Three injuries to All-Stars on Friday night changed the NBA playoff picture, none more so than Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose suffering a tear of the medial meniscus in his right knee. While Rose avoided the possibility of a ruptured ACL, after undergoing surgery Monday to repair the meniscus, the Bulls announced he would miss the remainder of the season and virtually knock the Bulls from playoff contention.
With the help of playoff simulations, let's take a look at the impact of Rose's injury as well as those to Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies and Andre Iguodala of the Golden State Warriors on their teams' projected wins.
Initial Projection: 52.1 wins, 100 percent chance of playoffs
Updated Projection (Rose out for season): 40.8 wins, 86.9 percent chance of playoffs
Based on their estimated "true talent" ( as described last week), remaining schedule and performance to date and with a healthy Rose factored into more than 1,000 simulations of the season, Chicago averaged just over 52 wins, the third-highest total in the Eastern Conference, after the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat.
Without Rose, that changes in a hurry. My SCHOENE projection system estimates that over a full season, the Rose-less Bulls would win approximately 37 games. While the oddsmakers disagree -- Jay Kornegay of the Las Vegas Hilton told Insider his line for Chicago would be 48.5 wins if Rose did not play all season -- there's reason to believe in such a pessimistic outlook.
Last year's Bulls won 45 games without Rose before knocking off the Brooklyn Nets in the opening round of the playoffs, but that overstates how effective they were in the regular season. Chicago's +0.3 point differential was more consistent with a 42-40 team. Moreover, as my Insider colleague Bradford Doolittle noted in his analysis over the weekend, the 2012-13 Bulls could better cushion the loss of Rose because Nate Robinson provided a similar style of play, if not necessarily similar results.
Now, Chicago is left with second-year guard Marquis Teague and veteran Mike James as options behind Rose's replacement, Kirk Hinrich. Teague rated 1.1 wins worse than replacement level in limited action last season and was reportedly on the trading block during training camp. James was more effective in Dallas and eventually won the starting job, but he too rated below replacement due to 36.3 percent shooting inside the 3-point line.
Given the drop-off from Robinson to Teague and James, it's not unreasonable to think this year's non-Rose Bulls could be five wins worse than last year's incarnation, leaving them a below-.500 squad. Certainly, they looked the part in Sunday's listless 39-point loss to the Clippers in L.A.
With Rose out for the season, the Bulls will be hard-pressed to finish better than .500. Again, the dismal nature of the East works to their advantage. In fact, Chicago's projected 41-win total would rank fifth in the conference. If they make it, Chicago already was looking at likely having to knock out both the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat on the road to reach the NBA Finals. With Rose being out for the season, the Bulls aren't guaranteed a playoff spot even with the East's current ineptitude, and it would take a greater miracle than the 2013 upset of the Nets for this season's Chicago team to win a postseason series without him.
Initial Projection: 45.5 wins, 59.1 percent chance of playoffs
Updated Projection: 44.8 wins, 54.0 percent chance of playoffs
As compared to the Bulls, the Grizzlies appear better positioned to survive Gasol's MCL injury. Kosta Koufos, acquired from the Denver Nuggets over the summer, gives Memphis an experienced starter to move into the starting lineup at center. Backing up Koufos will be more challenging, but the Grizzlies can hope that slumping Ed Davis picks up his play in extended minutes.
SCHOENE estimates Gasol's absence costing Memphis 3.8 wins per 82 games. Performing the same analysis with expected adjusted plus-minus ( via NBA consultant Jeremias Engelmann), which rated Gasol the league's fifth-best player last season on a per-possession basis, suggests 4.9 wins. Yet the simulations show the Grizzlies losing less than a win on average. The explanation is a friendly schedule. Of the 22 games Memphis would play without Gasol if he misses seven weeks (6-8 weeks is typical for a sprained MCL), 14 will be played at the FedExForum.
Because of their slow start and the depth of the Western Conference, the Grizzlies' playoff chances were already far from certain. While losing Gasol won't help, it's not necessarily a crushing blow, and the simulations still show Memphis as a playoff team better than half the time.
Initial Projection: 47.7 wins, 81.2 percent chance of playoffs
Updated Projection: 46.9 wins, 75.0 percent chance of playoffs
The timeline for the strained hamstring Iguodala suffered in Friday's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers isn't yet clear, and the rehab period can range from a couple of games to several weeks based on the severity of the injury. I settled on Iguodala missing 10 games, an estimate ever so slightly on the conservative end of the scale.
Surprisingly, SCHOENE shows Iguodala's injury impacting his team more than Gasol's injury. The Warriors' projected record drops by 7.9 games over a full season without Iguodala, and that doesn't entirely take into account that Golden State is dealing with multiple other injuries right now, including backup point guard Toney Douglas missing time to a stress fracture in his right tibia.
Nonetheless, over 10 games -- one of which, Saturday's home loss to Portland, Iguodala has already missed -- that translates to about a win's difference in the standings on average. In the competitive West, a game could be the difference in terms of seeding or even making the postseason. The Warriors face five possible West playoff teams in their next nine games, including the Grizzlies and two matchups against the Dallas Mavericks, and that's where they might feel the most significant impact from losing Iguodala -- depending how long he's out of the lineup.