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Chicago Bulls: Is Luol Deng's Injury Jimmy Butler's Opportunity?

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 03:  Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls sets to defend against the Atlanta Hawks at the United Center on January 3, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Hawks 76-74. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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James DavisAnalyst IJanuary 23, 2012

For a second consecutive season, the Chicago Bulls find themselves playing through a myriad of injuries.

Derrick Rose has missed five games (four consecutively) with a turf toe injury, and the Bulls went 4-1 during that stretch thanks to the elevated play of C.J. Watson, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng.

Speaking of Watson, he and fellow guard Richard Hamilton missed significant time themselves with a dislocated elbow and pulled groin, respectively.

Still though, Chicago has continued to find ways to win.

Much of that success can be attributed to the Bulls' immense depth, giving coach Tom Thibodeau a minimum of a nine-man rotation.

Now it’s been revealed that Deng has a wrist injury that will keep him out of the home contest against the New Jersey Nets.

The severity of the injury has not been disclosed, as Thibodeau will only say that it is being treated as day-to-day.

Even though the Bulls are without a major piece in Luol Deng, they have Rose back, which should be more than enough to keep winning, especially with the now-elevated play of Watson, Boozer and Hamilton.

What might look like a blight for the Bulls' roster may very well be a grand opportunity for rookie Jimmy Butler.

Butler has averaged four minutes per game so far this season, and that time is usually relegated to the closing minutes of the fourth quarter when Chicago has sealed the win.

It is very likely that Thibodeau is bringing the young man along slowly; however, Deng’s absence leaves Chicago short at the small forward spot.

Ronnie Brewer is filling in for now, but there is no one to back him up.

Kyle Korver could slide into the 3-spot, but that leaves no one backing up Hamilton.

This personnel void, that also includes an absent Taj Gibson, opens up a spot for Butler that was once closed to him because of the many lineup combinations that came with a complete Bulls roster.

All of this still means very little, however. Thibodeau may be more content to keep rotating Hamilton, Korver and Brewer stealing minutes for rest with the occasional Scalabrine inclusion. And with formidable frontcourt foes in the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers coming, Butler may still be confined to the bench.

It seems like Thibodeau doesn’t mind giving Butler some court time when the risk of losing a win is minimal, and that may be the best decision for the youngster.

The only thing Butler can do is stay ready and take advantage when his opportunity comes.

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