NBA Handicapping Impact of Derrick Rose Injury
by Trevor Whenham - 4/30/2012
With 1:22 left in the fourth quarter of the Chicago Bulls playoff-opening win over Philadelphia 76ers, my chances of seeing my preseason pick to win the NBA Championship come through took a serious and likely fatal blow. The game was totally under control, but oft-injured superstar Derrick Rose was still in the game, and on an innocent-looking play he tore his ACL and ended his season.
The obvious question for bettors is what happens now. Can the Bulls still win or are they doomed? What does this mean for value in the series and beyond? What longer-term impacts does this have? Let’s take a look:
The media and the public love nothing more than to panic, and that certainly is the case here.
Rose is one of the most exciting players in the league, and more than some other superstars he’s almost universally popular. He’s also the face of his franchise in the way that only guys like Kobe and Durant are.
His absence is going to be seen as a major blow for the team — especially because it happened in such dramatic circumstances. The media has all but written the team off, and the public seems to be doing the same.
What’s interesting, though, is that the oddsmakers aren’t nearly as concerned by what has happened. Reports I’ve seen have estimated the impact of Rose’s injury at between 1.5 and four points. Against the Sixers they are going to be favored in each game by more than that, so it really doesn’t affect much.
Because the public will be so strongly on one side in this issue — and will be even more aggressive in their opinion, if the team loses a game soon — there is a good chance for strong value if you like the Bulls.
Practice playing without Rose
This would have a much bigger impact if the Bulls had had Rose in the lineup every game this season. That’s a long way from the reality, though.
Rose missed 27 of the Bulls’ 66 games this year in the lockout-shortened season. When he was in the lineup they were a staggering 32-7, a .820 winning percentage. Without him they weren’t the same team, but they were far from horrible. At 18-9 their .667 win percentage is better than every team besides Miami, San Antonio and Oklahoma City.
They have shown surprising depth on the point, and they are feisty. They also have something to rally around thanks to this injury, and they don’t have the uncertainty of his status hanging over their heads.
The team would unquestionably be better with Rose in the lineup, but to assume they are hopeless without him would be a serious mistake.
Philadelphia is not a particularly strong team, and they did not close strong down the stretch of the regular season. With Rose the Bulls totally outclassed the Sixers. Without him they are still significantly better.
In the second round they will play either Atlanta or Boston. The Bulls in current form are solidly better than both of those teams as well. That means that the conference championships are well within reach. The Heat would have a big edge there, but there is no certainty that Miami will stay healthy until then, and Miami doesn’t exactly have an excess of talent at point guard, either. The Heat will be favored, but it’s not impossible to imagine the Bulls making a series of it, or even pulling off the upset. After all, Dallas pulled off the upset last year largely thanks to strong coaching, physical play, and excellent chemistry — three things that Chicago can also offer.
In short, the outlook isn’t great, but it’s not nearly as disastrous as it could be. Even without Rose this is a Top 4 team in the league.
Not a total surprise
What has struck me most in seeing the response since the injury happened is that so many people seem to have been caught off guard by the setback. While the particular circumstances are shocking, it seemed like a nearly certain bet that Rose was going to go down at some point.
After all, he’d missed 27 games with at least four different injuries. He’s relentlessly physical, and opposing defenses up their physicality in response to him. A guy as banged up as he is was almost certain to miss at least some time in these playoffs.
If you weren’t prepared for this possibility in your NBA handicapping — especially if you were betting longer term futures — then I think you missed the boat on this one.
One interesting longer-term aspect of this injury is the giant hole it leaves in the U.S. Olympic roster. Rose was going to be a huge part of that team, and a very tough guy for European players to deal with.
The team isn’t lost without him — there are a lot of very good American point guards — but his loss will change the feel of the team, and force them to play a different game than they may otherwise have chosen to.
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