Projecting Chicago Bulls' Playoff Rotation
The NBA’s regular season is almost over as the always-exciting playoffs are set to begin.
Which players will make the postseason rotation for the Chicago Bulls? That decision is up to head coach Tom Thibodeau, who has done a magnificent job on the sidelines once again.
The Bulls own the sixth-best record in the Eastern Conference despite a smorgasbord of injuries. Guys like Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich and Richard Hamilton have spent a great deal of time out of the lineup this season.
And, of course, franchise point guard Derrick Rose hasn’t logged single minute since tearing his ACL in last year’s playoff opener.
Although the former league MVP has been medically cleared to play, it doesn’t look like he’ll sport a Bulls uni again until next season.
Here’s the possible playoff rotation for Coach Thibs' Chicago squad. It's a 10-man rotation, which eliminates the likes of Daequan Cook, Marquis Teague, Malcolm Thomas and Vladimir Radmanovic.
Reserve Center: Nazr Mohammed
Projected Minutes Per Game: 8
The Bulls signed Nazr Mohammed last summer to replace reserve big man Omer Asik, who bolted town for the Houston Rockets.
Mohammed is no Asik, but he has played well for the Bulls recently. The Chicago native has started 11 of the last 12 games while filling in for injured center Joakim Noah.
Mohammed has put together a few outstanding performances over the past few weeks. He recorded 16 points and 13 rebounds versus the Toronto Raptors and had a 12-point, 12-rebound effort against the Washington Wizards.
During the playoffs, Mohammed will be expected to play solid defense, hit the glass and stick the occasional mid-range jumper.
Reserve Power Forward/Center: Taj Gibson
Projected Minutes Per Game: 20
Taj Gibson has been out of the lineup for a while due to a left-knee injury. Luckily for the Bulls, he should return in time for the playoffs.
Gibson said he wants to return before the regular season ends (via the Chicago Sun-Times).
Yeah, that’s the main thing I felt. I don’t want to just wait until the playoffs. I want to get some reps, get some contact. It’s different when there’s nobody out there guarding you. I’m really looking forward to getting some contact and just going up and down.
Gibson would surely help the Bulls’ second unit. The 6’9” forward rebounds, blocks shots and hustles. He’s the team’s garbage man.
In the playoffs, Gibson will back up Carlos Boozer at power forward and also play behind Joakim Noah at center.
Reserve Shooting Guard: Marco Belinelli
Projected Minutes Per Game: 21
The Bulls lost a few key free agents last summer such as Omer Asik and Kyle Korver. However, they acquired a quality free agent in Marco Belinelli.
The 6’5” Italian has proven to be a brilliant pickup for Chicago.
Although he isn’t the elite three-point shooter that Korver is, Belinelli brings more to the table than. He can create his own shot, drive to the hoop and serves as a playmaker.
Belinelli, who is averaging nearly 10 points per game, can help the Bulls out in terms of scoring the basketball. Plus, he’s fully of capable of coming through in the clutch.
Reserve Small Forward/Shooting Guard: Jimmy Butler
Projected Minutes Per Game: 21
Jimmy Butler logged just four measly minutes during last year’s playoffs. Tom Thibodeau doesn’t play rookies, which is why Marquis Teague won’t see much action in this year’s playoffs.
Barring injury—knock on wood—Butler will see much more action in the 2013 postseason. The talented swingman has been nothing but impressive for the Bulls during his sophomore campaign.
Butler can score, rebound, play suffocating defense and is extremely athletic. He’s also a valuable role player due to the fact that he can play both small forward and shooting guard.
The ultimate X-factor for the playoffs, Butler could develop into a star sooner rather than later. Don’t be surprised if he eventually teams with Derrick Rose to form the Bulls’ next Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen duo, leading the team to multiple titles.
Sixth Man: Nate Robinson
Projected Minutes Per Game: 22
Nate Robinson is playing for the veteran’s minimum this season. You better believe he’ll make a lot more than that next season, though, as he becomes a free agent during the summer.
Little Nate is one of the main reasons the Bulls are playoff-bound rather than lottery-bound.
Robinson has performed admirably, whether he's starting or coming off the bench. He is the team’s third-leading scorer behind Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer, and serves as a dangerous threat from beyond the three-point line.
Robinson has reached the 30-point mark twice this season, including 35 off the bench versus the New York Knicks.
One of the league’s worst offensive teams, the Bulls will need Robinson’s scoring punch throughout the postseason.
Starting Center: Joakim Noah
Projected Minutes Per Game: 35
Joakim Noah has gone from a decent center to a great center over the years. He’s perhaps the best all-around big man in the game today.
An All-Star this year for the first time in his career, Noah can basically do anything on the basketball court.
He can rebound, block shots, hit the mid-range jumper as well as sink free throws. He can even dish the rock like a point guard, averaging a stellar 4.1 assists per game this season.
Noah has missed 16 games due to injury. Hopefully he can make it back for the playoffs and provide the Bulls with top-notch D to go along with unmatched energy and hustle.
Without his presence in the middle, the Bulls won’t have much of a chance of getting past the first round.
Starting Power Forward: Carlos Boozer
Projected Minutes Per Game: 33
Carlos Boozer must not want to be amnestied in the offseason.
The Duke product has really stepped his game up this season, averaging a very respectable 16.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per contest for the Bulls.
Boozer is an excellent inside scorer and rebounds the ball at a high level. He’s not the world’s greatest defender, though.
While frontcourt mates Luol Deng and Joakim Noah were both All-Stars this year, you could’ve made a case for Boozer making the team as well.
He has come up with a slew of big time games, showing flashes of the All-Star he used to be with the Utah Jazz years ago.
Boozer must prove he can produce great numbers during the playoffs. He has averaged just 13 points per game as a Bull in the postseason.
Starting Small Forward: Luol Deng
Projected Minutes Per Game: 40
With Derrick Rose sidelined, the Bulls were in need of someone to step up. That someone has been Luol Deng.
The two-time All-Star has been huge this season on both ends of the floor. Deng's 16.6 points per game leads the way for Chicago and he's playing his usual lockdown defense. His play is one of the main reasons behind the Bulls' successful season.
Bothered a great deal by injuries in the past, Deng has missed only eight games this season.
His name has been mentioned in trade rumors quite a bit over the years, which is absurd. He’s an exceptional defender and easily one of the Association's top small forwards.
Starting Shooting Guard: Richard Hamilton
Projected Minutes Per Game: 14
Some fans would prefer to see Jimmy Butler or Marco Belinelli starting at 2-guard, but they’ll have to settle for 14-year veteran Richard Hamilton instead.
This is more than likely the final postseason for Hamilton in a Bulls jersey. The former Detroit Pistons star has a team option for next season, which the Bulls aren’t expected to pick up.
Hamilton’s two-year Chicago career has been injury-riddled to say the least. Let’s see what he can do in the playoffs, though, if he can stay healthy. That’s a pretty hefty if.
While Hamilton isn’t going to help win a title like he did with the Pistons, he can assist in the scoring department. Plus, he possesses a boatload of postseason experience, which certainly isn't a bad thing.
Starting Point Guard: Kirk Hinrich
Projected Minutes Per Game: 26
Will Derrick Rose return at some point during the playoffs? That’s the question every Bulls fan wants to know the answer to.
If Rose does return to the lineup, the Bulls will have an elite point guard running the show.
If he doesn’t come back this year, the team will have a solid defender in Kirk Hinrich.
Captain Kirk is undoubtedly a favorite of Tom Thibodeau due to his defense. Everyone who follows the NBA knows that Thibodeau loves players who get the job done on that end of the floor.
Hinrich has started 58 games at the point this season, and he’ll likely continue to do so in the playoffs.