When Derrick Rose crumpled to the UC floor in Game 1 of the first round series vs Philadelphia, the Chicago Bulls season ended. There has been a lot of "What if" and "Maybe" but reality is you don't win 16 playoff games without your star player, not even in this strange season. The Philadelphia series exposed everything about the team that Bulls fans quietly knew would cost them. Without Derrick Rose, the Bulls are a likeable team that tries hard but are comprised up of 11 role players made better but one tremendous talent. There are no other game changer on this team, no other man who can carry you for 8 to 10 minutes at a time. No one who you can give the ball to and say "Stop this run" or "Win The Game". As much we can extol the virtues of team play and depth, the NBA is a star's league; always has been, always will be. The Spurs played great together as a team but they have been eliminated the last two years in the playoffs because the opposition had the best player(s). Zach Randolph was the best player in the 2011 series and the young trio of Durant,Westbrook, and Harden took turns in the Spurs being "pseudo" swept this season. The Bulls have to know answer serious questions about who is around Derrick Rose and is it good enough? D-Rose's knee will heal, its honestly my least worry. Here is what i worry about. The "core" of this team are all older than him and making big money.
People try to compare this Bulls team to the glory days of the early 90s. There is a HUGE difference between those two teams. In the early 90s, Jordan was the established star in his prime waiting on Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant to grow up and become forces. In 2012, the star player is D-Rose at age 23 and his supporting cast are all guys who are set in what they are. Luol Deng , while only 27, will be starting year nine in the NBA. He is not getting anymore athletic, nor will he become a better ball handler capable of getting his own shot. Joakim Noah, also 27, will be entering year six and while he is every bit the energy player and has value in that, he is nothing more than a richer Anderson Varajo (check the numbers if i am lying http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/players/3847) . And of course there is Carlos Boozer who enters his 11th year in the NBA with a huge contract and diminishing returns. Boozer is 2 for 16 in the last two Bulls elimination games and failed to play a fourth quarter. Taj Gibson, who will be 27, nears free agency and is sure to command big dollars and a starting position from somebody. Gibson was a warrior in the 76ers series and a keeper but will his asking price become too high based on the locked in the dollars of Noah, Deng, Boozer.
So with all that doom and gloom for a team that had best record in the East , where do they go? What is the next move? The next moves are moves that Bulls management will have a hard time dealing with but must be done .
Who is the 2nd gunman on the Grassy Knoll? 2nd options do not come by trading off spare parts and bad contracts. Assuming Boozer will not be amniestied (every Bulls fan wet dream), the Bulls have to look at Noah or Deng and decide which pill is least bitter to swallow and make a move to find a wing player who can score the ball on his own to take pressure off Rose. Noah and Deng are favorites of both management and fans but reality is to get that true difference maker, one of them wont be here. Have fun with the Trade Machine http://espn.go.com/nba/trademachine, I certainly hope GarPax are
Clear out the backcourt: Everyone named Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler can go.The Rose knee injury exposed the reality that they have a backcourt that is filled with one trick ponies and when asked to pull a second trick off are not capable. Kyle Korver disappeared again when facing real defense, Ronnie Brewer lost minutes to John Lucas III , and CJ Watson when asked to run the club made ill-fated decision time and time again. None of these players are to be faulted because none of them should have been asked to do more which goes back to the greatness and importance of Rose.
Take the Boston Approach: Rose and Deng will both probably be out until Christmas time next season. The Bulls will need to spend the first two months of the season holding down the fort. Thibs has to do a better job of managing the regular season. No more 40+ minutes nights for your main guys against the dregs of the league. Banged up players can't play heavy minutes until they are ready to play consistant minutes (i.e Hamilton). Being a number 5 or 6 seed will not be the worst thing in the world, frankly it might be the best thing
Last Point: For all the jokes about the Heat 's 2 1/2 men, the Bulls right now have 1 man (Rose), one half-man (Deng), one 1/3-man (noah), and a 1/4-man (boozer). Add all that up and it doesn;'t add up to this team winning a title anytime soon unless something big happens, and amnestying Boozer isn't enough. Do you want to be the Lebron Cavaliers? I know I don't. Get your star some real help