What the Bulls Need From D. Rose
*Photo via AP
Fortunately for Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls, he has actually been surrounded with a formidable team this year capable of making a legitimate run at not just the Eastern Conference title, but the Larry O’Brian trophy. Since Rose’s brother Reggie spoke out regarding the Bulls and their inability to improve the team for Rose and the city’s benefit in 2013, the Bulls have added Nikola Mirotic, a Spanish league star who finished second in this year’s Rookie of the Year voting behind Minnesota Timberwolves forward-Andrew Wiggins. They signed Pau Gasol, who made his 5th All-Star team this year and solid back-up guard Aaron Brooks.
In addition to an improved Jimmy Butler, who made his first All-Star team this season, Joakim Noah-the heart and soul of the team and capable, consistent contributors in Taj Gibson and Mike Dunleavy, the Bulls are in a position to compete for the Eastern Conference crown, scheduled to challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference semifinals starting tomorrow.
Even with the enhancements the Bulls have made personnel wise, all the fingers and eyes will be focused on what the no.1 does. The Bulls title chances rest on the shoulders of Rose because he’s the former NBA Rookie of the Year (2009). He’s the three-time All-Star and he’s the former MVP (2011).
This team will only go as far as Rose can take them, other than the obvious success of Bulls’ franchise since his arrival, look no further than their first round opening matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks. Rose averaged 21.7 points in each Bulls win, a series that shockingly saw a sixth game, when the world expected a sweep. Fortunately for the Bulls, Rose has Mirotic to dish to on the perimeter, a Butler who can now create his own shot and big’s in Pau and Gibson to feast down-low in the post, but he still has to be aggressive and play like the MVP, he showed flashes of in the first round.
Against the Cavs, the difficulty for Rose will increase substantially. What was Michael Carter-Williams, a guard with a bright future will become Kyrie Irving, a superstar point-guard who has forced LeBron James to take a back-seat as the no.2 option. He’s that good, and at the tender age of 23, he’s a 3-time All-Star like Rose, an All-Star game MVP (2014) and (2014) FIBA World Cup MVP.
Irving is a handful on the perimeter, possessing a handle that allows him to do as he pleases on the court and as a young, hungry guard on the rise, will relish the opportunity to go up against Rose. Which is why Rose has to attack Irving early and often. Rose has to get Irving in early foul trouble and in Irving’s absence, exploit Matthew Dellavedova, the backup, all while taking care of the point guard duties in distributing the ball effectively.
But he can’t do it alone. In the Bucks series, Butler played a huge role in taking some of the load off of Rose offensively, averaging 24 points in their wins and was the high scorer on the Bulls in the first two games of the series (25 points-Game 1, 31 points-Game 2), both victories. It’s up to Butler and the remaining roster outside of Rose to consistently play well in order to free up Rose for a big series.
Rose finally has the pieces on the Bulls that can match-up with this year’s version of the new and improved Cavaliers, the All-Star guard will have to rise to the occasion and perform. With his injury history and 2015 unrestricted and restricted free agents in key players like Brooks, Dunleavy and Butler respectively, Rose has his best chance to win now more than ever in his career thus far.
The Eastern Conference championship round came early in this matchup and it’s a shame that two of the most notable teams in the Eastern Conference will meet a round early. It should be a compelling series and a battle of the stars that will draw viewers across the masses.