What If Derrick Rose Never Tears His ACL?

When Derrick Rose drove to the basket late in the Chicago Bulls’ Game 1 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in April 2012, he was the most promising player the league had to offer. One year removed from being the youngest MVP in league history, Rose was the best player on the best team in the Eastern Conference and a whole career ahead of him.

It all changed by the time Rose landed on the hardwood floor, with a torn ACL. The injury sidelined Rose for the entire 2012-13 NBA season. Another knee surgery followed, and while Rose was able to return to the court, he was never fully rose.

This may be quite possibly the saddest what if sports scenario of all time. Rose was on a hall of fame trajectory, with multiple MVP’s in his future and likely final appearances. So much could have been different.

Does Lebron James go to 9 straight NBA Finals if Derrick Rose is healthy and leading that once stacked Bulls team?

When we talk best guards in the league, do Curry, Westbrook, and Irving ever crack the top spot?

Is Rose suddenly fighting James, Durant and Curry as players of the decade?

Rose’s Accomplishments Pre ACL Injury

Rose, who was drafted number 1 in the 2008 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls, accomplished great feats in the few years leading up to the unfortunate ACL tear.

In his rookie year, Rose became the first Bulls rookie to score 10 points or more in his first 10 games since, you guessed it Michael Jordan. At the NBA All-Star Weekend, Rose competed and won the Skills Challenge, defeating multiple all stars and becoming the first rookie to win the event.

Rose went on to win Rookie of the Year as he averaged 16.8 points on 47.5% field goal shooting, 6.3 assists (leading all rookies) and 3.9 rebounds per game.

Maybe more impressive than the stats is how Rose helped the Bulls secure a playoff birth in his rookie season.

In his first taste of playoff basketball, Rose faced off against the defending champion Boston Celtics. Despite the tough matchup, Rose held his own in the series.

Rose recorded 36 points (tying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA record for points scored by a rookie in his playoff debut, set in 1970), 11 assists, and 4 rebounds as the Bulls prevailed in a 105–103 overtime win on the road.

Rose averaged 19.7 points on 47.5% shooting, 6.3 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game in his first playoff series, as the Bulls were defeated by the Celtics in seven games.

In his sophomore season, Rose was selected to his first All Star Game, once again the first Bulls player to complies such feat since Jordan. The Bulls once again made the playoffs but were bounced in round 1 by the Cavaliers.

2010-11: MVP Season


At the end of the 2010–11 NBA season the Bulls finished with a league leading record of 62–20. Their 60+ wins was the Bulls’ first such season since 1997–98 and sixth 60+ win in franchise history. Rose became only the third player since the 1972–73 NBA season to record 2,000 points and 600 assists in a single season. The other two players were LeBron James and Michael Jordan.

Rose was named league MVP, the youngest player to win the award.

Rose would escape the first round and second rounds of the playoffs by leading the Bulls past the the Pacers and Hawks. He ran into the Miami Heat big 3 in the Conference finals, losing in 5 games.

But the future was undeniably bight for Rose.

April 28th 2012- 1:22 to go in Game 1

With the Bulls up by 12 over the 76ers and 1:22 left on the clock, Derrick Rose drove to the rim, made a hop step. By the time he lands, the course of his career is changed forever. As we know, Rose went down and stayed down in pain with an ACL tear.

Except in this alternate universe, Rose doesn’t tear his ACL. He goes on to become the single most explosive player at the point guard position this league has ever seen.

Rose Rises

When Rose makes that hop step and hits the floor, he rises back to his feet. Rose and the Bulls close out the game 1 victory, and go on to sweep the round one series.

This is just the beginning of Rose’s rise to greatness as once again he leads the Bulls to the Conference Finals to face off against the Heat big 3.

2012 Eastern Conference Finals

The 2012 Bulls team was probably the most complete team in the Rose era. The Bulls were tied with the Spurs for the leagues best record that year and were firing on all cylinders in the playoffs.

In this year’s rematch against the Heat, Rose grows his legend. Lebron James and the Heat are still not champions. The demons of the finals loss to the Mavericks pop into James’ heads benefiting the Bulls. James fails to overcome the 4th quarter demons as Rose rises to the challenge. The series goes 7 games and home court means everything.

Thanks to having the best record in the NBA, the Bulls get to close out the Heat in game 7, getting the Bulls to their first Finals since 1998.

2012 NBA Finals vs OKC

They hype coming into this series surrounds the two most athletic and explosive guards the sports has ever seen. Rose vs Westbrook: Who is the guard that will take the throne? Which young team will break through and win the championship?

Aside from Rose being a better player than Westbrook at the time, the Bulls are just better than the Thunder. More veterans, better coaching and more consistent play leads to the Bulls prevailing.

Rose wins Finals MVP after averaging 30 points and 9 assists while closing out the Thunder in 6 games.

Rose is praised and already named an all time Bulls player. But will the success be a one time thing, or will this be the beginning of another Bulls dynasty?

2012-13 NBA Season

Rose and the Bulls show no signs of a championship hangover as they once again sit atop the Eastern Conference. Rose is having an MVP caliber season, but that man in South Beach is in the way. James and the Heat after being embarrassed two seasons in a row, and no ring to show for their villain power move two years ago, are on a mission. Absolutely destroying teams left and right, the Heat make it quite clear that there will be a Conference finals trilogy.

2013 Eastern Conference Finals

The Heat have their sights set on the Larry O’Brien trophy, but are not looking past the Bulls while doing so. James goes on one of the most dominant playoff runs the league has ever seen, including clutch shot making in the 4th quarter. Rose and the Bulls go down swinging like the champions they are, getting closed out on their home court in 6 games.

The Heat go on to defeat the San Antonio Spurs, with James finally getting his ring.

2013 Offseason

The Bulls don’t want to be content and hand over the conference to James and the Heat. As a result the Bulls are aggressive in free agency.

They have one need, and that is another athletic, defensive wing to throw at James in a 7 game series. They target Andre Iguodala. The Bulls front office sells him on the idea of being apart of the best defensive team I. the league with a chance of dominating the Eastern Conference. Iggy sees the vision they are selling, and signs a 4 year deal.

2013-14 NBA Season

The Bulls entered the season with one common goal, stop the Heat dynasty before it gets gains traction. A rotation up Rose-Butler-Iguodala-Deng-Noah causes havoc on the defensive end. Leading the league in steals, deflections and points allowed, the Bulls have made it known, they will win this championship on gritty defense. The Tom Thibodeau style of basketball.

By years end, Rose wins his second league MVP award but his acceptance speech makes it sound like an after thought. Expressing that the individual awards mean nothing without the team success, Rose sets the tone for the Bulls heading into the playoffs.

2014 Playoffs

Yep you guessed it, the Bulls and Heat continue their dominance and meet for an unprecedented 4th straight conference finals. This time the Bulls have the pain on their side. They so badly want to redeem the previous conference finals loss, and this time they have the necessary fire power to do so.

Jimmy Butler has developed into a vital component of the Bulls game plan on both ends, and his stock continues to rise with his defense on Wade in the series.

The pick up of Iguodala proves to be a good one as he along with Deng slow down James just enough.

Between Iguodala, Deng and Butler, James and Wade have to exert immense energy just to get a shot off.

All of this defensive talk allows for Rose to shine on the bright stage. Often looking like the best player on the floor, Rose cruises past the Heat guards averaging close to 30 and 10 per game. The Bulls succeed on their goal and advance to the NBA Finals to battle the Spurs.

2014 NBA Finals: Rose captures his 2nd Ring

The Spurs, much like the 2013 Heat team, were on a redemption tour, with one goal of winning the championship. But they wouldn’t be so lucky.

San Antonio battles but the athleticism and length of the Bulls overwhelms the old Spurs.

Rose’s persistent attack of a weak defensive point guard in Tony Parker is the defining matchup of the series. Rose mirrors his first career playoff game stat line with 36 points and 11 assists multiple times in the series. Capturing his 2nd Finals MVP comes as no surprise.

2014 proves to be the best season of his career thus far capturing both league and finals MVP, allowing Rose to appreciate both awards. But even a bigger accomplishment took place. Rose and company are the reason for the dismantling of the Heat Big 3.

2014 Offseason

The heat big 3 is no more. Frustrated with the lack of success, the three all stars go their own way.

James does not go back home to Cleveland, but out West to join Gregg Popovich’s Spurs.

Wade in fact does go home, to Chicago to team up with another Chicago kid Derrick Rose.

Chris Bosh stays in Miami to finally get the recognition he deserves as the face of a team.

2014-15 NBA Season

For the first time since the Celtics-Lakers of the 80’s, we knew from opening night that we were destined for a Spurs-Bulls Finals matchup. The storyline all season grew around the beef between Wade and James, with the Spurs trying to revenge their loss to the Bulls.

As expected the two teams run away with their expected conferences setting up the most anticipated Finals matchup of all time.

2015 NBA Finals


To recap the Bulls have a rotation of Rose-Wade-Butler-Iguodala-Noah while the Spurs run out Parker-Green-Leonard-James-Duncan. James and Wade former best friends have unsettled beef and the Spurs are trying to win a title after losing the previous two finals.

The series is an instant classic with all the star power on both sides. It goes the distance and down to the final minute for a winner to be decided. Rose and Wade have dominated for the Bulls, as did James and rising star Leonard. Oddly enough the game was decided by Mr. Fundamental Tim Duncan.

Unlike they 2013 mistake of not having Duncan on the floor to secure the rebound that led to “Bosh back out to Allen his 3 pointer Bang!” Duncan is on the floor for the game deciding play.

Duncan banks in a game winning shot over Noah, sending the Spurs home with the NBA title and bragging rights.

2015 Offseason

Duncan and Ginobili ride off into the sunset as NBA champions, leaving the Spurs roster in dire need, without much cap space to get things done. Like all James teams, they piece it together with veterans trying to capture a ring before time is up.

As for the Bulls who are also up against the hard cap, they run things back with the same core.

2015-16 NBA Season

This season for the Bulls is one of dynamic change. Butler has staked his claim as the second best player behind Rose. Wade with his sore knees takes a back seat, heading to the bench.

Wade thrives in the 6th man role, winning the award. Butler as the clear 2nd option playing alongside Rose, sees a spike in his offensive production. Averaging 20 points per game for the first time in his career, Butler walks away with the Most Improved Player Award.

Rose was his usual dominant self, scoring 27 a night. But this season Rose added another dimension to his game, rebounding. Something he worked on in the offseason to enhance his fast break scoring.

2016 NBA Playoffs

The Bulls once again fly through the diminished Eastern Conference and reach the Finals rather easily. But this time the Bulls have a new opponent in their way. The new baby face of the league Steph Curry and the Warriors have arrived.

It is truly a battle of styles. The Warriors with a high paced offense focused on the 3 ball, while the Bulls prefer to be physical and rely on Rose to will the offense.

The Warriors inexperience and lack of a veteran presence (Iggy never went to GS) shows up big time in the series. Rose dominates the point guard matchup as Curry goes cold from 3 too often in the series.

The Bulls are back on top for the 3rd time in the Rose era. But times are about to get tail off.

2016 Offseason

The team is starting to age and there is still another season before cap relief sets in. The large salary contracts to Wade  and Iguodala are preventing the Bulls from making any drastic improvements. While once key contributors, they both are beginning to regress.

Fearing that they would continue the signing of players that would diminish over the course of the contract, the Bulls allow Deng to walk in free agency. Joakim Noah is also a free agent this summer and leaves for the big pay day from the New York Knicks.

Just like that the half of core that built the Chicago culture are gone.

However the Bulls do add young depth via the draft with pick up of Pascal Siakam. Siakam, who is still a project at this point, will sit behind and learn from Iguodala.

As for the rest of the roster, the Bulls plug and play veterans past their prime to fill the voids of Deng and Noah.

2016-17 NBA Season

The Bulls struggle early on, noticing the vacancy of their veteran front court. Wade’s knees continue to diminish and can no longer be relied on to play major minutes. The Eastern Conference that the Bulls have ran for a few years now has suddenly got better. The Boston Celtics led by an unlikely 5’9 guard Isiah Thomas sit a top the conference, along with the rise of the Toronto Raptors led by Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry.

Despite Rose’s bests scoring season of his career, it doesn’t translate to team success. The Bulls finish as the 4th seed and the playoffs don’t look promising.

2017 NBA Playoffs

On the will of Rose and the reliance on experience, the Bulls survive a round one matchup, but have to face the Boston Celtics in round 2.

The entire NBA community is backing Thomas and the Celtics after the death of his sister Chyna. Thomas and the Celtics ride this unfathomable strength past the Bulls and straight to the NBA Finals. The Golden State Warriors eventually take out the Celtics.

2017 Offseason

For the first time in a few years, the Bulls have cap space and a huge holes to fill. A wing player to pair with Butler and Rose, as well as a big man to hold down the paint, the Bulls have huge holes to fill with limited options.

The main target of Gordon Hayward turns down Chicago, so the Bulls embrace the second tier market, signing JJ Reddick for floor spacing.

Then Thibodeau adds someone who fits his ideal system in PJ Tucker, brining some much needed toughness back to the team. Still lacking that big man presence, the Bulls take a cheap flyer on Pau Gasol. Not needed to play huge minutes as the league has gone to small ball, Gasol will be able to provide just enough playing time to be a factor.

2017-18 NBA Season

With the offseason additions, the Bulls are rejuvenated. Rose still performing at a MVP level, and the development of Butler into an all-star has the Bulls once again near the top of the conference. The floor spacing presented by Reddick and the small ball lineup with Tucker at the 5, allows Rose to attack the rim with even more ease. Siakam takes a step in the right direction, becoming a constant rotation piece.

2018 NBA Playoffs

The Bulls once again are the powerhouse team in the East with their only true competitors being the Raptors and Celtics. The Raptors take out the Celtics creating a Raptors-Bulls conference finals. DeRozan and Lowry just can’t get over the hump allowing the Rose-Butler led Bulls to the Finals.

2018 NBA Finals

Things have changed since the last time the Bulls and Warriors faced in the finals. Well one huge change, the Warriors landed Durant. In an unfair matchup, the Warriors steam role the Bulls in just 5 games.

2018 Offseason

The Bulls do nothing major this offseason, but the NBA landscape quickly changed. LeBron finally went home to Cleveland to join Kyrie Irving. Toronto trades Derozan for Kawhi Leonard, and Giannis Antetokounmpo is on the rise. Overnight the Eastern Conference became a powerhouse and the Bulls road back to the championship looks rough.

2018-19 NBA Season

The Bulls are no longer the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. Rose is no longer the best player, and maybe not even top 3. He and Butler fall down the list of NBA duos as KD/Curry and James/Irving, both rank ahead of them.

Nonetheless, the Bulls finish the season as the 3rd seed and have a tough road back to the Finals.

2019 NBA Playoffs

Easily advancing past round 1, the Bulls are set to face the up and coming Bucks in round two. It is arguably the worst matchup for the Bulls as they have no rim protector to neutralize Giannis Antetokounmpo. Rose and Butler play well but the depth of the Bucks along with Antetokounmpo’s pure dominance is too much to handle.

2019 Offseason

The Bulls head into the offseason no longer as a top title contender. They see the writing on the wall that teams have caught up to their streak of dominance. Butler and Rose will remain Bulls, likely for life, but chances for another ring in the near future are slim.


So what if Rose never tears his ACL, and avoids injuries? He goes on to win 3 rings and finals MVP’s. Holding the Heat big 3 to just one title in their run, James heads out West. The Warriors still go one to dominate as Durant leaves Westbrook in OKC. Speaking of Westbrook, he reaches all star level but lives in Rose’s shadow, never becoming the top guard in the league.

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