Healthy Rose puts Bulls back in title picture
The NBA does not award a Comeback Player of the Year.
It would be pretty easy to tab a front-runner.
Derrick Rose missed the entire 2012-13 NBA season after he tore his ACL in the first round of the playoffs in 2012.
His decision to skip the entire campaign, including the playoffs, was met with some controversy. The Chicago Bulls acknowledged that Rose had been medically cleared to play in early March.
Rose elected not to return. Through it all, Rose, the Bulls brass and his fellow teammates all defended the decision, even in the playoffs when Chicago topped the Brooklyn Nets in seven games. Kirk Hinrich was out, Luol Deng was hurt and Nate Robinson was seen at one point throwing up in a bucket on the bench.
But Rose still sat and cheered. He wasn't ready, either mentally or physically.
He is now.
The Bulls were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference in 2011-12. Rose was the MVP the season prior and to get a player of his caliber back in the lineup is obviously a huge improvement.
Rose will anchor a Bulls group that has its eyes set on big things this season.
Who's In/Who's Out
Key Additions: Mike Dunleavy Jr., Erik Murphy, Tony Snell, Mike James
Key Losses: Marco Belinelli, Richard Hamilton, Nate Robinson, Vladimir Radmanovic, Daequan Cook, Malcolm Thomas
The starting unit of Rose, Jimmy Butler, who became a tremendous asset in the playoffs, Joakim Noah, Deng and Carlos Boozer is one of the league's best.
Tom Thibodeau is also one of the NBA's best coaches, with a defense-first mentality.
The bench is thin, but the top three reserves are solid, versatile veterans.
The recipe is solid. The Bulls want to be back among the NBA's elite, but it all starts with Rose, who can't wait for the resumption of his career.
Their MVP is back
Solid and Playoff Tested
Youth Making Strides
Borderline Playoff Team
Mediocre in Milwaukee
A healthy Rose is one of the best players in the league. His scoring numbers dipped in 2011-12, but, hey, the guy was the MVP the season before so that was bound to happen.
Noah made his first All-Star team last season and was named to the All-Defensive first team. He averaged career-bests of 11.9 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 4.0 apg, 2.1 bpg and 1.2 spg. Noah may not be as big a part of the Bulls' prospective success as Rose, but he's not too far behind.
Deng made his second straight All-Star game last season and, also for the second year in a row, led the NBA in minutes per game. His all-around numbers were great (16.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg and 3.0 apg) and if Deng isn't the best wing defender in the game, he's in the top three. Deng missed significant time in the postseason after complications arose from a spinal tap and his wrist has bothered him for some time. Deng is a free agent after the season and early reports suggest, against Thibodeau's wishes, the Bulls are prepared to let him walk. That could make him trade bait midseason.
Boozer made $15 million last season to average 16.2 ppg and 9.8 rpg. If you ignore salary (hard to do), those numbers are solid and Boozer played more minutes than the year before. It's trendy to beat up on Boozer and yes, Taj Gibson will see plenty of action, and some times, at the end of close games, but Boozer is a professional power forward.
Butler has also developed into a very reliable player and excellent defencder
The Not So Good
We saw what the Bulls were without Rose last season and that was a very solid team. But this team has title aspirations and that all depends on Rose.
It's a little daunting to pin all of your hopes on a guy just returning from an ACL tear. Sure he looks healthy and is flying around like his old self in the pre-season, but can that surgically repaired knee last the rigours of an 82-game season?
If he can't stay healthy, the Bulls title hopes are out the window.
What To Expect
Can the Bulls return to the pre-ACL Bulls? If Rose is finally ready to go, the answer is an emphatic yes. Chicago has a fantastic eight-man rotation built on defense, rebounding and teamwork.
It all rests on Rose. That happens when you're a top-10 player in the league. He will make everyone on the floor better and that's saying something for a group of injured soldiers who advanced to the second round without him.
There are five clear teams that should reign above the Eastern Conference - the Bulls, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks. Chicago could win the Central Division easily. If Rose returns with an Olympic-sized chip on his shoulder, then the No. 1 overall seed in the East is within reach.
The Bulls are a championship contender, however, it wouldn't be fair to call them a favorite. Chicago will be an elite team, but to expect a trip to the Finals in Rose's first season back is too optimistic.