Why Bulls are winning minus Rose

Despite Chicago's success, team isn't a title contender without star guard

Originally Published: April 1, 2012
By Neil Paine | Basketball Reference
Derrick RoseAP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThe Chicago Bulls have sorely missed Derrick Rose's offense for a good portion of this season.

When the Chicago Bulls travel to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder on Sunday, they'll once again be without the services of all-world point guard and reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Derrick Rose. Rose, who ranks sixth in John Hollinger's player efficiency rating among players with 1,200 or more minutes, would be vying for another MVP this year, but injuries have curtailed his season. Sunday's game will be the 20th Rose has missed this season, and the 10th in a row, thanks to a strained groin sustained against the New York Knicks on March 12.

Without Rose, you might expect the Bulls to be struggling. After all, one of the biggest selling points for Rose's MVP candidacy a year ago was his irreplaceability; while fellow starters Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah missed extended chunks of the 2010-11 season with injuries, Rose sat out only a single game, carrying Chicago to the Eastern Conference's top record despite his teammates' absences. At the very least, it would appear that Rose's sheer ability to initiate offense (he's used roughly 32 percent of the Bulls' possessions while in the game over the past two seasons) would be difficult to replicate, especially given that his backups at the point are C.J. Watson and John Lucas III, who respectively ranked 258th and 444th in ESPN's preseason player rankings.

Yet for all the speculation about Rose's indispensability, the Bulls have actually been fine without him.

Neil Paine writes for FiveThirtyEight, the data-supported sports, politics and culture site coming soon from ESPN.