Predicting Chicago Bulls Rotation for the 2012-13 NBA Season

Bryant West@bswest5Correspondent IAugust 2, 2012

Predicting Chicago Bulls Rotation for the 2012-13 NBA Season

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    The Chicago Bulls 2012-2013 schedule was released last week, but while the schedule may be set in stone, the Bulls lineup come opening night is a bit harder to predict.

    In under three months the Bulls will take to the court for a Halloween night matchup against the Sacramento Kings.  We can safely predict three of the Bulls starters, but with the injury to Derrick Rose, the guard rotation seems to be wide open. Rose is likely out till March, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune’s KC Johnson. The guard spots will be the most interesting position to watch during training camp and preseason.

    Let’s take a look and predict the starting rotation for the 2012-2013 Chicago Bulls.

Sidenote: Derrick Rose

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    The moment that he's able to return (according to a report by the Chicago Tribune’s KC Johnson, he is expected to be ready in March), Rose will rocket up to the top of the depth chart. For now, let's focus on the rest of Chicago's roster. 

Starting PG: Kirk Hinrich

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    With Rose out, the point guard rotation is wide open until he returns in March. Rookie Marquis Teague or the newly signed Nate Robinson could both steal away the starting spot.

    My bet is on the veteran Kirk Hinrich, though. Hinrich was a fan favorite in his first stint in Chicago, and he gives Head Coach Tom Thibodeau an experience floor leader. Hinrich is a good passer and a good defender, making him the the best fit for the job early on.

    Hinrich averaged 6.6 points and 2.8 assists last year for the Hawks, starting in 31 games.

Starting SG: Richard Hamilton

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    Rip Hamilton’s 2011-2012 season was fraught with injures, limiting him to just 28 games. When he was healthy, he was productive and averaged 11.6 points on 45.2 percent shooting.

    As long as he’s healthy you can expect him to start, because the depth behind him is easily the weakest on the team. Marco Belinelli and Jimmy Butler will play behind Hamilton.

Starting SF: Luol Deng

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    I wrote a piece last week arguing that the Bulls need to reignite the Luol Deng trade talks. If Deng enters training camp as the starter (seems the most likely outcome), he’s going to have to bear a lot more of the offense until Rose returns.

    He’s a talented shooter and a fantastic defender, but he’ll need to prove that without Rose, he can be a focal point of the offense. Deng averaged 15.3 points and 6.5 rebounds last year but shot a career low 41.7 percent from the field. 

Starting PF: Carlos Boozer

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    Can Carlos Boozer step up in the absence of Derrick Rose and return to the effective scorer he was in Utah? I explored that issue last week.

    Some fans want Taj Gibson to start over Boozer. That would be a significant upgrade on the defensive end (according to Synergy Sports Tech, Boozer allowed .89 points per possession last year while Gibson off the bench allowed .77 points per possession), but the loss of a prolific scorer would hurt the starting five big time.

    Boozer and Deng are the two Bulls players (aside from Rose) capable of scoring 20 points a night consistently. You can’t bench Boozer without Rose there to pick up the offensive slack.

    Boozer averaged 15.0 points and 8.5 rebounds a game last season for Chicago.

Starting C: Joakim Noah

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    Noah is safe as the starting center, especially after the loss of Omer Asik to the Houston Rockets. Gibson could and will play behind Noah, and newly signed Nazr Mohammed could see some time as well, but Noah's role is safe. 

    A strong defender and a capable rebounder, Noah averaged 10.4 points and 9.8 rebounds last season. He was even better in the Bulls six-game series loss to Philadelphia when he averaged 15.0 points, 9.3 rebounds and shot 73.1 percent from the field. 

6th Man: Taj Gibson

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    Gibson is, sadly, the only consistent bench player the Bulls may have on their roster this season.

    He’s a fantastic defender and a good rebounder and could easily start if the Bulls didn’t have such a pressing need for Boozer’s offensive skills. The only thing that Gibson can’t do as well as Boozer is score the ball. He averaged 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks a contest last season.  

7th Man: Nate Robinson

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    The Bulls announced the signing of Nate Robinson yesterday according to a AP Press report

    While I'm comfortable predicting Hinrich as the starter, the backup point position will be a battle. You can make a case for both Robinson and Teague.

    I'll go with Robinson. He averaged 11.4 points and 4.5 assists last year for Golden State and had some excellent games when Stephen Curry went down. He will give Chicago much-needed bench scoring. 

8th Man: Marco Belinelli

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    When Marco Belinelli is the best wing player off your bench, you're in trouble.

    Belinelli had his best season last year, scoring 11.8 points and starting 55 games for the New Orleans Hornets. He shot 41.7 percent from the field, but the Bulls will need him to be far more consistent if he's going to play serious minutes. 

9th Man: Marquis Teague

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    Teague could easily win the 6th man spot away from Nate Robinson if he impresses in training camp. He might even be able to win the starting point guard position with Rose out, but Tom Thibadeau likes to play veterans more when he can.

    The Kentucky product was an excellent pickup by Chicago with the 28th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, and he averaged 10.0 points and 4.8 assists last year for the Champion Wildcats. It'll take him time to get used to the NBA game, and he needs to improve his shooting (he shot 41.8 percent from the field last year). 

10th Man: Jimmy Butler

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    Swingman Jimmy Butler, the 30th overall selection by Chicago in the 2011 NBA Draft, played just 8.5 last season and averaged only 2.6 points a game.

    He will almost certainly see more playing time this season. With the departure of both Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer, Butler could see some nice minutes behind Rip Hamilton and Luol Deng.

    Alex Kennedy of hoopsworld.com had a nice interview with Butler and pointed out that Butler averaged 20.8 points and 6.5 rebounds a contest for Chicago in the Summer League. Don't be surprised if he thrives this season.

11th Man: Vladimir Radmanovic

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    Radmanovic is a solid defender and a solid shooter, but don't expect him to provide more than that. Last year for Atlanta, he averaged 4.5 points and 2.9 rebounds but shot a poor 37.5 percent from the field.

    He can play either of the forward spots, but if he's penciled in as the full time backup to Luol Deng, that is a big concern. Chicago needs a more reliable swingman behind Deng. 

12th Man: Nazr Mohammed

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    Mohammed has the advantage of being the only true center on the roster besides starter Joakim Noah. He's an experienced veteran with a good history of success, but he's also 34 years old, and that will certainly hold him back.

    Last year with Oklahoma City he averaged 2.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 11 minutes a game. In Chicago, he may see some minutes, but with Taj Gibson also coming off the bench, he won't see a ton of playing time.