No team was more plagued by the shortened NBA season of 2011-2012 than the Chicago Bulls. Across the whole season, they lost the following players to severe injuries: Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose and Loul Deng. That trio, all injured at different times, hindered the Bulls chance of taking the next step to elite title contender. Rose’s injury, a torn ACL, was the most detrimental. The former MVP and their best player wasn’t around when the Bulls reached the postseason. Without him and his electric game, the Bulls lost round one of the playoffs to the Philadelphia 76ers.
The most remarkable about this is that even with the injury problems, the Bulls finished with a record a 50-16. That’s a testament to two things: 1. That the Bulls have a deep roster and 2. That Tom Thibodeau knows how to coach. Outside of their “Big Three,” the Bulls have solid players like Kirk Hinrich, Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson and Richard Hamilton on the roster. They are deep, especially in the backcourt. That depth was increased in free agency and in the draft when they added Nate Robinson and Marquis Teague, respectively. They also added Nazr Mohammed, a center who can give them some solid minutes off the bench. This Bulls team is 10 deep, which on paper, no other team in the Central Division can say.
The key to the Bulls staying elite is the health of Derrick Rose. Considering he tore his ACL in April, it’s not realistic to see him play right away in October. The earliest he should be expected back is around late February or early March. That is about a ten-month recovery period, and that’s at the earliest. It’s not out of the question that Rose could miss the whole season in order to let him heal fully.
Even if Rose does come back, he likely won’t be the Derrick Rose we saw before the injury. It’s going to take him time to get the rust out of his game and to get used to playing at NBA speed again. So in a way, it would be better for Rose to miss the entire season in order to be healed for 2013-2014. Then the Bulls can make their run at an NBA title.
Oddly enough, the Cavs could learn a lot from the Bulls. Like the Bulls, the Cavs are lead by a superstar at point guard (Kyrie Irving). They have an active, good rebounding big man, like the Bulls have in Joakim Noah, in Anderson Varejao. What they need to do is keep getting deeper through the draft, through veteran pick ups, and like the Bulls did with Hamilton, sign a well-known free agent that can help them get over the hump. It should be interesting to watch these two teams battle in the coming years.
Overall, expect the Bulls to be a solid team this season. They will not be elite, especially without Rose, but they will win a good number of games and make the playoffs. They likely won’t win the title this season, but their future is very bright as long as Derrick Rose can stay healthy.