No, he's not a lock down defender, and no, he isn't making all the plays on the defensive end of the court. However, after watching the Bulls lose to the Grizzlies making the case for Rose as defensive MVP is simple.
When he's not on the floor, the team's offense consistently puts the other team in position to score with a high turnover count and an inability to penetrate to the rim.
It's not the high turnover count that did the Bulls in, or the fast break points directly. The numbers (19 turnovers, 17 fast break points) weren't that far out of the ordinary.
What was out of the ordinary was where the turnovers occurred and where the opposing defense was setting up. Without Rose on the floor the Bulls struggled to respond to a pressing defense. The Grizzlies forced turnovers out at the three point line repeatedly for easy fast break points rather than two on threes or three on fours.
They forced the Bulls into long rebounds where they were able to score consistently through early offensive opportunities before the Bulls defense was entirely set.
Even without Zach Randolph in the game [and perhaps in this game it was helped that he wasn't there], the Grizzlies scored 62 points in the paint. Their high FG% was largely a function of Derrick Rose not pressuring the opposing defense. Not forcing players to stack back or collapse around the rim to defend him.
Without Rose in the game, the Grizzlies were able to consistently press an early advantage on offense for easy points, and the Bulls could do little to stop them.
By the time C.J. Watson worked the rust out and started his Derrick Rose impression, the Bulls were down by 20, and it was simply too late. The Bulls will be buffered by Watson's return, and after he worked the rust out, he showed he can still provide efficient scoring for the team.
Luol Deng stepped up and had a fairly nice outing scoring 20 points on 18 shots was a vast improvement over the game against the Wizards where he went 5/21 despite playing against a more accomplished player in Rudy Gay. Carlos Boozer chipped in with 13 points on 10 shots himself to help the offensive load.
Taj Gibson had another beast of a game where it felt like he had at least 10 offensive rebounds even if it was only three. How does Taj not start next year, and why wait until then?
Joakim Noah quietly disappeared again, and while Omer has hands of stone, the Bulls sometimes turn the ball over far more trying to utilize Noah's improved ball handling and passing rather than ignoring the center position on offense except when open dunks are involved.
Noah's game has simply regressed, and I think in order to see the higher scoring player we saw last year, he needs to consistently touch the ball over and over to get a good feel for it. That's why he plays well when Boozer is out. However, with Boozer in there and Noah getting occasional touches his offensive ability becomes less steady.
If that's the problem, is it worth feeding Noah over and over to maximize his offense? Hard to say, but probably not. However at his best, he's very effective passing out of the low or high post and can make himself a threat. Noah simply needs to find a way to play more consistently with the opportunities he gets rather than having his game fall apart.
Of course, the Bulls 1/12 shooting from the three point line didn't help them much either. It's not hard to imagine that knocking down 4/12 would have put the Bulls in position to compete in parts of this game. They had plenty of wide open misses as well including a couple by Kyle Korver.
All in all, the Bulls lack of offensive firepower is completely exposed with Derrick Rose out for a game. At the same time, Chicago might benefit from Rose missing a few games if it forces the rest of the team into a more shot creating mindset that can spill over to when he gets back.
Too many times his teammates stand around waiting for someone else to create offense with no one there to do it. C.J. Watson may take on that burden as the rust wears out, but do the Bulls really want C.J. Watson becoming the focal point of the offense?
It was once said about the dynasty Bulls that the triangle wasn't for Michael Jordan, the triangle was for everyone else. It gave the rest of the team something to fall back on when Jordan was out or not shooting well. It gave everyone else a comfort zone in terms of how to create shots and where they'd be.
I'm not suggesting the Bulls install the triangle, but it's painfully obvious that they have nothing to fall back on with Rose out. The players don't feel comfortable or know where they're suppose to be. With scant practice time, they'll have to figure it out on the fly just like everyone else.
Filed under: Players