In order for the Chicago Bulls to finish strong this season, a few players will need to step it up a bit.
The trio of Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer—a major surprise by far—have powered the Bulls to a respectable 26-16 record without the injured Derrick Rose in the lineup.
While those guys have played admirably thus far, other players like Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson must take their games to the next level to help the team capture another Central Division crown.
The Bulls have certainly overachieved in the first half of the season, and we shall see how they’ll perform
Rose is expected to return to the court in either late February or sometime in March. Will his supporting cast step up and get the job done?
The Bulls signed Nazr Mohammed in the offseason after losing reserve big man Omer Asik to the Houston Rockets.
Nobody expected Mohammed to be Asik 2.0, but people did believe that he could serve as a decent backup for starting center Joakim Noah.
The Chicago native has proven to be nothing less than a disappointment thus far. Due to his ineffectiveness, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has opted to play Mohammed just six minutes a night, and play Noah a ridiculous 38 minutes per contest.
Mohammed needs to play well so Noah can get some rest. The last thing the Bulls need is another injured All-Star.
Although Nate Robinson is leading the Bulls in scoring per 36 minutes (18.4), he still needs to step it up a notch.
The 5’9” former slam dunk champ has put together some memorable performances this season, but he has also turned in some not-so-memorable performances.
You never know what you’re going to get from Nate. Some nights he plays brilliantly, while some nights, fans aren’t so pleased with him.
When Derrick Rose returns—which should be sometime after the All-Star break—Robinson could end up falling out of the rotation as he battles Kirk Hinrich for backup point guard minutes.
Will Robinson, currently a spark plug off the bench for the Bulls, convince Tom Thibodeau to keep him in the rotation?
Marco Belinelli has had an up-and-down 2012-13 campaign.
Earlier in the season, he struggled off the bench and lost Tom Thibodeau’s trust. However, he later became one of the Bulls’ top scoring threats after replacing an injured Richard Hamilton in the starting lineup in December.
Nowadays, the sharp-shooting two-guard is on the bench once again, serving as Hamilton's backup.
This month, Belinelli has had four games in which he scored just five points or fewer. He does possess the skills, though, to win the starting spot back. Maybe we’ll eventually see him get the job back and form a pretty nice backcourt with a healthy Derrick Rose. He just has to outplay Hamilton.
This was supposed to be a breakout season for Taj Gibson. The fourth-year power forward was expected to emerge as a leading candidate for Sixth Man of the Year.
Unfortunately, though, that hasn’t been the case, at least not yet.
Gibson’s averages this season of 7.0 points and 4.9 rebounds per game are basically the same as last season’s (7.7 points and 5.3 rebounds).
He has had several performances this year that he’d like to forget about, including a pair of scoreless games and a slew of two-point games.
The Bulls are going to need more out of Gibson, who plays behind starting big men Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah.
In the absence of Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich has served as the Bulls’ starting point guard this season.
Captain Kirk, of course, isn’t capable of scoring 25 points a game like Rose, but he can surely play better than he has thus far.
He’s currently averaging just 7.0 points and 5.2 assists, definitely not starting point guard-type numbers.
Hinrich is also shooting 38 percent from the field and 67 percent from the foul line, which are both career lows.
He’ll head to the bench once Rose gets back, and hopefully emerge as a quality backup during the second half of the season. And hopefully his shooting improves as well.