When Derrick Rose went to the basket late in the Chicago Bulls win in their opening playoff game against the Philadelphia 76ers in April 2012, he was one of the NBA's brightest stars. A year removed from winning the MVP award, Rose was again the best player on the team that tied for the NBA's best record.
On April 28, 2012, Bulls fans gasped in disgust as they saw Derrick Rose hit the court in excruciating pain, crumpling to the floor due to a torn ACL in his left knee. The injury would knock Rose out for the playoffs, along with the championship aspiration of the No. 1-seeded Chicago Bulls. The day was a dark one for the Bulls because it not only affected their championship aspirations for 2012 but for 2013, as well. Another knee surgery followed, and while Rose was subsequently able to return, he has never been the same player, or able to stay healthy for entire seasons.
Though Rose was an enormous star producing highlights on a nightly basis with his explosive speed and leaping ability, calling him the defending MVP at the time of his injury might overstate how effective he really was when healthy. The selection of Rose over Dwight Howard or LeBron James, controversial at the time, hasn't aged well. Rose's candidacy undoubtedly benefited from the contrast with James, immensely unpopular during his first season with the Miami Heat. Rose's Bulls, built around a homegrown talent, were considered the desirable alternative to the Heat's big three.
We should, however, be careful not to overreact when it comes to Rose's value. We're talking about one of the 10 best players in the league at age 22. The following season, when Rose missed 27 games because of a variety of minor injuries, he took a step backward. Of the group of players similar to Rose, four players continued their development into the direction of Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame: Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson (who's already enshrined), Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook. It's probably not coincidental that two of these four players were shooting guards, with superior size helping make them more durable and more capable of contributing after losing some quickness.
At the time, the similarity between Rose and Westbrook makes the case that Westbrook, not yet considered an MVP candidate was underrated. Now that it's Westbrook who has developed into the MVP and one of the league's most decorated players, the comparison serves as a testament to Rose's former potential. Rose's ACL tear and subsequent knee injuries prevented him from fulfilling his potential and prevented us from seeing which path his career would have taken. That's what was lost when Rose's career changed dramatically in April 2012.
So hypothetically speaking, let us assume that Rose stays healthy. We can all pretty much agree that the Bulls with Rose would have been able to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers after having won the first game. The next series would have been against the Boston Celtics and would have been a dogfight, but let’s say that the Bulls win that one. That would line the Miami Heat up with the Bulls and create an incredibly competitive conference final, even though the actual 2012 Conference Finals was a great seven-game series. If the Bulls win that series, which would not be so surprising considering they were the No. 1 seed and they were 2-2 against the Heat during the regular season, they would go on to the Finals.
The Bulls would have had another chance to win a title that year with their superstar healthy and blocked the Heat from winning another championship.