ronnie Brewer, Jimmy Butler can handle the ball, find his own shot, and shoot more efficiently. The only way the Bulls’ bench has lost a step is through the loss of Omer Asik, but that is only because Nazr Mohammed is horrible!
I’m not sure how Tom Thibodeau is going to divide the minutes between Nate Robinson and Kirk Hinrich because they both offer things the Bulls need even with Derrick Rose in the lineup. Kirk Hinrich is a solid facilitator, defender, and he can stretch the floor as a threat from the perimeter. Nate Robinson is the offensive spark off the bench, he is the energy guy for the bench lineup, and he can score from anywhere on the court. I am guessing the transition will be easy for Thibodeau at first because Derrick will probably not play for more than 25 minutes a game to begin with.
I figured the Bulls would finish the season with about 48 wins if Derrick Rose was back by January, I never would have imagined they’d be 10 games over .500 going into the All-Star break and Derrick Rose hasn’t played a second yet. This gives me and it should give every Bulls fan a sense of hope, because the Bulls have already shown they can beat the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks without Derrick Rose, so if he can come back at at least 85% then the Bulls have more than a big enough chance to win the Eastern Conference and contend for a championship.
Derrick Rose is just 2 years removed from being league MVP and leading the Chicago Bulls to their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since 1998. It would be naive to believe he will be back at MVP form but it is more than believable that he can still be at superstar form. I cannot imagine anyway Derrick Rose’s return could negatively affect this Bulls team as long as he is healthy. I am not foolish enough to believe that they are better than the Miami Heat, the New York Knicks, or even the Indiana Pacers but in a 7 game series, anything is possible and with a leader like Derrick Rose the Bulls are true contenders.
The return of Derrick Rose takes pressure off of Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, who are strong defensive players and are efficient on offense but with the absence of Derrick Rose they have been pressured to step up more offensively and play heavier minutes. The fact that Marco Belinelli, Richard Hamilton, and Carlos Boozer are being consistently effective on offense takes pressure off of Derrick Rose when he returns so he does not have to take over games like he had to in the past. There are a lot of good signs indicating that the Bulls can be contenders with the return of Derrick Rose.