Rip It Up
With the NBA regular season coming to a close and the playoffs right around the corner, now is a great time to review the play of the Bulls' shooting guards during the 2011-2012 regular season. Richard "Rip" Hamilton and Ronnie Brewer have split time at the 2-guard this season and have helped lead the Chicago Bulls to the league-leading record with two games left in the season.
In a season that featured 66 games per team in 120 days, there have been many highs and lows for the Bulls' shooting guards, and injuries have played a significant role. With the combination of a savvy, veteran scorer and a young, lock-down defender, the Bulls have two dynamic pieces at shooting guard—so let's review their highlights and statistics.
Pull the rip chord.
Going into the season, the Chicago Bulls made one significant move when they added veteran shooting guard Richard "Rip" Hamilton. By choosing Rip to replace veteran Keith Bogans, the Bulls were looking for Rip to provide the offensive relief that they have sought so desperately to assist Derrick Rose while not compromising their defense.
Rip has averaged 11.7 points, 3.0 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 0.4 steals per game in 24.9 minutes per game. Due to injuries, Hamilton has only played in 25 of the Bulls' 64 games this season.
Rip has impressed when healthy, using his high basketball IQ to move well without the ball. Rip's shooting percentages—45.3 percent overall and 39 percent from three—have forced defenses to guard him and have provided relief for Rose when they have been on the court together.
Rip's best game of the season was against the New Jersey Nets on January 23, when he scored 22 points on 10-16 shooting and added 10 assists and four rebounds.
As previously mentioned, Rip has missed a significant portion of the season with injuries to his shoulder, groin and thigh, and the Bulls have had to rely on Ronnie Brewer. Rip's injuries have been a struggle in two ways.
First, Hamilton has been unable to spend much time on the floor with his teammates, which has led to a lack of chemistry development between Rip and the rest of the Bulls. Second, injuries are tough on veterans, and with Rip returning so late in the season, his game and conditioning may have some kinks going into the playoffs.
Rip may not have played up to the expectations of Bulls fans this season and may be rusty going into the postseason, but his offense is crucial in aiding Rose and the Bulls to their first post-Michael Jordan championship. Rip has the savvy to be the second scorer the Bulls need, he can relieve pressure from Rose and he also knows how to lead a fast break to get easy points. Rip needs to stay healthy and hungry for the Bulls to win it all.
Chicago's finest Brew.
For the second season in a row, Ronnie Brewer looked like a lock for the starting 2-guard position. However, for the second season in a row, Brewer has found himself coming off the bench.
Despite this setback, Brewer has continued to provide the Chicago Bulls with great defensive effort off the bench and has looked even more confident offensively.
Brewer has averaged 6.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.3 blocks per game in 25 minutes per game. Brewer has played in all 64 games to date and started 42 of them in place of the injured Rip Hamilton.
Though he was replaced in the starting lineup by Rip, Brewer has had plenty of opportunities to start while Rip has dealt with injuries. Although not a great offensive player, the Bulls have still done well with Brewer taking the bulk of shooting-guard minutes with a 31-11 record while starting this season.
Brewer's best game of the season was against the Indiana Pacers on January 25, when he scored 20 points on 8-15 shooting and recorded 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals.
While he is not a great offensive player, Brewer has looked more confident this season. But, he is still not the piece Chicago needs to ease the pressure on Rose. Brewer is only averaging 6.9 points in 25.0 minutes, and while shooting a respectable 42.7 percent, Brewer's three-point percentage is a dismal 27.5 percent.
Brewer's main value lies in his defense, and he may prove to be invaluable as the Bulls progress into the playoffs. That being said, for Brewer to be the answer for the Bulls and secure the shooting-guard position, he will need to improve his scoring and his three-point percentage to bring some offensive relief to Derrick Rose.
Some are predicting that Brewer will be cut in the offseason to make room on the salary to ink Taj Gibson to a long-term deal and Chicago's defensive-minded rookie Jimmy Butler could take over many of Brewer's responsibilities.
As a unit, the Bulls' shooting guards are middle-of-the-league.
Scoring 17.4 points per game, the Bulls' shooting guards are 26th in the league in scoring. They have the sixth best field-goal percentage at 43.9 percent and the third best three-point percentage at 39.1 percent, but they also have the 29th free-throw percentage at 70.3 percent.
Defensively, the Chicago Bulls have held opposing shooting guards to 18.5 points per game, second only to the Boston Celtics. Opposing shooting guards are held to the second lowest field-goal percentage at 39.7 percent and the seventh lowest three-point percentage at 34.8 percent.
Going into this season, the Bulls' biggest question mark on their roster was at the shooting-guard position. Going into this postseason, the Bulls biggest question mark on their roster is still the shooting-guard position. The Bulls are still searching for the answer to their backcourt and are still hoping that Rip Hamilton and Ronnie Brewer can create a cohesive tandem at shooting guard.
If the Bulls are to make a push in the playoffs and win a championship, they are going to need Rip and Brewer to hold their own against the opposing shooting guards. Right now, Rip seems to be the more effective shooting guard for the Bulls, but it is unclear whether he or Brewer has enough to push the Bulls over the edge.