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.
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
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.
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.