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Key to Bulls’ finals run lies in D-Rose

I know, I know.

There aren’t many people confident the Bulls can contend for a championship this year. I don’t blame them. Can anyone tell me, with conviction, they believe a team with a 30-30 record with losses to Minnesota, Phoenix, Orlando, Brooklyn and Denver has an actual shot at a title?

Didn’t think so.

The Bulls are at a -0.8 in point differential (the only team in the Eastern Conference playoff picture with a negative point differential) and are 24th in offensive efficiency. I can’t even begin to describe how disappointing and passionless the Bulls have looked so far this season.

Call me crazy if you want, but I think this team still has a chance to contend for a title. But their hopes rely on one player to produce at a high level. And his name is Cameron Bairstow.

Just kidding.

You may also think I’m going to talk about Jimmy Butler, and yes, Butler is important to have for the stretch run as the Bulls’ leading scorer and best wing defender. But I believe the X-factor for a championship run is point guard, Derrick Rose.

Everyone knows what Butler is going to do most nights. He’ll average around 20-25 points per game (occasionally he’ll have a big game where he’s capable of scoring big numbers), grab a handful of rebounds and dish out a few assists.

However, the Bulls’ championship chances rely on Derrick Rose.

Not only is his play on the court important, but his ability to stay on the court is equally as vital as well. Every Bulls fan knows the injury drama surrounding Rose. He has missed 218 games since the 2011-12 season, which includes 10 games this year. He even sat out a game a few weeks back for “general soreness.”

If I called my boss to tell him I’m missing work for “general soreness,” he’d laugh and hang up the phone.

Sure, Rose can be extremely frustrating off the court, but the guy can still ball, even after three major knee surgeries. We’ve seen glimpses of that throughout the season. Since the beginning of the year, Rose’s points per game have risen, little by little, every month. He’s is averaging 19.5 ppg since Christmas and scoring 21.9 ppg in February.

What makes Rose so vital to the Bulls’ chances is his ability to create his own shot and create space for not only himself, but also his teammates. Rose has always been great at getting to the basket and drawing two or three defenders to help out at the rim. This allows Rose to either finish with a layup if he has space, or he can make a pass to a wide open player on the perimeter.

Rose keeps the flow of the Bulls’ offense going. The offense is better when the ball is in his hands. His isolation can create more for himself and his teammates than when Butler isolates.

Butler can create for himself when he isolates, but he often stops ball movement and stagnates the offense. This is why Rose needs the ball in his hands more often.

In order for the Bulls to have even the slightest chance of playing in June, Rose will have to continue to play at a high level. If he can stay healthy and continue to produce, there’s no reason the Bulls can’t find themselves playing in the NBA Finals.

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