The Bulls will have as many as six new faces on their roster once the new season begins. The list of newcomers includes Vladimir Radmanovic, Marquis Teague, Nate Robinson, Nazr Mohammed, Marco Belinelli and the returning Kirk Hinrich.
NBA league rules require all teams to have at least 13 players on their roster, meaning that the Bulls may look to add an additional player (hopefully summer league standout Malcolm Thomas) to a non-guaranteed contract.
The incoming players are certain to affect the Bulls’ overall team chemistry, rotation and playing time.
Some players, i.e. incumbents Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler, will see an increase in their minutes. Others will watch the minutes they have grown accustomed to, shrink.
Luol Deng will finally see more time on the bench next season as Jimmy Butler will get an increased role on the floor.
Averaging 39.4 minutes a game last season, Deng led the Bulls in playing time and was in the top 10 in the NBA in minutes played. The coaching staff will look to rest him more in the early stages of the season.
Deng will start training camp hampered by a torn ligament in his wrist. By opting not to have surgery thus far, Deng has placed uncertainty in the minds of many.
The more rest Deng sees, the less likely will his wrist injury be a factor.
Nate Robinson brings a spark coming off the bench and played on average, 23.4 minutes a game for the Golden State Warriors last season. He will not play that much for the Bulls.
Bulls’ coach Tom Thibodeau is familiar with Robinson from their days with the Boston Celtics.
For the Celtics, Robinson played 14.7 minutes per contest, the second fewest in his career, and averaged 6.5 points in 26 games. He was used as an energy player, but his role with the Bulls will be similar to the one he had with the Warriors.
Robinson will start the season penciled in as the primary backup point guard to Kirk Hinrich, so he will see solid playing time, but at the tune of 20 minutes a game.
The most obvious decline in minutes will befall Derrick Rose. He is currently rehabbing a torn ACL and will likely return after the All-Star break. When he returns, he will not come close to playing the 35 minutes per contest he played last season.
The Bulls will instead bring Rose along slowly and his playing time will hover around the 15-20 minute mark. He must show a willingness to trust his knees before he sees more time on the basketball court.
Trust will dictate how many minutes Rose plays down the stretch. If he can exhibit some of his former explosiveness, he will likely play about 25 minutes a game.
Fear not, there is a silver lining that comes with Rose’s injury.
Rose being hurt means ample playing time for Hinrich, who lost playing time to Jeff Teague while playing for the Atlanta Hawks. If Hinrich can regain his confidence and Rose can play at 80 percent when he returns, the Bulls will be a tough out in the NBA playoffs.
Bulls fan rejoice! You will see Carlos Boozer less next season.
Although I strongly disagree with the notion that Boozer has been a problem for the Bulls, his defense, or lack thereof, will be the primary reason for his reduction in minutes. Boozer lacks the lateral quickness to play great defense and often finds himself out of position.
The secondary reason is the emergence of Taj Gibson, who by all accounts is the same player he was in his rookie season. The only difference with Gibson from then and now is confidence in his ability.
Defense and Gibson getting more playing time are both good reasons to keep Boozer strapped to the bench. The question is, as the Bulls’ best offensive player, does it make much sense to play him less?
Richard Hamilton must look out because I can already hear Bulls announcer Stacey King saying this phrase when mentioning Marco Belinelli: “Egli è assolutamente in fiamme,” which is Italian for “he is absolutely on fire!”
Hamilton struggled with injuries throughout a condensed season.
How much can we expect from Hamilton, a player who I expect will be the starting shooting guard in name only?
With Belinelli on board and Butler groomed as a potential successor, Hamilton’s playing time will see a serious drop-off. His minutes will go to Belinelli and Butler for two reasons, to give them more chances on the floor and to keep Hamilton fresh.
Unless the Bulls display Hamilton for possible trade partners, he will not see more than 18-20 minutes a game.