It's only December, and we know the first two months of the season could prove to mean absolutely nothing, but if the Bulls can maintain this pace until Rose's projected return, then suffice to say they've done well—particularly considering the fact that many were predicting this year to be a wash for Chicago.
The Bulls, as it stands, are 14-12, good for first in the Central Division. Younger guys are playing well. Veterans are holding things together. Joakim Noah is having his best season yet. The Bulls have been able to contend with and take down many of the supposed Eastern Conference powers in the last month, including Boston, Brooklyn and New York.
And when Rose returns, it will only get better.
Nate Robinson and Rip Hamilton have filled in admirably in the backcourt for the Bulls while they await their prodigal star, but what happens when Rose does come back? Who's the odd man out?
Sources say, it could be both of them—Robinson and Hamilton.
The latest rumors claim Rose is mere "weeks away" from making a comeback, which would put him well ahead of schedule. And if that's the case, the Bulls are going to have to make some tough decisions soon. One of those decisions, according to the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson, could be shipping Hamilton out of town:
League sources indicate that veteran shooting guard Richard Hamilton has been offered in trade scenarios. … With a minimal guarantee on a team option for next season, Hamilton's salary is in essence an expiring contract, which could make him attractive to teams looking to add scoring punch near the deadline.
It makes sense. When Rose returns, the backcourt is going to get crowded quickly—and especially considering the team's commitment to grooming 2012 draft pick and Kentucky product Marquis Teague's for life in the NBA, Hamilton could very well be on his way out of town.
There are going to be plenty of teams out there who need scoring help as the trade deadline approaches, and most likely—if Rose is back by then—the Bulls won't be one of those teams. No sense in having him waste away on the bench.
Already, there are too many able guards on the Bulls' roster and not enough playing time for all of them, and that problem is going to amplify exponentially when Rose reclaims his rightful starting spot.
As it stands, Teague isn't getting a lot of minutes, but he's only a rookie and the Bulls seem reasonably pleased with his progress, according to the Tribune. He's not going anywhere, which means somebody else is.
Hamilton, currently battling a foot injury, is averaging 13.9 points per game this season, and if he can stay healthy, he's a desirable asset. Moving him and his expiring contract makes the most sense for a team with a crowded backcourt.
But for the Bulls, sitting and waiting for his contract to end—when there's no room on the court for him, anyway—doesn't seem to make much sense.