CHICAGO -- With Derrick Rose out for a large chunk of the season and Luol Deng potentially out for the bulk of it as well, it doesn't seem like many people believe the Bulls can win 50 games like I predicted Thursday after the schedule came out. This group now includes former NBA head coach and current ESPN analyst, Jeff Van Gundy.
"Nick must have fallen on his head somewhere along the way," Van Gundy said Friday morning on ESPN 1000's "Waddle & Silvy" show. "We have to get Nick some help right now."
Coach Van Gundy, someone I have always enjoyed talking to over the years, is in some pretty good company. He isn't the first person who has said I endured head trauma somewhere along the way, and he won't be the last.
I know I'm in a minority as far as believing the Bulls will have success this year, especially given all the injuries and uncertainties surrounding this team. Here's why I'm taking this stance: I have confidence that with close to three months of planning, Tom Thibodeau can devise a scheme that will bridge the gap for his team while it waits for Rose to get healthy. But therein lies Van Gundy, and plenty of other fans', argument.
"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 ..."
So Van Gundy isn't sold on Teague as a backup just yet. That's OK, neither am I, as he said, he' not only the 29th pick, he's also 19 years old. Aside from Teague, I just don't think the Bulls' bench will be as terrible as some fans think, though. They will miss Asik's defense and the continuity Watson, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver had playing together, but Marco Belinelli can score, Jimmy Butler showed flashes of solid play in Las Vegas, and Hinrich will be a solid addition for Thibodeau off the bench whenever Rose returns. Obviously, one of the biggest keys is how Hinrich will play to start the season when he is starting and playing 30-35 minutes in Rose's spot.
"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."
Van Gundy, like a lot of fans, has valid points. Hinrich is older and appeared to have lost a step in Atlanta. Hamilton appeared to have lost more than one step last year and just couldn't stay on the floor because of all the injuries, and if Deng can't make it through the whole season with his wrist injury, the Bulls have even bigger problems. Still, I'm not backing off my prediction. The Bulls can have success this year with the other pieces they have on the roster. With enough time to formulate a plan, Thibodeau can find a way to put his players in the best place to win games. He did it for half of last season without Rose, let's see if he can do it again