Derrick Rose is out for the remainder of the season after undergoing knee surgery. What's next for the Chicago Bulls? Our 5-on-5 team weighs in.
1. Is this ...
a. The end of a Bulls era?
b. A speed bump?
c. Something else?
Nick Friedell, ESPN Chicago: A. They do not have enough talent without Rose to win a championship, and I never thought they had enough talent to begin with. This Bulls roster should look much different when he returns. If it doesn't, the Bulls will continue to reside in the middle of basketball hell.
Andrew Han, ClipperBlog: C. It's an opportunity disguised as a setback. How often does a franchise have the luxury to evaluate its roster with an MVP-caliber player waiting in the wings? Even if Rose does not return as the same player, he'll still be a very good one. And Chicago can use this season to better complement its point guard's eventual return.
Seerat Sohi, Hardwood Paroxysm: A. The halcyon days of 2011 now occupy memory's attic. Rose's injury may only serve to speed up the inevitable. Carlos Boozer has been an amnesty candidate since the clause was introduced, and even under ideal circumstances, the Bulls would be hesitant to pay Luol Deng the lucrative contract he warrants.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, TrueHoop: A. This would be a depressing end to what was the defensive version of Phoenix's "7 seconds or less." It's just that the Bulls haven't done an adequate job of replenishing the bench talent they've lost. Also, just as D'Antoni's offensive methods were so influential that he lost his competitive advantage, Thibodeau's defensive style has been adopted by other teams. These factors, combined with Derrick Rose's missing seasons where development was supposed to happen, likely excuses them from title contention for some years.
Tom Sunnergren, Hoop76: B. Let's call it a dream deferred. There's good reason to believe Rose will be back and healthy -- meniscus injuries aren't career enders, usually -- and while some of the ancillary vets may be at the end of their own eras with the team (think Boozer, Hinrich and Deng) the core of Rose, Noah, Butler and Thibs isn't going anywhere. I wouldn't count them out.
2. What is the Bulls' revised ceiling for this season?
Friedell: Same as last year. A trip to the second round of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The difference is that this team isn't as deep as last year's team was.
Han: The Bulls are likely still the third-best team in the sinking East. The Bulls had a less flashy roster last season and still managed 45 wins against a more vivacious conference. Are they contenders for the East crown without Rose? No, but the first three weeks of Rose's return did not inspire substantive confidence in that regard either.
Sohi: Hard to say. Attempting to siphon anything meaningful out of two games is an inherently dangerous task, but the truth may be in the small sample size: Chicago has been devastatingly awful in Rose's absence. If the Bulls want to make the playoffs, they will. If they don't want to, well, they still might. The Eastern Conference is just that terrible.
Strauss: Chicago's ceiling is "3-seed, second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs." I actually think this was their ceiling even before the Rose injury happened. Unless there's some dramatic Heat or Pacers injury, the Bulls are locked behind those two teams.
Sunnergren: Shellshock losses to the Clippers and Jazz notwithstanding, the absence of Rose shouldn't make Chicago immediately worse. He'd been bad this season, guys. As in: 284th out of 319 qualified players in true shooting percentage and 383rd in win shares. So, absent their MVP, about .500 feels right for this group, with a ceiling of maybe 45 wins and a side of postseason friskiness. Sound familiar?
3. Should the Bulls trade Luol Deng this season?
Friedell: Absolutely. He has shown no willingness to take a hometown discount, and the Bulls have shown no willingness to show him more money. Why would the Bulls allow him to walk on July 1 without getting anything in return?
Han: If Deng can yield some kind of quality in return, sure. There isn't an abundance of available players that would be an upgrade over Deng (operative word being "available" since, of course, there are better players), but let's say the Cavs offered their 2014 pick, projected to be a mid-first-rounder? That's infinitely preferable to letting Deng walk this offseason.
Sohi: Yes. The forward's tenure in Chicago has been oddly turbulent yet celebrated. Deng's best days appear to be behind him, though, and Bulls fans are all too familiar with his past injury issues. Deng's value on the trade market is unclear but he'd be a valuable piece on any team with playoff aspirations. A first-round pick should do the trick.
Strauss: Yes. Jimmy Butler has replaced some of what Deng does, and Deng isn't getting any better. As defensively versatile as Deng is, his poor dribbling can hinder the offense. The Bulls likely want to find a better defending small forward on the market, but they could certainly use a guy who shoots and handles better.
Sunnergren: Yes. A silver lining of the Rose injury is that it frees Chicago from having to use loss-averse contender logic with respect to its own free agents. Now that a title is out of the question, the Bulls should trade Deng for the best deal they can get, then let somebody else pay megabucks this offseason to a 29-year-old who's never been better than "good."
4. Should the Bulls tank this season?
Friedell: Tom Thibodeau will not tank. Ever. The end.
Han: With no Derrick Rose, no real bench and injuries to key players like Deng and Noah last season, the Bulls still clawed out a .549 win percentage, upset Brooklyn in the first round and secured one playoff game victory over the Heat. Tom Thibodeau has really cemented the idea in the public conscious that these Chicago Bulls are tank-proof.
Sohi: A single-season tank would be the pragmatic move -- especially with such a loaded draft class -- but mutilating the team so severely that Tom Thibodeau can't make them competitive is easier said than done. I'm only partially joking when I say this: In the East, losing might be harder than winning.
Strauss: Yes, but they won't. I just don't think the tanking strategy is feasible here, even if it's the only logical escape from all of those heavy contracts. Getting someone like Jabari Parker is about the only way the capped-out Bulls can dramatically improve, but team culture won't allow such failure. The obsession with effort and defense that made the Bulls so great will block their only avenue to greatness.
Sunnergren: No. Because they no longer have the imperative to Win Right Now, they can make moves with an eye on the future (see question No. 3), but a wholesale tank job is out of the question for this group. There are simply too many good players on this team, too many guys who care, and too much Thibodeau for it to work -- especially in the East.
5. What do you expect from Derrick Rose in 2014-15?
Friedell: I expect him to work like hell to get back on the floor. I expect him to be the same kind of player when he returns. Even after two knee surgeries. The question is, can he stay healthy -- and that's the only thing nobody knows at this point.
Han: I'd expect Rose to pick up where he left off. Injuries are never good, but a meniscus tear is a relatively common occurrence in the NBA. And in Rose's case, the medial meniscus is supposedly not as debilitating as the lateral. There is justifiably a lot of concern for one of the league's stars, but it seems like lingering sentiment from Rose's previous ACL injury rather than his current state of health.
Sohi: Again, hard to say. By November 2014, Rose will have played a total of 10 games over a 30-month span. That's a ton of rust to shake off, even for a talent as heady as Rose. Suffice it to say, I have no expectations, only a smidgen of vague optimism.
Strauss: Sadly, I expect more of the same. He was racking up injuries before the 2012 ACL tear. Upon getting back, he suffered more injuries before last week's meniscus tear. The reckless way he moves is partially why he's such a great player to watch. He often plants his foot, heel first, far in front of his body, with all his body's momentum crashing into his leg like a wave. Until he somehow modifies his movements, I expect more injuries down the road.
Sunnergren: I'm cautiously optimistic he'll bounce back. There's evidence that NBA players generally make a full recovery from meniscus tears -- Russell Westbrook took his lateral meniscus just seven months ago, a more serious injury than the medial tear Rose suffered, and he's already rounding into form -- but there are tons of unanswered questions. Is Rose just injury prone? Will his stil-recovering left ACL hamper his ability to rehab his right knee? What are the developmental consequences of his missing two seasons in the prime of his career?
ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network
Nick Friedell covers the NBA for ESPN Chicago. Andrew Han, Seerat Sohi, Ethan Sherwood Strauss and Tom Sunnergren contribute to the TrueHoop Network.
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