Would it have mattered?
Rose, Deng, Hinrich would've helped
Derrick Rose slicing through the lane or shooting from the perimeter. Luol Deng crashing the boards with Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer. Jimmy Butler free to focus only on tirelessly chasing LeBron James all over the court.
It's cruel to play what-if games, but it's instinctive to wonder how much better off they would have been if injuries and poor health didn't take down two All-Stars. Imagine any of the remaining teams in the playoffs with two more All-Stars at their disposal.
Clearly the Bulls were missing anything resembling an offense and Rose would have supplied that by breaking down the defense when he had to or shooting over the top of it when the opportunity presented itself.
Boozer, in particular, would have benefited from the occasions Rose had to penetrate and dish. Boozer is far better when receiving the ball just off the block as the defense is leaning just a bit to acknowledge somebody else cutting down the lane. Heck, a healthy Kirk Hinrich in this series would have made Boozer better.
James is always going to get his shots (and points), but having Butler as an afterthought on offense would have him fully rested for the defensive end. And never forget that the Heat are most vulnerable on the glass. Noah, Deng and Boozer would have given the Bulls an overall advantage inside.
Yeah, it's probably crazy to bet against the Heat in the playoffs. Who knows if the Bulls would have beat the Heat. But they could have. There is a difference.
Miami just has too much firepower
Don't let the heart and hustle fool you into thinking that the Bulls are more than what they are.
Yes, the Bulls' run to the second round, largely without Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich and of course Derrick Rose, has been fun and inspiring -- but that doesn't change the fact the Bulls are still at least a major piece away from being a legitimate contender.
The Bulls aren't beating the Heat without a healthy roster of stars, but the truth is they aren't beating Miami even if they had one. The Bulls don't have enough talent to compete with LeBron James and Co. Aside from Rose, the Bulls still have a group of very good players -- but none of whom can create their own shot and consistently score when the offense sputters out.
Jimmy Butler is a nice piece and is only getting better, but he is not the type of player who is going to score 20 a night and is capable of creating for himself when needed right now. Deng and Joakim Noah are All-Star caliber players, but they are system players who work well under Tom Thibodeau's tutelage. They are players you can win a title with but they aren't the type of 1 or 1-A options every team needs in order to win a championship.
The Bulls' front office knows this group isn't good enough to win a title this year and they know they must find another piece to put alongside Rose in the future. This group did all it could to provide success for an organization that didn't expect much in a year without Rose. They should be commended for their effort ... but don't confuse that effort for achievement. The Bulls are still a major piece away from being in the conversation.