From the moment when Derrick Rose was diagnosed with a torn ACL in his left knee last spring – a horrific injury that could have been avoided late in a blowout Game 1 playoff victory – the Chicago Bulls knew their lives would be drastically different in the months ahead.
And while the Bulls and their fourth-ranked defense have been able to stay relevant in a decidedly soft Eastern Conference, their fears have been realized just the same. In a league that places a premium on star talent like no other, there is no way to replace a franchise player – especially on short notice.
Just how much has coach Tom Thibodeau’s team missed its 2011 Most Valuable Player in the first 10 weeks of the season? Let us count the ways:
- It should come as no surprise that without its most athletic and gifted scorer and ball distributor, the offense has lacked energy and direction in large doses. Or to paraphrase Kobe Bryant, it has the look of an old damn team that’s just too slow on too many nights.
- This isn’t to suggest that Rose is the one and only reason for the decline. To some extent, it can be blamed on a less effective bench that underwent an overhaul last summer when Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson were not adequately replaced.
- The fundamental problem is that the absence of Rose leaves veteran Nate Robinson as the only perimeter player who can create opportunities with the ball, which the trigger-happy veteran tends to do at the expense of those around him. (Robinson ranks 59th in Assist Rate among guards who average at least 15 minutes per game, Hoopdata.com tells us.) What’s more, the offense has no go-to guy in clutch situations or to bail it out as the shot clock winds down.
Result: The Bulls rank 24th in offensive efficiency at 99.3 points per 100 possessions. Last season, they were fifth at 104.5.
The Rose Factor has had a ripple effect throughout the lineup, as each of the five positions has a lower Effective Field Goal Percentage than a season ago, most notably the center (-1.02) and shooting guard (-0.60) spots.
Among regulars, the most effective five-man unit consisted of Rose, Richard Hamilton, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah last season, according to 82games.com. At a .562 win percentage, Hamilton, Deng, Boozer, Noah and Kirk Hinrich form the best group this season. What that means is if both units played every minute of every game, the one with Rose would have a 63-19 record, while the one with Hinrich would finish with a 46-36 mark.
How many times have we seen Rose drive to the bucket then drop the ball off to a teammate for an easy basket? Or have a teammate score on a put-back after the defensive collapses on him? Well, there hasn’t been much of that this season, as the oft-injured, 32-year-old Hinrich can do little more than catch and pitch these days.
In particular, the bigs have felt the brunt of it.