If the Chicago Bulls do not play deep into the NBA postseason, the iffy status of Derrick Rose will not be the cause of it. Take a long, hard look at the Bulls’ frontcourt depth and ask yourself how far they can go in the playoffs.
Ultimately, their shallow frontcourt could be their demise.
With the NBA trade deadline come and gone, several fans held out hope that the Bulls would acquire a backup center. Many names came out of the mouths of the Chicago faithful. Among those names, Denver Nuggets third-string pivot man Timofey Mozgov was brought up constantly. Unfortunately, the Bulls did not have movable parts on the roster. Therefore, they stood pat.
The Bulls staying idle at the trade deadline left them with a ginormous hole in their roster.
“The Turkish Hammer,” as he was known by the fans, was one-half of a strong defensive tandem. Alongside Taj Gibson, Asik frightened opposing centers and anyone else who dared take the basketball into the lane. Together the fearsome duo blocked several shots while altering others, giving the Bulls a great advantage. The helped shape a defense that was the Association’s best for two consecutive seasons.
The Bulls’ perimeter defenders were able to breathe a sigh of relief knowing that two active shot-blockers were in the post. After the Bulls failed to match the Rockets’ offer for Asik, that was lost.
Asik on the other hand has flourished.
He has seen an increase in his scoring, 10.4 PPG, up from the 2.7 and 3.1 he averaged while playing for the Bulls. Asik also doubled his rebounding output, going from 3.7 and 5.3 in his two years with Chicago to 11.6 with the Rockets.
With little cap space and a thin free agency market for centers during the previous offseason, the team opted to sign two short-term solutions in the frontcourt.
Do the names of Nazr Mohammed and Vladimir Radmanovic get you giddy?
They are the replacements for Omer Asik. Neither one of them play much, which only taxes the legs of the frontcourt holdovers, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Gibson. Is a frontcourt rotation of three players enough to challenge the Eastern Conference's upper-echelon teams such as the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers?
The trio gives the Bulls a great nucleus.
Boozer and Noah, the top two rebounders on the team, are also second and third in scoring. Gibson remains the Bulls’ best overall post defender. They do a fantastic job keeping Chicago in games.
Their contributions cannot always be counted on, as all it takes is an unforeseen circumstance to threaten the cohesion.
Foul trouble will slow a team down. An injury while undoubtedly impede its progress.
Gibson’s untimely MCL sprain leaves the Bulls in a vulnerable position.
Seldom-used Mohammed has been forced into action to spell Boozer and Noah, while Radmanovic also has played a few minutes.
The Bulls recently signed forward Lou Amundson to a 10-day contract, giving them an extra body in case of additional unforeseen situations. The seven-year player is elated to play for a playoff contender.
Here is what he told reporters after his first shootaround with the team.
I really haven't been part of a shootaround like that where it was so thorough and we went over every little thing. I can tell the attention to detail is there.
They're always a contender in the East and being part of a good team is important to me.
Amundson does not wow anyone with great athletic ability. He is an energy player, someone who will grab rebounds, defend, fight for a loose ball and make hustle plays. He sounds like a player the Bulls could have used from the start of the season. Amundson is not a scorer, but a rugged defender who could give Boozer and Noah a breather while teaming up with Gibson in the second unit.
Is the signing of Amundson too late?
It is uncertain if he will stick with the team for the remainder of the season. His signing still leaves the Bulls with a void. The only frontcourt player who is a proven scorer is Boozer. The Bulls would be a more balanced team with a player that can come off the bench and score points in the paint.
Not all is lost for the Bulls. The only team in the conference with an advantage in the frontcourt is the Pacers. Lack of size is the biggest weakness of the Heat.
The Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks are starting power forwards at the 5-spot. The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets have All-Star centers to go along with good power forwards, but the depth at both positions is thinner than the Bulls' depth.
The Bulls can always play Luol Deng at power forward, as he is effective against the ‘tweeners of the position.
If Derrick Rose declared that he is ready to assume playing basketball, the Bulls' chances of advancing in the playoffs are heightened. What could hold them back is the glaring hole in the frontcourt. The Bulls have one of the NBA’s best three-man rotations up front, but an untimely injury similar to Gibson’s changes things.
It is time for the Bulls to play Mohammed more. He played great against the Pacers in a recent game. He scored seven points, grabbed five rebounds and blocked two shots in 16 minutes.