Derrick Rose: Return of Former MVP Will Make Chicago Bulls Contenders in East

Austin GreenCorrespondent INovember 6, 2016

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 16:  Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls warms up prior to the game against the Boston Celtics during the game on January 16, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The Miami Heat are the juggernauts of the Eastern Conference, but they will be challenged by the Chicago Bulls when former MVP Derrick Rose returns.

According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Rose could participate in full-contact practice as soon as this week, although there is no firm timetable for his return to the lineup. He has been doing non-contact drills, and word is that his jumper is looking gorgeous.

At this point, it seems realistic to say he will be back by the beginning of March. If that is the case, Rose will have about 20-25 regular season games to find his legs. That should be plenty of time for Rose and the Bulls (23-16) to climb into second or third place in the East.

The Bulls are just 3.5 games back of first-place Miami, and they are closing in on the Knicks, Pacers and Nets. They are still a lockdown defensive team, and their new-look bench is one of the best second units in the NBA.

Of course, there will undoubtedly be a re-acclimation period when Rose returns.

He will need to build chemistry with new teammates and learn how to play within his physical limits. He will likely lose some of his explosiveness, at least initially. He may not be nearly as effective as he was in his MVP days.

However, despite any potential drop-off in his performance, Rose will undoubtedly improve the Bulls in several facets. 

First of all, his presence will ease the burden on the likes of Luol Deng and Joakim Noah.

Deng is leading the league in minutes once again (39.8 per game) and Noah isn't far behind him at 9th in the NBA (38.2). With Rose back, both players will be able to rest more, as they won't need to be on the floor to carry the offense through ugly stretches.

Rose will also improve the team's borderline terrible field-goal percentage (43.9). Even without his athleticism, Rose is still a natural playmaker. He has become an excellent passer, consistently putting his teammates in the perfect position to score.

Rose is mostly known for his scoring, but he did finish eighth in the NBA last year with 7.9 assists per game.

With Rose's return, Chicago's offense will receive a much-needed boost. His contributions will also propel them to true title contender status.

Yes, the Bulls struggled in the postseason against Miami with a healthy Rose. But as the star point guard proved last year, it takes just one freak injury to alter the playoff picture.

The Bulls will still be a notch below Miami when Rose is back, but any injury to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh would immediately make Chicago the new favorites in the Eastern Conference.

Considering they've played half a season without their best player, the Bulls couldn't have hoped for anything more.