Chicago Bulls: 5 Players Who Need to Step Up While Derrick Rose Recovers
At that time, more than half of the NBA regular season will be played, and Chicago will be in survivor mode, hoping to at least stay in contention for a playoff spot until its star regains his health.
Whether or not the Bulls will become Eastern Conference bottom-dwellers—fighting for playoff contention—or among the league’s top teams will be contingent upon the performance of a few select players.
Here they are, in no particular order.
Kirk Hinrich, PG
Hinrich was signed to a two-year contract this offseason after being traded from the Bulls to the Wizards two seasons ago. The combo guard was most likely picked up, not only to bolster the Chicago bench and provide a proven backup for Rose, but to supplant the Bulls’ star player while he’s out with an injury.
Nearly a decade in the league, the veteran guard can play the one or two positions with skill and experience. However, Hinrich will never be the quickest player on the floor, which will hurt him in defense of the better point guards in the NBA.
With Rose out, he will be called upon to clamp down on opponents’ primary ball-handlers. He will need to use his experience and savvy to find ways to force those guards into possible double teams and his help defenders. If he falters, opposing offenses will have a field day.
Nate Robinson, G
While the experience of Hinrich will be expected to be lead the Bulls backcourt, particularly on defense, Nate Robinson or someone else will need to provide a spark of energy and score off the bench.
Hinrich is a backup point guard on just about any other NBA team. That he is forced to start on the Chicago squad to begin the 2012-13 season will come as a disadvantage to the Bulls, at the least on the offensive side of the ball.
That is where the rambunctious Robinson has an opportunity to use his athleticism to get to the rim; by challenging the legs of his point defenders, he will wear down opposing guards who would not otherwise be tested.
A productive Robinson also offers Thibodeau the opportunity to rest the aging Hinrich while continuing to have an effective player to fill his place.
Richard Hamilton, SG
The scoring punch lost without Rose creates a void that needs to be filled. Furthermore, the effect Rose’s furious ball handling and ability to drive the paint is something the Bulls offense thrives on.
Hamilton, like Rose, can stretch the floor with his jump shooting. When he is on a roll, it seems like every shot falls for the wily veteran. His frenetic movement off the ball opens up driving lanes for himself and cutting lanes for his teammates.
These things happen when Rip is performing at the top of his game. The 34-year-old is getting older, and it is evident in his scoring numbers going from 18.1 points per game in 2009-10 with Detroit to 11.6 last season.
Granted, his scoring role decreased substantially when he went to Chicago. Not to mention, he was recovering from an injury. Nevertheless, the Bulls hoped for a bit more from the pure scorer.
Hamilton is expected to be part of the starting rotation, unless second-year player Jimmy Butler really impresses head coach Tom Thibodeau in the preseason.
Either way, the Rose-less Bulls will stay stagnant in the half-court set, if there is no one to stretch the defense thin and force them to chase their marks.
Unless a player like Hamilton can be considerably more productive as a scorer than he was in 28 games last season, the Bulls will be counting the days until Rose returns.
Joakim Noah, F/C
Noah has incredible athleticism for his size and is one of the hardest-working guys in the league when it comes to hustling for loose balls, playing staunch defense and crashing the boards.
What will be most important while Rose awaits return is his leadership.
Noah is the type of player whose work ethic and intangible attributes go without question. He leads by example with his play on the court, never backing down to a premier offensive player and never taking plays off.
He will need to continue his exemplary play, with the leadership role vacant in lieu of Rose’s injury.
Carlos Boozer, F/C
Sans Rose, the most important player on the Bulls is, without a doubt, Carlos Boozer.
Sorry, Bulls fans.
Boozer has played inconsistently his entire career, but it has been masked by statistics that match some of the top forwards in the NBA.
Regardless of what you see on paper, Boozer has failed to make baskets when they matter most and has been lackluster defensively against top big men.
If the Bulls have a chance of staying respectable in the Eastern Conference standings at season’s start, Boozer will need to score at least 20 points and average 10 or more rebounds a game.
Otherwise, Boozer should not consider himself comfortable wearing a Chicago jersey for much longer.
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