The big news across the NBA has been the announcement of the NBA All-Star reserves for this year's All-Star game in Houston. Amongst those named, Chicago's starting center, Joakim Noah, and currently injured starting small forward, Luol Deng, were named to the team. This is Noah's first time being named to an All-Star roster while this year is Deng's second consecutive year being named. Given the fact that Chicago now has two current and former all-stars along side superstar Derrick Rose Doug Thonus of "Chicago Now" posed the question, "Can we really say Derrick's cast isn't good enough?"
In this article Thonus does not say either way how he would answer the question. Rather, he opts to provide food for thought and allows the reader to come to their own conclusion. Thonus brings up a variety of points throughout both to support the idea that the Bulls have enough but also indicate that they may not be complete.
For example, to support the idea that the Bulls have enough Thonus brings up the fact that despite Rose being out, Chicago still owns the ninth best record in the NBA at the moment. Considering Rose has been out all season (and the bench was significantly downgraded) this is a significant feat.
To support the idea that Rose has the supporting cast needed Thonus also bring up that "Derrick Rose has, at worst, a top five roster in the entire NBA." Now I don't completely agree with that statement as I personally believe you could make a case for six or seven teams ahead of Chicago, but I understand what he's getting at. Chicago has a solid team. They start two quality big men who can matchup well with other teams with big men (and dominate those that don't), they have wing players that play lock down perimeter defense and are excellent at spot up shooting. And they have Rose. The bench isn't what it once used to be, which is a big contributing factor as to why the offense had dropped off as much as it has, but the bench hardly plays now so it's mostly about the starters.
But would I say that Derrick's cast isn't good enough? If we're talking about simply getting to the playoffs then sure. But if we're focusing on a title, then no.
The one reason that the Bulls still will likely not win a championship despite having a good supporting cast is mentioned in passing: the lack of another scorer outside of Rose. Without another person to provide some offense outside of Rose, Derrick's supporting cast will not be enough no matter how well they match up with other teams.
No need to go into too much detail how desperately needed a second scorer is. We all saw how the offense stalled in the 2010 playoffs when Rose was constantly double teamed or had significantly larger and more physical players (ex: Lebron James) guarding him. And we all know just how bad the offense is without him. If you need any proof of that, I suggest you watch any Bulls game from this season. The defense can limit teams all they want, but it means nothing if the offense isn't flowing.
In his article, Thonus also asks us "How many teams are better than the Chicago Bulls?" if you took away the best. Like I said earlier, I think you could make the case that the rosters of teams ahead of Chicago in the standings have just as good or an outright better roster but that's neither here nor there. Overall, Thonus's question is a good one, however, I do not believe it's the one we need to be asking. To keep along side Thonus's train of thought, let's rethink of his question as how many teams can seriously contend (ahead of Chicago) without their best player?
The answer is three: the Heat, Thunder, and Clippers. It's not because these teams have exceptional defense that is better than Chicago's. Nor is it because these teams have exceptional depth either (except the Clippers whose depth aids them greatly). It's because their offense doesn't stall completely since they all have people who can create their own offense outside of their best. The Heat have three point shooting throughout the roster, Wade, and Bosh to go to on offense while Bosh provides a post presence to somewhat match up with Chicago. The Thunder still have Russell Westbrook and Kevin Martin to provide offense with Ibaka providing a post presence. And the Clippers have Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe to create offense while Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan (as well as their other bench bigs) to man the paint.
And this is all hypothetical. None of those teams (other than the Clippers temporarily) are missing their best player and the presence of their best makes all of those teams get exponentially better overall. Chicago's defense can only do so much night in and night out, especially in the playoffs when they will be playing better competition night in and night out. To expect the Bulls to be able to contain teams with two, three, and in some cases four weapons is asking a great deal. Chicago's defense in previous years has struggled to do so and I find it hard to believe a defense clearly not as strong as the ones in years past could do any better.
None of what I say means that Chicago won't win a title this year or in the near future. Nothing is set in stone. The Bulls may prove me wrong and win a title even without a secondary scorer. Perhaps the Bulls current roster will catch fire offensively at the right time. Who knows? But all that we can go on for now is what is in front of us, and what's in front of us may not be enough. Time will tell.
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