Derrick Rose will be out rehabilitating a torn ACL for up to 12 months, meaning it’s time for the Chicago Bulls to pursue an elite point guard this summer.
While this is no time for the Bulls to panic, it is a time to scramble and ascertain the best solution possible. No one will replace Rose but, at least for the interim, the Chicago has to try.
As Sam Miller of NBA.com notes, history supports the notion that Rose will make a successful comeback. With that said, it’s the road to recovery that presents the most pressing problem.
In addition, a look at recent such surgeries on top players shows most returning to a high level of play, like Chris Paul (torn meniscus), Jamal Crawford, David West, Kyle Lowry and Al Jefferson. Tim Hardaway had the surgery in 1993-94, and while he wasn’t as explosive afterward, he was first team all-NBA three years later and twice an All-Star afterward. Dunk champion Blake Griffin didn’t have the ACL, but had a stress fracture and broken knee cap before winning the dunk contest. And there was the NFL’s Willis McGahee, who tore his ACL, MCL, PCL 10 years ago, and I think USPS, UPS and DOT. He had about 1,200 yards rushing last season.
Though most players, like Paul, tend to be at a reduced level the first season back and then regain a high level in their second season.
It’s great to know the odds favor a successful recovery, but what are the Bulls to do for up to a year without Rose? And just as importantly, what are they to do once he returns and is still attempting to regain his explosiveness?
Chicago needs a stopgap, and neither C.J. Watson nor John Lucas is the answer.
Combined, both Lucas and Watson filled in admirably for Rose during the regular season, helping lead the Bulls to an 18-9 record without their most valuable player.
However, when Chicago needed them most, when the stakes were at their highest, the two were nowhere to be found.
Watson averaged just 7.3 points and 5.5 assists on 24.1 percent shooting in 27.3 minutes per game during the postseason. Lucas hardly fared any better, posting 7.5 points and 2.2 assists on 39.9 percent shooting against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Internally, the Bulls have the means to go on without Rose for a short period of time. For an extended period of time, like the entire year that they’re facing, though? Not so much.
So Chicago must take to the free-agent ranks to attempt to somewhat fill an irreplaceable hole.
The problem then becomes finances. After signing Rose to a monster extension, the Bulls only have the Mid-Level Exemption (MLE) to work with.
So while there are plenty of point guards to be had from this year’s free-agency pool, Chicago is limited in the caliber of moves they can make.
Could the Bulls convince a workhorse like Raymond Felton to relish in the opportunity of leading a championship-ready team for a year? Would Andre Miller be enticed by a one- or two-year deal worth between $5-$10 million? Is Jason Kidd fit for the job?
Answering those questions is a whole other conflict in itself. Not only must the Bulls convince a top-tier point guard to sign at a discounted rate, but they also must sell them on what is essentially a temporary starting job.
Could we really picture Steve Nash being interested in a below-market-value contract with a guarantee that he would be told to hit the bricks or relegated to a backup role in less than a year?
But while this seemingly appears to be an insurmountable obstacle, the Bulls cannot afford to be deterred; they must target an elite and proven point guard to run their offense for the time being.
Carlos Boozer (30), Kyle Korver (31), and Richard Hamilton (34) are at the win-now stages of their career, while the Bulls are at the win-now stage of their development.
Promising youngsters like Asik (25), Taj Gibson (26), Luol Deng (27) and Joakim Noah (27), along with Rose (23), suggest a promising future, but Chicago is one of the deepest teams in the NBA now, and is not necessarily guaranteed to be later.
The Bulls need to capitalize on their present depth, not merely their hopes for the future. But they cannot do that without a point guard, or even with inexperienced fillers.
They need an elite, veteran floor general to lead them in Rose’s absence, for however long that will be.
And while that’s easier said than done, the pursuit of a star-esque point guard is nothing short of a necessity.
Unless, of course, the Bulls are interested in another early postseason exit next year.
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