Where to set the season's expectations

Now that the roster is [likely] complete, we can begin to take a look at what the Bulls season may look like this year.

Derrick Rose misses the first 58 games?

If we assume that Rose is ready to come back on March 2nd (first game in March) then he'll miss 58 of the 82 games this season while playing in 24. It's also worth noting that when he returns, there will likely be an adjustment period in terms of the rest of the team learning to play with him again as well as Rose gaining his own rhythm and confidence back.

In other words, the first five to 10 games with Rose back might not necessarily be pretty either. It wouldn't surprise me to see the Bulls play worse for a couple weeks with Rose back in the lineup than they did prior to his injury simply due to the nature of everyone having to adjust [of course, the assumption with things getting worse is that they're able to play decently without him, if it's a trainwreck while he's out then it probably won't get worse].

Luol Deng to avoid surgery?

Deng's most recent interviews at the Olympics on the topic have said that his wrist feels well, and his plan to avoid surgery until after the 2012-13 season is intact. This is a glass half full/half empty type scenario. The fact that he believes he'll still need surgery after the 2012-13 season means [to me] that he won't be playing at full strength this year.

Sure, it's great that we'll get Deng for more games this year, and that's crucial at the start of the season when things will be especially tough without Derrick. However, without Rose, I'm not sure how effective one handed Deng is. Luol's never been much of a shot creator anyway, but we saw his creation skills take a serious nose dive last season post injury. With Rose in the lineup he could still make hay as a spot up shooter while slashing less, but without Rose we'll need more cutting and creation from Luol.

If he feels the surgery will help him play better in the long run, I'd probably prefer he get it done with right away. That said, not missing Deng for the first 15 games or so of the season will benefit Chicago right away, and it might benefit them more than whatever gain they'd get from improved play down the stretch.

Pre-Derrick rotation

PG: Kirk Hinrich 30 / Nate Robinson 18
SG: Rip Hamilton 26 / Marco Belinelli 22
SF: Luol Deng 36 / Jimmy Butler 12
PF: Carlos Boozer 28 / Taj 20
C: Joakim Noah 32 / Taj 10 / Nazr 6

Nazr, Vlad, and Teague will fill in to help compensate for injuries, foul trouble, and small minute gaps

Post-Derrick rotation

The "with Rose" rotation will likely be the same as without Rose except at PG with Nate Robinson sliding out of the rotation and Kirk Hinrich's role decreasing.

PG: Derrick Rose 30 / Kirk Hinrich 18

The old vs the new

If fully healthy, the team compares fairly well to last year. The Bulls come back downgraded in terms of shooting with Korver, Watson, and Lucas all being replaced by worse shooters by Belinelli, Hinrich, and Robinson. However, the ball handling and defense look improved with the new group to me.

The X-factor will be Jimmy Butler and his ability to replace Ronnie Brewer. Brewer was an underrated jump shooter last year, frequently judged by fans because he was lousy at shooting threes while his quality two point stroke that he could even knock down off a pull up was overlooked. Brewer wasn't great offensively by any stretch, but with his back door cuts and solid mid range game he was capable of burning a team that cheated on him.

Can Jimmy Butler consistently hit the same fairly low expectations? Last season he had to be encouraged to shoot more, frequently was lost in the offense, and scored largely by the Tyson Chandler flail drive move to draw fouls. He shot a mere 40% from the field while attempting a very low degree of difficulty array of shots.

However, Butler also had nearly no time to practice, no real training camp, and little off-season time to work with coaches. Like all rookies, he was in a tough spot to grow into the team dynamic last season. With those things in place this year, there's reason to hope for a significant upgrade in performance.

Butler also looked outstanding in summer league, which is a couple notches ahead of looking outstanding in a pick up game at the local gym, but a few below looking outstanding in pre-season game or regular season game. Still, given that it's all we have to judge, the signs are more encouraging than discouraging right now.

The F-factor [as in oh f---] is Nazr Mohammed attempting to replace Omer Asik. The Bulls lost a premier interior defender to replace him with a guy who can barely play at all. Nazr probably brings more on offense than Omer, and he's less likely to gack two critical free throws at the end of a game, but then Nazr would never be playing at the end of a game unless someone's hurt or fouled out.

The Bulls have the depth to absorb the loss of Asik without sustaining much damage to the team, but that only works out if the whole front court stays healthy. They largely managed that last season, but all three guys have greater than average injury concerns.

The downside is really low

Speaking of injuries, the best seven guys on the team have scary injury problems:

Derrick Rose - obviously missing most of the season with injury
Kirk Hinrich - lots of trouble staying healthy the past two years
Rip Hamilton - hasn't been healthy for 3 years
Luol Deng - starts season with significant injury
Carlos Boozer - long storied injury history
Joakim Noah - rather frail for a center, history of injury
Taj Gibson - coming off the bench, has played tons of games in his career, but dealt with plantar fasciitis more than once

Quite frankly, that's a lot. I'm not suggesting everyone gets hurt, but even outside of Rose [who obviously misses most of the season], you have to plan that most of these guys miss 20 games this year. That's got the potential to destroy Chicago in the front court where they can't absorb the losses and won't be so easy in the backcourt either.

Predictions?

If all goes well, the Bulls could still have a quality season. Nick Friedell predicted 50 wins for the Bulls, and while I think that's an "everything goes right" scenario, I don't think it's completely ludicrous that it could happen. Chicago will still be one of the best coached teams in the league, will still have an elite defense, will still have championship aspirations. If they can hold to .500 and get Derrick Rose back a month earlier than expected and play well upon his return, 50 wins isn't out of the question.

However, it's an overly optimistic view. If Kirk Hinrich can't stay healthy or proves he can't play PG anymore then this thing could be a train coming off the tracks. It wouldn't be hard to see an 07-08 type season where one or two injuries combined with a demoralizing start lead to a win total in the upper 20s or low 30s. If that happens we'll need to hope for some more 1.7% magic in the lottery, because things won't fall off bad enough to get great position naturally.

Given a fairly wide range of possibilities, I'm going to stake my claim at around 39 wins for the year right now with a guess at a March return for Rose and moderate [but not horrific] injury problems for the rest of the roster. Obviously a January [most optimistic estimate so far] return for Rose would push the need considerably in the other direction as it would massively improve the talent base to haev Rose play another 30 games as well as reduce the injury risk the team is at with a sueprstar to absorb 30 minutes a game.

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  • 4 players since 1999 have torn their ACL in April. 2 played in the season opener. 1 returned in December. The 4th, Leon Powe, who had bad knee problems already and was having it repaired for the 2nd time, was slower and returned in February.
    Everyone is different with this injury, but expectations for a March return are very, very pessimistic.

  • In reply to aaaa:

    Which players are these?

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Jamal Crawford tore his in mid-July and was back by the start of March. Baron Davis was back in just over 8 months. Both those were over a decade ago. I know Shumpert is targeting a January return date.

    There is no exact date for it, but 10 months is on the far end of what we've seen athletes recover from. My only fear would be that the injury was more severe than they led on and that's why the longer timetable. But if it's a straight ACL and there are no major setbacks, January or early February would be in line with what we've seen.

    I have torn mine and I was able to do everything at the 9 month mark and didn't have a team of doctors and expert physical therapists on call 24/7.

  • In reply to srt1:

    9 months basically puts him at Feb 1 which still has him missing more than half the season.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Bonzi Wells and Pat Garrity were ready at the start of the season. Vitaly Potapenko was back in December. Leon Powe came back in February. Those are the only players I know of that had injuries in April.
    Typically time missed is a function of when the injury occurred, because in the majority of cases the player is back in time for training camp. Sample of players who have late-season injuries is small.

  • In reply to aaaa:

    The record (for you optimists) is Steven Hunter, who somehow missed only about 4 months.

  • In reply to aaaa:

    Thanks for the info, I found the basketball prospectus article that quoted all of the different guys. Pretty interesting stuff, I had no idea guys were regularly returning that fast.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    even if derrick is ready by mid january, they will probably hold him back until after the all star break. he'll be back in late february but they say march to dampen expectations.

  • I agree with a one handed Loul Deng this thing could easily turn ugly. I think upper 30's as a win total is likely unless Rose comes in full steam with a large chunk of games remaining. 50 wins is crazy talk given the lack of depth and fragile nature of most of the starters. If they hit 50 Thibs should be nominated coach of the decade.

  • I'm as pessimistic as anyone, but 39 wins seems a little low. While the bench has taken a minor hit, this was a team that did fairly well without Rose and Hamilton a good chunk of last season. I don't think they can replicate that, but I don't think it drops them to a sub-.500 team either.

    I'd be surprised if Rose wasn't back by February. Maybe even January on some extremely limited minutes. 10 months is on the far end of recovery for this kind of injury, particularly someone of his age and work ethic. My guess is the Bulls are being very pessimistic with his recovery timetable.

    One thing we've seen over the years is that if a team plays strong defense night in and night out, they're going to win their share of regular season games. Particularly in a conference that only has one elite team. 39 wins is Milwaukee Bucks territory, and I just don't think they fall that far this season even if Rose misses up till March. Too many soft teams in the league.

    My prediction would be 44 wins. Derrick won't be 100% next year, but him at 80% will help. And I still think this is at least a .500 team without him based on how they play defense every night.

  • 36 Games. That's the number of contests a guy you just decided to pay $8 Million to took the court over the last two seasons. 36 games. That's following the signing of another even older thirtysomething guard you signed for $10 Mil who had played in just 46 games and 55 games the prior two seasons. And look what happened with him: a whopping 28 games played last season.

    Top that off with acquiring a guy who played in just 37 games and 59 games two of the last three seasons before joining the Bulls in Carlos Boozer. Everyone warned us about his injury proneness. Of course all you agreed to pay him was what nearly $80 Million?

    Then you hold on to a chronically injured Luol Deng when you could have had a top 5-7 lottery pick for him?! Really? Not to mention the Joakim trade opportunities while he played in 48 games two years ago and has been seriously hampered and outright injured in the last two playoff "runs."

    They really should change their name from Bulls to the Chicago Handischlapps. And now you bring on board a somewhat volatile player with really nobody to reign him in in Nate Robinson.

    Seriously Chicago was already known as a stodgy, cheap, doublespeak franchise even before all of this run of ineptitude. And only two things have masked this incompetence and that would be lucking into Derrick Rose and Thibodeau being available as a regular season win total champ with his superior defensive system. And even he's a limited ceiling, doltish persona who when he wears a polo at practice or summer league looks like a guy who hands out keys at the Y.

    We keep talking about getting this guy or getting that guy. Well you know what? For someone who was a friend or even an acquaintance of any of these NBA talents the last place I'd advise them to go to would be the Chicago Inepts. Seriously. The more I think about singing Klank to that kind of money not to mention RIP with other younger, heathier and more in their prime talented guys out there as in not washed up, it is truly indefensible the ineptitude of Gar Forman and John Paxson. Yet they wouldn't part with Asik despite his playoff "dominance" as in a fourth quarter foul/loss of possession waiting to happen see DeAndre Jordan and Reggie Evans. Asik for an actual young, competent not has been SG.

    If by a miracle everyone stays healthy this actually could be a solid team this year, though well over paid ironically as the cheapest, most money making, profit taking franchise. If they had Derrick Rose it could still be a fun team to watch on some nights. However without Derrick, I just don't see this team doing anything but seriously grinding to 39 wins tops and that mostly due to Thibs defense. Top three media market in the country Chicago, ready to settle in for some small market, ugly ass basketball? Boo-yaah!!

  • Well it's a 82 game season now but 39 seems maybe a little low I'm going to go with 47 wins and a Boston Celtic like playoff run with Rose back in January after New Years.

    Bulls still have some talent there and are probably a better scoring team now.

  • In reply to SoulEater7:

    How are they a better scoring team?

    They lost better shooters than they brought in. Not to mention the main PG Kirk can't create his own shot or penetrate and kick which the bulls offense is built on. They are going to struggle to score this season especially with a one handed Loul Deng shooting 40%.

  • I have said mid 40s and stick by it because in my view, we have one of the league's best coaches who will have this motley crew ready to battle day in and day out. The major key is the defense-rebounding prowess and i think thats largely intact. With this new group of the second unit, i think its fair to say we have better ball handlers and become more athletic but take a hit defensively. Gibson(contract year) and Noah are going to be beasting as Thibodeau will focus on his inside out game like he did in the early 10-11 season. Injuries can derail any team so we'll just have to factor those things out for now. Just let Nate run wild and take charge and the rest of the charging Bulls will follow.

  • actually souleater is right. Nate Robinson and Bellinelli are superior scorers to Watson, Lucas and Korver. Belinelli had quite a few mid 15 to 20 point games, the same with Robinson. They will lose 3 point shooting some but not scoring, plus these guys can get their shot off, something korver struggled with big time. For Hinrich, he sucks on offense and we all know that, they(front office) think he can run the team better and defend his position, especially against taller pgs like Jrue Holiday who torched watson/lucas. I guess they want him to play the keith bogans role at the pg position. I'd rather have bayless or mayo for the money they spent on hinrich but I do like the other guys we brought in except VladRad, that spot should of gone to Malcolm Thomas.

  • Type of team Vegas loves. Just enough hope to generate revenue on the one side, and just enough pessimism to generate action on the other.

    I just wouldn't want to be the guy in the back room having to set the over/under for wins. You're one Derrick Rose setback away from filling a hole in the desert!

  • I think this Hinrich equals injury thing has now hit major exaggeration. The surgery last off-season was for an old injury that had developed a cyst which interfered with his shooting. The previous season he missed a couple of games waiting on the goggles, also because of an old injury, and then had the hamstring injury in the playoffs. So true he was not "healthy" the first part of last season. He didn't miss a game once he was cleared to come back and play.

    To read the comments around here, he sounds like one of the guys in the league who fades out with persistent injuries to the same body part - and that's simply not the case. No lingering back issues, no lingering knee, ankle or wrist injuries, no plantar fasciitis. Also no 3 games here, 5 games there, never quite in the flow.

  • I'd change the post Rose rotation: Hinrich to starting SG, Rip to whatever team will send back the least salary in a trade.

    My expectation is the side is a probable non-playoff team without the bench mob.

    Firstly the bigs. Nazr isn't a player who should be getting many minutes outside of garbage time, so you're relying on Noah/Taj/Boozer all being healthy. Good luck with that. Even if they are, the Taj/Boozer combination hasn't worked that well in the past, and the Bulls are going to have to go to that a lot more with Asik gone. I suspect the Bulls defense falls from elite to just very good.

    On the wings Rip will continue to get crappier with age, and Kirk has never been a SG offensively and he'll have to play there once Rip is dumped to avoid the tax. Belinelli is decent for the price but there's a reason he costs less than Korver, there's no way I'm drinking the Kool-Aid that has people saying Butler will be better than Brewer, and if Deng doesn't get surgery he'll at best be as mediocre offensively as he was last year.

    You might be able to get away with that wing rotation if you had a PG, but you have Kirk who was only a mediocre distributor even at his peak, a novelty act dunker who only gets called a PG because he's about a foot too short to play his natural position, and a rookie who quite frankly has stunk in college and summer league.

    With all this bricklaying potential, they also downgraded their best source of offense - rebounding - in losing Asik and Brewer, two great offensive rebounders for their positions.

    My only hope is the Bulls are foxing here. Letting the story out about Rose not being back to March to lay the groundwork for his recovery being delayed and him missing the whole year. Talking about Deng not getting surgery so he can conveniently have to get it during the season and miss more games. Tanking but trying to be a bit subtle about it.

    Since there's a strong chance they're missing the playoffs anyway, they need to get themselves as many lotto balls as possible. Heck, if JR being cheap is a brilliant cover story for letting the bench mob go to help the tank then there's a kind of mad genius to it. Not sure if I believe it, but I really hope so, and hope is all there is at this point.

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