Previewing Chicago Bulls' Biggest Training Camp Battles
Like every team, the Chicago Bulls are sure to have a couple of camp battles this year.
Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah are basically guaranteed to be the starting five. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it unless an unexpected blockbuster trade takes place. However, a couple of reserves will duke it out for specific roles.
There shouldn't be any questions in terms of the power forward spot. Boozer will start, while the defensive-minded Taj Gibson and sharp-shooting rookie Erik Murphy come off the bench. So just what are the biggest training camp battles for Chicago?
Dexter Pittman vs. Players To Be Named Later
Noah is the "Man in the Middle" once again for the Bulls. Or, in other words, he's the team's starting center. Nazr Mohammed, who was re-signed during the offseason, will be the primary backup.
The Bulls, whose roster currently consists of 12 players, has to add at least one more to the mix. So Pittman will battle a couple of players for that final spot, although it's unclear who else will be invited to camp.
Pittman has averaged just 2.4 points and 1.8 rebounds per game during his 48-game career. Yet, don't count him out to make the Bulls' "real" roster and steal some minutes away from Mohammed. The 6'11" big man has ideal size for the center position and possesses a soft touch around the basket.
Battling weight issues for years, he looked rather lean during this year's Las Vegas Summer League. He produced seven points, 5.8 rebounds and two blocks per contest for the San Antonio Spurs' summer squad. Here's a video of him dunking all over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Is that really Pittman or a younger version or Shaquille O'Neal?
A strong training camp from Pittman could surely earn him a spot on the team. Hopefully, he'll get the job done. He has to prove to the league that he actually belongs on an NBA roster.
Mike Dunleavy vs. Tony Snell
Small forward Luol Deng could use a quality backup. This summer, free agent Mike Dunleavy was brought in to be that guy. He can flat-out shoot the rock, making 42.8 percent of his long-range attempts last season. The Bulls ranked just 21st in three-point percentage.
Dunleavy is solid passer, has the ability to handle the ball and serves as a respectable defender. He should emerge as a valuable role player off the bench for Chicago. But he will get some competition from rookie swingman Tony Snell. The 6'7" New Mexico product was selected by the Bulls 20th overall in this year's draft.
Snell shot 38.7 percent from deep last season, which is one of the main reasons he was brought to town. Here are his highlights from a summer league game versus the Portland Trail Blazers.
As you can see, he can handle the ball, shoot, score and isn't a bad passer at all.
Unfortunately, it's highly unlikely that he'll play much as a rookie. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau just isn't fond of using first-year players. We'll probably have to wait until next year to see Snell.
Kirk Hinrich vs. Marquis Teague
Rose will start at point guard this coming season. If you're a Bulls fan, doesn't that sound great to hear? D-Rose missed all of last season recovering from ACL surgery, and he'll make his long-anticipated return to the hardwood.
Veteran Kirk Hinrich and youngster Marquis Teague will compete for the primary backup spot. It will be interesting to see which floor wins the job.
Signed a year ago to fill in for Rose, Hinrich did a decent job last season, averaging 7.7 points and 5.2 assists per contest. He provides fantastic defense to the lineup on a nightly basis, making him a favorite of Thibodeau. Coach Thibs loves guys who play D; everybody knows that.
While Hinrich is a household name, Teague isn't there just yet. Drafted by the Bulls last year, the Indianapolis native rarely touched the floor as a rookie last season. That should change in 2013-14, though.
Teague was extremely impressive during this year's Las Vegas Summer League, averaging 18.3 points and 4.8 assists per game. He showcased an improved jump shot, was able to get to the rim with ease and set his teammates up nicely. If Teague ends up having a great training camp, he can emerge as Rose's backup, pushing Hinrich to the shooting guard spot behind Butler.
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