Bulls Championship Hopes Shrink to 0.7% After Derrick Rose Injury

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Indiana PacersPhoto by Brian Spurlock/US PRESSWIRE

Watching Derrick Rose hobble off the court on Saturday against the Portland Trail Blazers left me short of words. Rose was playing one of the better games of his highly anticipated “Return” season to the NBA, and all signs showed that he still had that elite athleticism that enabled him to be the youngest player to win league MVP just 3 years ago. The news that we all did not want to hear was confirmed this morning, and Derrick Rose will miss the remainder of the 2013-14 NBA season after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. The Bulls, who at the start of the season were projected to win 56.4 wins and were given a 15.3% probability to win the NBA championship, are now looking at a projected 43.3 wins and little hope to win the NBA championship based on our latest BSports NBA Season Standings Projections.

Bulls Projections and Probabilities

Season Start56.425.699.9%66.6%26.3%15.3%
As of 11/2352.829.299.8%13.6%18.2%9.6%
As of 11/25 (Rose out)43.338.789.8%0.7%3.4%0.7%

The Chicago Bulls, under coach Tom Thibodeau, are a defensive team. This is their identity, and is the stabilizing factor that allowed the Bulls to make the playoffs and win a first round series last season without Derrick Rose. The Bulls have been a top-5 defense in each of Thibodeau’s four season as head coach, and their defensive rating (points allowed per 100 minutes) of 97.2 is third best in the NBA this season. Digging deeper, the numbers show that the Bulls defense is better when Derrick Rose is not on the court. Derrick Rose carries such a heavy offensive load that he often does not exert full effort on the defensive end. Kirk Hinrich, who will assume the starting job in Roses’ absence, is a tough nosed defender who will be able to keep the Bulls defense at its elite level.

Bulls Offensive and Defensive Ratings

Offensive Rating
Defensive Rating
2013-14 Rose on Court97.2100.6
2013-14 Rose off Court96.693.0
2011-12 Rose on Court107.697.0
2011-12 Rose off Court102.193.9

The Bulls offense will most likely now run through the post. Carlos Boozer, the man who many thought would be traded by the trade deadline, has been the Bulls best and most consistent offensive player this season (16.8 ppg on 51% shooting). Joakim Noah showed the ability to be a playmaker in the post last season as he led all centers in assists at 4 per game.

Unlike last season, the Bulls are without the services of  Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson who were able to penetrate and shift the shape of opposing defenses to take some of the offensive pressure off the other Bulls. Marquis Teague is the only player on the Bulls roster who has the quickness to do this, but he has been inconsistent and is still very inexperienced running a NBA offense.

Luol Deng will also be relied upon, but after playing career highs in minutes the past two season, the Bulls will need to be careful not to push Deng to a point of ineffectiveness due to fatigue. Deng is averaging a 5-year low in minutes per game, but has not been sharp on the offensive end as he is shooting 19% from three-point land and averaging a career high 2.4 turnovers.

The Bulls long term strategy will play a big role in how this season will fare. Trading away veterans like Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng (expiring contract) would be a step towards rebuilding and planning for the reality that Derrick Rose is now an NBA player with multiple knee surgeries on his record. Taj Gibson and Jimmy Bulter would given bigger roles if the Bulls go down this path, and a trip to the NBA Draft Lottery would be a real possibility. Needless to say, the Bulls are not a championship caliber team without Derrick Rose. They are a playoff team in a weak Eastern Conference, but they no longer can be mentioned in the same sentence as the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers. What a shame. Get well soon DRose.

*Offensive and Defensive ratings of courtesy of NBA.com/Stats

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