With an unpredictable NBA season on the horizon, the Bulls have their share of questions. What cannot be questioned is which players will start and which reserves will get a lion’s share of minutes on the floor. The Bulls' rotations are set at every position.
With Derrick Rose out for at least the first few months of the season, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau will rely on a couple of different players, and for various contributions. How much playing time those players receive will depend on their productivity.
The Bulls roster is not necessarily a deep one. They will undoubtedly begin the season with only 12 healthy players and may add a player to the roster with a non-guaranteed contract for depth purposes.
Their biggest need is an active body at center, perhaps their strongest position, but barring any jaw-dropping moves, the Bulls roster is set and so is their rotation.
Given the injury to Rose, the Bulls' shallowest position is the guard spot. They are not a group filled with household names, but each player has a good NBA resume.
Each guard brings a different skill-set to the Bulls, but they can be interchangeable pieces. All of them have played both point guard and shooting guard at one point in their career. Though the Bulls guards are the weak link of the team, they are versatile as any of the top NBA guard rotations.
If the Bulls need lockdown defense, they can rely on Kirk Hinrich. If they need lights-out scoring, they can use Marco Belinelli.
Among the Bulls guards, Richard Hamilton has an NBA championship under his belt.
The other guard is the energetic Nate Robinson.
Here is a breakdown of each guard.
Kirk Hinrich, 32 MPG
Hinrich returns to the Bulls after stints with the Washington Wizards and the Atlanta Hawks. If it were not for the Bulls trying to get far enough under the salary cap to sign some of the major free agents of the 2010 NBA free-agency class, Hinrich would have never left the team. The Bulls virtually received nothing in return for his trade to the Wizards.
Hinrich, in his second tour of duty with the team, appears energized, showing little if any NBA wear and tear.
Until Rose returns, Hinrich is the starting point guard, and he will play a ton of minutes as long as his body holds up. The Bulls will need his steady hand and defense. It also helps that Hinrich is a player that Thibodeau loves to have on his roster.
Richard Hamilton 27 MPG
Hamilton was supposed to be the answer at the shooting guard spot, but a lockout-shortened schedule and some lingering injuries eventually did him in. Always known for having a good workout regimen, Hamilton never lived up to the promise of being what the Bulls needed.
This season, he returns and is looking to put last year behind him. His redemption can lead the Bulls to one of the better records in the NBA.
The Bulls will need Hamilton to score, add floor spacing, defend and stay healthy.
The success of the new Bulls “Bench Mob” will rest on the shoulders of Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson. The Bulls added them to the team for scoring and athleticism, both of which can come easy for them at times. They are both good at creating offense for themselves, but they can be streaky.
Neither player is considered a great defender, something that Thibodeau will not tolerate.
The biggest question mark that comes with them is, will Thibodeau have the patience to keep them on the court when they are struggling?
The answer is unclear. Thibodeau is a defensive taskmaster who will not hesitate to bench a player for poor performance on defense. Will he be consistent when it comes to the offense?
For now, the predicted playing time for Belinelli and Robinson is 19 and 13 MPG, respectively.
The forwards of the Bulls are among the best overall units in the NBA. This group boasts three starter-caliber players in Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson. Though not as versatile as their backcourt teammates, they bring unique basketball qualities to the table.
Defensively, the Bulls have a good rotation of forwards. The only below-average defender is Boozer. Boozer, for all of the criticism that he takes in, is not as bad of a defender as advertised.
Jimmy Butler rounds out the group. The second-year player is still an unknown as far as what he can provide to a team that needs all of the help they can get.
Here is how the Bulls forwards shape up.
Luol Deng 35 MPG
When Luol Deng was selected to his first NBA All-Star team last season, it raised our expectations of him. No longer can he be considered an underrated player. With Rose out, Deng is the star of the team.
Deng led the Bulls in total minutes played last year, and barring any long-lasting injuries, he will do so again.
The truth is the Bulls need him to play as much as he can if they want to have a chance at not only making the playoffs, but also winning a series or two. Deng is the team’s best defender and most reliable scoring threat.
His consistency is difficult to ignore. Deng will play heavy minutes once again.
Carlos Boozer 28 MPG
Always in the “Amnesty Clause Discussions” is Carlos Boozer. Many Bulls fans cannot get over the fact that the Bulls signed such a defensively-challenged power forward in 2010 when other players such as David Lee and Amar’e Stoudemire were available.
Boozer is here to stay this season, and that is a good thing.
Never has there been such a fuss over a player that puts up the production of 15 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game. The amount of teams that would gladly have that stat-line from their starting power forward is just about every team in the NBA. The asinine thoughts about the Bulls using the amnesty clause on Boozer has more to do with how much he makes and less about what he brings to the team.
This is the more important season of Boozer’s career. He will play close to the same amount of minutes as he did last year but with higher scoring totals.
The Bulls' forward rotation concludes with Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler. They both will play significant roles this season, but the impact that they will have on the team will be in two entirely different ways.
Gibson, the veteran holdover from the reshaped “Bench Mob,” is the leader of the second unit. Unlike the reserve guards, Gibson adds a defensive toughness to the Bulls. His shot blocking and rebounding are his best attributes, and his role is to do the dirty work and provide hustle plays.
Butler’s role is much different. While he will be needed to add his share of hustle plays, Butler will spend some time as a perimeter defender, primarily against teams that have tall wing players.
Butler also will be asked to shoot more often than Gibson does. The Bulls can still win plenty of basketball games if Gibson does not score more than eight points; the same cannot be said for Butler. There will be times when Butler will be one of the best offensive players on the floor for the Bulls. He must make the opposing teams defend honestly by taking and making shots.
The playing time predictions for Gibson and Butler are 22 and 16 minutes.
The center rotation is thin but strong. Both players bring the same qualities so that when one comes in for the other, there should no significant dropoff in production.
Arguably, injuries and slow starts have kept Joakim Noah from making the NBA All-Star team in a succession of two seasons. He brings the “swagger” to the Bulls with grit and hustle.
Noah has shown flashes of being a better player on the offensive end of the floor. During the preseason, his passing has improved and he is taking his jump shot with more confidence. The Bulls will need him to bring some scoring to the center position, and 14 PPG would be ideal.
Nazr Mohammed is the reserve center. He is a solid pro not known for his scoring, but he brings just what the Bulls need—toughness. This does not mean that Mohammed cannot hit the occasional jumper with regularity, as he has shown in the preseason that he can nail a 15-foot shot. It just means that he was brought in for another purpose.
Noah and Mohamed complement each other’s talents, and that is what makes the Bulls rotation at center intriguing.
This unit is not going to win any scoring titles, but it may be the strongest rotation that the Bulls have.
Noah will play the bulk of the minutes at center with a projected 33 MPG, while Mohammed will play 15 MPG.