Derrick Rose Is Heating Up, But Are The Bulls Better Off Without Him?

by Will Zhou
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Derrick Rose is having a resurrection of sorts. One look at his January split stats, and it's clear that he's scoring more efficiently than he has in a while.

Derrick Rose first 11 games this season: 13.9 ppg shooting 37.3/ 17.4/ 80.6% D Rose's last 11 games: 20.2 ppg shooting 49.5/ 37.0/ 93.8% — Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) January 23, 2016

He's shooting 48.6 percent on about 17 shots a game, while averaging close to 19 points per game. This includes an efficient 29-point outburst against the NBA-best Warriors in just 30 minutes of action last Wednesday.

Perhaps it took longer than expected for Rose to learn head coach Fred Hoiberg's system, but he looks so much more comfortable these day than he did at the beginning of the season.

And the numbers show it.

In November, Rose shot a putrid 35.3 percent on a little over 15 shots a game.

In December, he shot a much better (but still putrid) 41.4 percent while averaging a similar amount of attempts.

But in January, Rose's best month so far, they're only 7-5 (.583) compared to 18-12 (.600) before the new year.

Even more telling is that the Bulls are 3-0 in January when Rose doesn't play, and are 5-1 overall this season when the 2011 league MVP doesn't play.

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Critics inevitably point to these numbers when they talk about Rose's impact on the Bulls.

But are they a better team without him?

I say no.

Other than Rose, there are only two players on the Bulls for whom the opponent requires intense game planning: Jimmy Butler and Pau Gasol.

In fact, the aforementioned duo, Rose and Mirotic, are the only players on the Bulls averaging more than 10 points per game, which means the team is very shallow.

In fact, Mirotic is averaging just a shade over 10, at 10.5 points per game.

There's no doubt that Mirotic will develop into a talented offensive player, but he's taken a major step back in his sophomore campaign, shooting a beyond awful 38.1 percent.

Here's another stat that proves their offensive depth is poor:

Out of the 30 teams in the association, 19 teams have five or more players who average 10 points per game or more.

Ten -- including the Bulls -- have four such scorers, and only the Knicks have just three.

So do the Bulls need Rose? Absolutely.

They simply don't have enough firepower to go far without him.

Last year, they got a lot more production from players like Aaron Brooks, Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy and Joakim Noah.

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But this year, there just haven't been as many shot opportunities for Brooks and Gibson.

Dunleavy has yet to even suit up, having sat out because of injuries, and Noah is likely to be out for the rest of the year after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Noah's loss stings the Bulls because not only is he the heart of the team, but also an underrated part of their offense, playing an Andrew Bogut-like role as a hub, reading the defense and delivering passes for easy baskets.

For a team that ranks in the lower quartile on assisted baskets, Noah's injury hurts even more.

And speaking of assist numbers, Rose's are at an all-time low (just 4.6 per game this season), but part of that is the result of Hoiberg's iso-heavy scheme.

With no dynamic shot creators, the Bulls must rely on Rose to produce points when Butler and Gasol struggle.

They simply don't have another guy that can create his own shot.

It's unlikely that Rose will ever get back to his MVP form -- or even close to it.

But after a slow start to this season, he's quietly improved every month.

Let's just hope that his health remains intact because the Bulls still need him.