The Bulls were without the reigning MVP, Derrick Rose, for much of the 2011-2012 campaign, yet they were still able to finish a conference best 50-16 and therefore have the number 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. However, as soon as Rose was done for good in the playoffs, the team folded and wasn’t a factor.
So far this season, the team has been mediocre by many expectations. Although they haven’t always played badly, they certainly haven’t played up to the standard fans would expect. Everyone knew Rose was important to the team, but just how important he is is being shown as the Bulls struggle to find their rhythm without their superstar.
He won the 2010-2011 MVP award, which, by name, is simply given to the most valuable player. The Bulls play sans Rose has shown that he ought to win the award every season.
There is no player in the league as valuable to his team as Rose is. Although the Bulls are still a quality team without their point guard, they are nowhere near the dominating force they are when Rose is on the court. There are only two players that it could be argued are as vital to his team’s success: Dirk Nowitzki and Deron Williams.
As a 7-footer who shoots as well as anyone in the league, it’s next to impossible to guard Dirk. If your man is tall enough to block his shot, he usually isn’t quick enough to deal with Dirk’s flawless footwork. If he’s quick enough he’s never tall enough. That being said, Rose is still much more valuable to the Bulls not because the Mavericks have a stronger supporting cast (they don’t) but because of the positional differences. As a point guard Rose is directly involved in every single play, and handles the ball a way higher percentage than Dirk does. The point guard directly controls the rhythm and the pacing of the game. You can shuffle in another PF and your post scoring will be close, though likely not as efficient as Dirk, but remove Rose and well, you’ve seen the result.
Deron Williams may have had an argument with last year’s Nets, but if he was actually as valuable as Rose, he obviously wasn’t as good, considering how atrocious the Nets were. This season things are looking a bit brighter, but it’s due mainly to the strong supporting cast they’ve filled in around Williams, so any arguments for him still being as valuable to his team are gone. Points to Rose again.
What the Bulls miss most about Rose isn’t his incredible high-flying acrobatics or his dominant defense, but it’s his leadership in clutch situations. Yes, Rose has missed some key free-throws in the past, but the way he draws defenses at the end of games is invaluable. Some of the best plays of the last few seasons have been when Rose would drive, draw a double or triple team, and then kick it out to Korver or Deng to hit absolutely wide open shots. Deng has been as clutch as they come, but he simply doesn’t have the ability to create space the way Rose does. Rose draws the attention of opposing teams with the fervor of the attention drawn to Kobe Bryant or Lebron James. However, Kobe can kick to Dwight, Pau, Nash, or even World Peace, meaning he has many more options than Rose passing to Deng. James may not even be the most clutch player on his team, so while defenses have to focus on him, a good chunk of the pressure is going to be on Wade in any tight 4th quarter situation.
Rose always seems to find his man, even seeing passing lanes that someone watching on TV didn’t think were there. His vision empowers those around him to play better, and when Rose isn’t in the lineup, the overall quality of play drops. Maybe knowing Rose isn’t there to explode with a 20-point 3rd quarter puts added pressure on the team to play well, and they can’t handle it. Maybe it’s just the defensive pressure is spread more when there is no true shot creator on the floor. Regardless, the team just isn’t the same without Rose.
Basically, if the Bulls want to have any chance of finishing with a high seed and then advancing in the playoffs, they had better hope Rose is back soon. Until then, the team will sorely miss not only his scoring and defense, but his priceless leadership, and his ability to gain the focus of every player on the court in clutch situations.