Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler Are Key to Bulls’ Future


There has been a lot of talk about the future of the Chicago Bulls following their six-game series loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers last week. Much of the commentary has centered around how their playoff exit signaled the end on an era.

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It’s true that the Bulls will have a different feel next season, especially with the expected departure of head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Yet, in the NBA as in all sports, it’s about the Billy’s and the Joe’s, not the X’s and the O’s.

That means if the Bulls are ever going to raise the Larry O’Brien Trophy anytime soon, it will be thanks to the continued development and improvement of Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose as a dynamic backcourt duo. That is the real key to the Bulls’ success over the next few years, not whoever is hired to coach them.

Look at Cleveland for instance, David Blatt is a good basketball coach and has a good mind for the game, but if he didn’t have LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and his New York Knick castaways, he might look more like a moron than a genius.

The Cavs beat the Bulls not because they had superior coaching, but because their star players came to play. The Bulls’ stars on the other hand, shied away in the big moments, especially Rose.

Regardless of any potential rift between him and Butler in Game 6, Rose failed to deliver down the stretch in Game 5, the game that ended up as the turning point in the series.

After scoring 16 points in the first half of the game, Rose missed his last 11 shots and didn’t score a single point in the fourth quarter of a game the Bulls could have won.

In Game 6, Rose, Butler and the entire Bulls team was bad. When Chicago needed its two star players to emerge against big, bad LeBron, they shrunk. That had nothing to do with Thibs.

Yet, even though this season ended in frustration, the future is still bright in Chicago.

If the Bulls sign Butler to a max contract like they have said they would, then Chicago will have at least the second-best backcourt in the Eastern Conference behind James and Irving in Cleveland.

And with Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and Taj Gibson locked up for at least two more seasons, the Bulls have more than enough depth to pair with Rose and Butler to remain contenders for the near future.

The key to Chicago actually winning a title though rests solely on Rose and Butler. Rose of course, needs to get back to 100 percent, which he was close to by the end of the season. At times, such as in Game 3 against the Cavs or late in Game 4, he showed that he still has the ability to take over games. Now, he just needs to do it consistently (and stop shooting so many dang 3-pointers).

Rose also needs to rid himself of any jealously he potentially holds towards Butler. Rose can’t win a title on his own and finally has a legit star next to him in Butler, who has emerged as one of the premier two-way players in the game.

If Rose is ever going to return to his pre-injury form, it will be next season. After finally making it through the majority of the 2014-15 season, Rose will go into an offseason healthy for the first time since 2011 and thanks to the flashes he showed in the postseason, there is a realistic possibility that he will regain his elite status.

If Rose can do that and Butler can continue his upward trend, then there is no doubt that the Bulls will remain a thorn in the side of the Cavs for years to come. The problem is, the Bulls will need to find a way to beat them and more importantly LeBron.

But that’s a riddle to be solved another day.

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