Chicago Bulls: Does C.J. Watson's Eventual Return Put John Lucas on the Bench?

Ernest ShepardAnalyst IIIJanuary 16, 2012

John Lucas' play has opened some eyes but with C.J. Watson set to return soon, is his looking over his shoulder?
John Lucas' play has opened some eyes but with C.J. Watson set to return soon, is his looking over his shoulder?Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

John Lucas of the Chicago Bulls is soon to be in one of those situations many players face  when contributing off of the bench.  He has filled in more than admirably for the injured C.J. Watson, causing some to believe that he is making Watson expendable in a trade for another piece to the Bulls' championship puzzle.

By averaging career numbers in points (7.9), assists (2.1) and minutes played, Lucas is winning fans over game by game. He is also gaining the trust of his teammates, which is greatly important.

Watson is scheduled to make his return this week, at the earliest today against the Memphis Grizzlies. While that improves the overall team depth, does this mean that Lucas, the journeyman from Oklahoma State, goes back to sitting on the bench?

If you watched the fourth quarter of the Raptors game on Saturday, you might have noticed this lineup: Luol Deng, Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson and John Lucas. 

Long before the need for a shooting guard, there was a need for another player who can just handle the ball. 

Did the Bulls need more scoring options in the playoffs last season? Absolutely, but an additional ball handler from either position frees up Rose to wreck havoc on opposing teams. Chicago could use someone with enough savvy and floor generalship to take the ball out of Rose's hands, thus making him the shooting guard.

Against Toronto, that aforementioned lineup was extremely effective. The Bulls may not try it often, but it gives them options going forward.

The return of Watson provides the Bulls even greater options, yet he and Lucas are two different players.

Both are guards who look for their shot, but after further review, Lucas is more of a true point guard who is fearless (watching him get into Toronto's Jamaal Magloire's face officially won me over). Meanwhile, Watson is a better overall scorer and defender. 

What they both offer is the potential to allow coach Tom Thibodeau to rest Rose, Ronnie Brewer and Richard Hamilton once he returns from his groin injury. 

The "Bench Mob" was already a strong unit, and with the accession of John Lucas, that unit has just become stronger. When C.J. Watson indeed does return, Lucas' return to the bench shouldn't be a foregone conclusion. His recent play this month suggests that he deserves some playing time, and that makes the Chicago Bulls more flexible than before.