When looking at the Chicago Bulls, fans will always bemoan the lack of offense and cheer for the great defense. Tom Thibodeau's system is set up to exaggerate the Bulls skill [for better on defense and worse on offense] on both ends of the court by running Chicago at a snail's pace.
The lack of pace is why one star player could make such a big difference for this team.
First, understand what Thibodeau is doing every game. He's slowing it down. He's making his team use a good chunk of the shot clock and his opponent's team is using a good chunk of the shot clock because the Bulls always get back on defense and play great transition defense.
Chicago rarely runs leak out plays on offense with their full team typically focusing on the rebound, and this season anyway, they've spend far more resources getting back in transition than they do crashing the offensive glass.
This isn't to say Chicago is typically horrible on the offensive glass, but one change we've seen is Jimmy Butler's offensive rebound rate nearly cut in half because his responsibility this season is to get back on defense not attack the offensive glass so much.
What the style of play does is force both teams into lower percentage offense. Both teams miss out on easy baskets in transition, both teams have to grind it out in the half court where points come less efficiently. Thibodeau is counting on his team to execute better than his opponents. He's counting on his team to be more disciplined.
The result has typically been favorable. The Bulls DO out discipline most teams. This was most glaring in the game against Houston where once Houston had to settle down and play half court offense/defense for 24 seconds every possession they just looked completely out-schemed by Chicago.
The Bulls cans still [and frequently do] get blown up by superior talent or a lack of shooting from their players. Chicago typically does a nice job finding open looks for itself eventually, but it frequently lacks the shooting touch to finish them off as many of those looks are perimeter looks.
Why Derrick Rose elevated the offense
When the Bulls had Rose they played at the same pace and had the same style of half court game, so why was the Bulls offense so much better despite playing a style that yielded low offense? There were a couple reasons.
First, Derrick Rose was a one man fast break.
While the Bulls wouldn't push the tempo and get into a running game, Derrick Rose could initiate a running game and a fast break offense on his own. If he didn't beat everyone back for an easy basket then Chicago could slow the offense down. If he shot and missed, the Bulls transition defense typically wasn't hurt because everyone else could get back.
Derrick Rose allowed the Bulls to selectively run while still positioning their defense to stop opponents from running. This gave them some of the benefits of a faster pace of play without some of the deficit.
Next, when the shot clock's winding down, you need a guy who can make tough shots or create something out of nothing.
Derrick Rose didn't have the best FG% of the various superstars in the league, but like anyone who wears the superstar mantle, he could create something out of nothing with some consistency.
The Bulls will run their offensive system to exhaustion now, they frequently open jump shots out of it, but with Derrick Rose the got a lot more action at the hoop out of it because he could break guys down off the dribble.
Also, when Chicago runs their offense for 15 seconds without getting much going on, they could simply dump the ball to Rose and allow him to create in isolation where he might get a lower percentage shot than we'd like, but a much higher percentage one than the Bulls are getting now with the present roster doing the same thing.
How would another star fit in this system?
Carmelo Anthony will certainly bring the second of these traits. He'll probably be even better at it than Derrick Rose. He won't give the Bulls much in the way of the first, but that's probably okay. Particularly if Rose comes back and plays well also.
For Chicago, to have multiple players who can hit tough shots and generate open looks, it would revolutionize their offense. Prior to Rose's ACL injury, the Bulls were ranked fifth in offensive rating and second in defensive rating. Those are the numbers of a legitimate championship contender. That team still only had one star on offense and played much of the season without Rose.
This season up, the Bulls have plenty of interesting options open to them. There's the chance they could land Anthony, the opportunity to trade for another star player, the hope that Mirotic is the real deal, and a couple draft picks in a deep draft.
Whatever the Bulls make of this season's opportunity, they'll need to hope that Derrick comes back to play like he did prior to the ACL injury, something he hasn't proven he can do yet but was trending in the right direction prior to tearing his meniscus.
Chicago's not a championship contender this year, but they're almost certainly going to improve on last year's win total. This team, which might be a 50 win team still, could add Derrick Rose, Nikola Mirotic, and two 1st rounders in a deep class while subtracting just Carlos Boozer. And that's the worst case scenario.