When the playoffs started last April, there was a legitimate debate if the Bulls could knock off the Heat in a seven-game series. Probably not, but it was a discussion.
Now, after a Derrick Rose ACL injury that has him out until March (and not 100 percent until the following season), Luol Deng likely missing the start of the season if he has wrist surgery, plus a questionable offseason that softened the bench… can they make the playoffs next year?
Jeff Van Gundy (the former Knicks coach, former Alonzo Mourning anklet and current ESPN/ABC game analyst) doesn’t think so. And he may well be right. The core of the bench that Tom Thibodeau kept the Bulls winning with after Rose went down last year is largely gone. Now what.
Here is what Van Gundy said on ESPN 1000’s “Waddle & Silvy” show, as transcribed by ESPNChicago.com (hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie).
“To lose Rose by itself is going to cost you — even if you thought they were a 55-win team with Rose — that costs you 12-15 games right there,” Van Gundy said. “And then all the other guys I think people are overlooking. C.J. Watson even with his poor play to Asik in that sixth game, listen, he was a very valuable back-up through all of Rose’s injuries last year. He played well, and now, who’s their backup, they have Hinrich and who? (Marquis Teague) No, no, he’s not … did you watch him in summer league? “Struggled” is being kind. That’s not a knock. The 29th pick in the draft is such a hit-and-miss selection anyway. You have to give him time to grow and mature. But to think he’s going to come in and play behind Hinrich next year …”
“Their point guard situation last year was the MVP and a very good backup. This year it’s a combo guard in Hinrich and we’ll see who they can get as a backup. At the two-guard, (Rip) Hamilton is always hurt, and frankly in that Philly series, he’s older, he’s on the downside, and we’ll see if he can bounce back … Deng, you don’t know where he’s going to be injury-wise, and the frontcourt has been diminished. So to think that’s a 50-win team … listen, if they win half their games next year and make the playoffs, it’s a heck of a year.”
Where you think the Bulls finish next season is what you think of Tom Thibodeau. I think he’s pretty special. And that might get the Bulls all the way to 44 wins. Which may get them an 8 seed in the East.
The Bulls have made their decision — they have gone with having a lot of cap space in 2014 to get another star to pair with Rose. We’ll see how that works. But this year can be written off.