Bulls can now begin playoff push with Derrick Rose’s return


With Derrick Rose back in the picture starting on Wednesday, the Chicago Bulls can now focus on a deep playoff run in the Eastern Conference that’s there for the taking.

There’s five games left in the season for the Chicago Bulls.

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Has the season been a success? Yes and no.

Sure, Pau Gasol has been one of the best free agent acquisitions in the NBA this season, but no, the Bulls haven’t reached the high expectations that were set for them in the offseason due to injuries throughout the year.

The Bulls currently sit as the Eastern Conference’s third seed, but let’s be honest, the East is terrible.

(To put matters into simple terms, the New Orleans Pelicans are 42-35 in the Western Conference. They’re the 8-seed in the West at the moment. That would be good enough for the sixth seed in the East, not far behind Washington, who is the 5-seed.)

Health concerns

For the first time in quite a while, the Bulls will be at full strength with the return of Derrick Rose on Wednesday night in Orlando. Kirk Hinrich (hyperextended knee) could potentially miss some more time, but Hinrich’s production isn’t exactly a huge factor in terms of the playoff success for the Bulls.

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According to reports, Rose will be restricted to 20 minutes of action moving forward into the playoffs.  Throw in Joakim Noah‘s 32-minute nightly restriction and the Bulls appear to be limping into the postseason. That’s not the case.

For the first time since Rose’s last game on Feb. 23, the Bulls will have their usual starting five on the floor together. In the playoffs, your rotation will shorten. The Bulls need to be as healthy as can be and finally, they may be on their way.

Potential playoff match-ups

If the playoffs started today, the Bulls would play the Milwaukee Bucks in the East’s 3/6 series. The Bulls beat Milwaukee three times in their yearly four-game division series against each other and would be favored to beat Milwaukee.

The series people will have their eyes on is a potential Chicago-Cleveland series in the second round. Cleveland beat the Bulls three out of the four times they faced each other this season.

(Side note: The Bulls have never beat a LeBron James-led team in the playoffs.)

Sure, the Bulls could fall to the 4-seed to set up a series with the team that knocked them out of the postseason last year — the Washington Wizards — but, out of the five remaining games for the Bulls, four are against non-playoff teams, with the season finale against Atlanta, who has the top seed in the East wrapped up already.

What will the playoff rotation be?

During Rose’s absence and injuries that occurred to Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson, rookie Nikola Mirotic emerged as a viable option offensively for the Bulls.

Without Rose, Mirotic scored 17.8 points per game, grabbed just over seven rebounds per game and became a potential NBA Rookie of the Year candidate.

While Mirotic is on the floor, the Bulls have the ability to stretch the floor and have a proven guy that can score in the fourth quarter of games.

If I’m Tom Thibodeau, having Gibson on the floor defensively is vital, but so is Mirotic’s ability to shoot and get to the line consistently.

The Achilles’ heel of the Bulls has been their lack of scoring in the playoffs since Thibodeau’s arrival in 2010-11. Mirotic should see more minutes in the second season.

Next: Derrick Rose to return on Wednesday night in Orlando