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Jeff Van Gundy thinks the Bulls may miss the playoffs

Aug 1, 2012, 4:42 PM EDT

Tom Thibodeau AP

When the playoffs started last April, there was a legitimate debate if the Bulls could knock off the Heat in a seven-game series. Probably not, but it was a discussion.

Now, after a Derrick Rose ACL injury that has him out until March (and not 100 percent until the following season), Luol Deng likely missing the start of the season if he has wrist surgery, plus a questionable offseason that softened the bench… can they make the playoffs next year?

Jeff Van Gundy (the former Knicks coach, former Alonzo Mourning anklet and current ESPN/ABC game analyst) doesn’t think so. And he may well be right. The core of the bench that Tom Thibodeau kept the Bulls winning with after Rose went down last year is largely gone. Now what.

Here is what Van Gundy said on ESPN 1000’s “Waddle & Silvy” show, as transcribed by (hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie).

“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 …”

“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.”

Where you think the Bulls finish next season is what you think of Tom Thibodeau. I think he’s pretty special. And that might get the Bulls all the way to 44 wins. Which may get them an 8 seed in the East.

The Bulls have made their decision — they have gone with having a lot of cap space in 2014 to get another star to pair with Rose. We’ll see how that works. But this year can be written off.

  1. cakemixa - Aug 1, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    Still waiting on that 70+ win season for the Heat that he predicted.

    • bucsnsincity - Aug 1, 2012 at 7:57 PM

      Or his great prediction stating the heat would never lose back to back games

  2. sjtorpitt - Aug 1, 2012 at 4:50 PM

    Still waiting on a 82 game season since he predicted that

    • bucsnsincity - Aug 1, 2012 at 8:01 PM

      Van Gundy made that prediction in 2010, thus 2010-2011 season= 82 games

  3. trybe29dr - Aug 1, 2012 at 4:55 PM

    Miss the playoffs? The powerful Chicago Bulls? With their bench mob? No way they miss the playoffs after getting Nate Robinson

    • passerby23 - Aug 2, 2012 at 12:35 AM

      Brewer, Asik, Watson, Korver, and Lucas III are all gone. What bench mob? I think they’re good enough to get in the playoffs, but they’re not powerful until Rose comes back and probably add another piece. I don’t trust Boozer and Hamilton to get through a whole season healthy either.

  4. dadawg77 - Aug 1, 2012 at 4:55 PM

    As Bulls fan, I hope they don’t make the playoffs. Getting Rose right and a lottery pick would help the team in long term then getting the 8th seed. Then again that doesn’t mean I won’t cheer for them to win every game that I watch.

    • bucrightoff - Aug 1, 2012 at 5:03 PM

      I think there’s something to what you’re saying. Realistically even if Rose comes back around January, the Bulls will probably end up with a 3-6 seed. The NBA is not like the NHL where just qualifying for the playoffs gives you a chance, and coming off such a drastic injury, there’s no point to rushing back. Getting a lottery pick in the deepest draft in years could really benefit them. I still think they’re too good a team to straight up miss the playoffs though. The East is simply too weak at the bottom of the conference.

      • camnellum12 - Aug 1, 2012 at 6:38 PM

        Scouts and draft experts are saying the 2013 Draft is one of the weaker drafts in NBA history, already being compared to the 2000 Draft.

  5. rickyspanish - Aug 1, 2012 at 5:06 PM


    A championship counts as 30 wins.

  6. lakerluver - Aug 1, 2012 at 5:12 PM

    David Robinson getting hurt led to the Spurs getting Tim Duncan. If I were a Bulls fan I’d hope for them to miss the playoffs and get lucky in the lottery.

    • hodaghunter - Aug 1, 2012 at 6:27 PM

      If they really got that lucky to have such a terrible season that they scored the top overall pick in the draft they would be establishing a dynasty for a decade with rose-lottery pick-top flight free agent combination.

  7. isd87 - Aug 1, 2012 at 5:24 PM

    I am going to go crazy if it keeps getting reported that Rose is out until March. It wasn’t reported, it was speculated!!!! No one knows when D-Rose will come back, not Fred Tedeschki, not Brian Cole, not Derrick Rose and certainly not K.C. Johnson. As for this Van Gundy’s opinion:
    A.) The Bulls are still returning 5 of their top 7 players from last year(that is excluding injured Rose.)
    B.) He is wildly overrating CJ Watson. He is neither “very good” or a true point guard.
    C.) Losing Asik hurts, but he’s the only significant downgrade on the bench.
    If Rose comes back in late January/early February, i think 47 wins is reasonable.

    • isd87 - Aug 1, 2012 at 5:27 PM

      *and by “reported” I mean accepted as fact by people who read KC Johnson’s column. The original report was speculation, not some inside scoop.

    • blueintown - Aug 1, 2012 at 5:34 PM

      You spend all that time pontificating on how Kurt is wrong because of this, this, and this…then predict three more wins than him?

      • pudgalvin - Aug 1, 2012 at 5:52 PM

        That point aside, I think he’s right. To me, the only player they haven’t replaced (besides Rose, of course) is Asik. Jimmy Butler will be the exact same player as Ronnie Brewer, Hinrich can certainly give you 8 points and 5 assists per game while playing ok defense, and Bellini can shoot at about the same clip as Korver while being a defensive liability. As long as Deng gets healthy, I think they’ll be fine. I liked those guys and I’ll miss them, but as a lot of people love to point out, benches don’t win championships.

      • isd87 - Aug 1, 2012 at 9:17 PM

        If you’ll read my comments I disagreed with Jeff Van Gundy because of “this this and this.” My issue with Kurt is that he is reporting something as fact when it is just speculation.

    • passerby23 - Aug 1, 2012 at 7:10 PM

      Those are some decent points. I would counter with:

      a) Deng might have wrist surgery. If he doesn’t, he’s playing a full year with an injured wrist.
      b) Can Carlos Boozer (who will also be a year older) stay healthy for a full season? I’m skeptical.
      c) The East’s top teams got better.
      d) Asik – while I agree with not matching – is a big loss. Noah’s high energy game is going to be tough without a solid backup and Mohammed isn’t it.
      e) I think Nate Robinson is a step down from Lucas III and Watson.

      Assuming Rose is out until March, I see them around 40-42. If he comes back in January, I would say 45-37 and they grab the 6th seed.

  8. dysraw1 - Aug 1, 2012 at 6:31 PM

    wow ATL. an CHI-town may have their share of problems this season, unless WASH. TOR. fail in their bids to make the second season

  9. proballerslounge - Aug 1, 2012 at 6:41 PM

    Bulls fans read the link above and I think 44 is reasonable. 6-8 seed

  10. chicagosworth - Aug 1, 2012 at 6:58 PM

    I just don’t understand how anyone can count out the Bulls. Do we not still have Tibs as our coach? He knows how to win games people. Learn the sport then talk!!!

    • passerby23 - Aug 1, 2012 at 7:15 PM

      There are good reasons to count out the Bulls, that’s why. I’m not writing them off; I think they’ll make the playoffs. BUT…their greatest strength (their bench) is depleted, Hamilton and Boozer are older and injury prone, their defense is bound to take a bit of a hit, and who knows when Rose will come back and how effective he’ll be. Thibodeau’s system and tenacity will allow them to grind out some wins, but this group is going to have a lot of trouble scoring and not having the “bench mob” is going to be tough to replicate their once best defense in the league.

    • axe301 - Aug 2, 2012 at 12:02 PM

      Thibs, the greatest “regular season” coach.

  11. itsthemelman82 - Aug 1, 2012 at 7:16 PM

    JVG has an excellent basketball mind but, that’s a thought I can’t agree with. Thibs won’t allow them to quit & no one on that team seems like they’d wanna just lie down. That’s also one of the qualities that both the media & fans alike loved about the Bulls so, why lose faith that they could atleast make the playoffs? In the playoffs, they didn’t quit against Philly but, having a pity party after Derrick went down (and a bonehead move by CJ WATSON) is different than mailing it in. True, Vlad Rad isn’t Korver & Asik is better than Nazr Mohammed but, there’s no reason Jimmy Butler can’t be great coming of the bench. Taj, Nate Robinson & Malcolm Thomas (who was great during summer league)… That isn’t a weak bench, at all!

    If they did tank to get a lottery pick & they draft a bust, it wouldn’t be any help to this team… It would be just another contract they wouldn’t be able to move. I’d much rather see them fight on this year & go get that title the following year.

    • passerby23 - Aug 2, 2012 at 12:42 AM

      First of all, playing hard and not quitting is different from actually winning ball games and that also requires personnel. Radmanovic and Mohammed are on the downsides of their career. Robinson is a serviceable, but erratic PG, and the rest of the bench (minus Gibson) are young, unproven players. This team will have a ton of problems manufacturing points.

      The Bulls will scratch and claw, and play hard, get into the playoffs and lose. Next year, they’ll try to re-load with a free agent.

  12. finatic001 - Aug 1, 2012 at 7:32 PM

    We are talking about a guy who was sorry as a head coach and stinks just as bad as a commentator. I would take what he says with a grain of salt and I hope they fire this disgruntled oompa-loompa.

  13. monsterofyourgirlsmidway - Aug 1, 2012 at 7:45 PM

    ah, the Van Dumby’s. One looks like an ex porn star (Ron Jeremy) and the other is dumber than dirt. I could go on a tyrade about this article but its not worth the time.

  14. fanz928 - Aug 1, 2012 at 8:03 PM

    They lost asik the 2nd man behind Noah which is big boozer is not good on defense which might hurt them big this year

  15. redstar504 - Aug 1, 2012 at 8:16 PM

    Sorry to be captain obvious but it all boils down to when Rose gets back. I don’t really buy into the taking a whole season to get back to form. Today’s surgeries are cleaner and the pre rehab techniques; strengthening the joint prior to the operation make recovery quicker. Football players are bouncing back faster and they have far more impact to deal with. I am sure Rose can and will have an impact this season.

    That said its all about “when” he gets back. Ideally in the east if they can just shoot for .500 and get Rose back in March they make it in.

    They should have enough to get them .500 via coaching and the talent they have. Get in and the sky is the limit except if they get the 8 and gotta play MIA round one.

    If they tank and are nowhere near .500 then u keep Rose shutdown and score a lotto pick to add to an already talented roster. It’s a win win as long as they don’t wind up in the middle (no playoff and bad pick)

    In the east this is very doable for them if they were in the west forget it. In the east I can easily see them as a 5-6 seed and again get there with a healthy Rose anything can happen.

  16. xli2006 - Aug 1, 2012 at 9:25 PM

    Calling it now… Pacers are going to win the Central.

  17. yuckabuck - Aug 2, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    Bulls fans- you’re missing the point of Van Gundy’s comments. He knows you have Thibs. He trying to set it up so Thibs isn’t criticized if the Bulls fall short. He’s worked with Thibs and was openly calling for a team to hire him when Thibs was on Doc Rivers’ bench. If the Bulls miss the playoffs, then Thibs won’t be criticized because the “great and famous” Jeff Van Gundy already said it was a lottery line-up. If the Bulls make the playoffs, then Van Gundy can talk on national TV how the fact they’re there was due to Thibs and Rose’s return.

  18. misterdreamer119 - Aug 2, 2012 at 3:19 PM

    They should tank on purpose and get the lottery pick.

  19. shorttracknews - Aug 2, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    Who’s available in free agency in 2014? I keep reading the Bulls are stockpiling cap space but for who possibly?

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