Chicago Bulls Backups Who Are Good Enough to Start for Other Teams
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In 2009, Chicago took Taj Gibson with the 26th pick. His rookie year has been his most productive season to date. In that 2009-10 season, he started 70 games and averaged 9.0 points and 7.5 rebounds. After the Bulls signed Carlos Boozer in 2010, Gibson went to the bench and in the ensuing years has made a name for himself through his high-energy style of play.
Kirk Hinrich is another solid player off the Bulls bench. He's a savvy veteran who can defend both guard positions, run an offense efficiently and shoot the three.
So what is it about these two players that would allow them to crack the starting five of other NBA teams?
Derrick Rose missed the entire 2012-13 season rehabbing his torn ACL, but Hinrich was able to fill in and perform considerably well.
Unfortunately, Hinrich has over the past few seasons faced some injury issues of his own, and this injury history and his age could prevent him from landing a starting role on other teams.
What makes the 11-year vet so valuable is his defensive versatility.
The pick-and-roll is one of the hardest plays to defend, but Hinrich does a solid job on executing his defensive assignments on such sets, holding ball-handlers in pick-and-roll scenarios to 40 percent shooting, according to Synergy.
Offensively, Hinrich is limited as he doesn't have the speed to drive by defenders, and his shot can be inconsistent at times.
His three-point shot, however, has been solid throughout his career, and he even posted his fourth-best career percentage from downtown this past season.
Hinrich's biggest strength, though, is his ability to set up teammates on the offensive end. Last season, he had an NBA top-10 assist ratio of 35.8, per Hollinger's stats.
In the 22 games Hinrich missed last year, the Bulls had Nate Robinson running the sets and the offense looked out of sync. When Captain Kirk was on the floor, the Bulls moved the ball more fluidly and efficiently.
Most teams are looking for the new breed of point guard: fast, strong and with an ability to score.
However, a guard who can manage the game and control the pace can make a difference in postseason play, making Hinrich a viable starter.
One of Gibson's biggest strengths is his defense. Per basketball-reference.com, Gibson posted a defensive rating of 96 and 98 in 2010-11 and 2011-12, respectively. Last season, Gibson allowed a field-goal percentage of 32.8, per Synergy. His post defense wasn't far behind, as he allowed opponents to make just 35.3 percent of their shots.
Another edge he has over most other NBA forwards is his quickness, which allows him to defend stretch forwards and stay in front of quicker players that other bigs might not be able to defend.
Rebounding is another of the 28-year-old's assets. Per 36 minutes, Gibson has a career average of 9.4 rebounds, 3.5 of them coming on the offensive glass.
Gibson is one of the best defenders at the power forward position, and now he seems to be making strides on offense. In the Bulls' 2013-14 preseason opener, Gibson scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in 30 minutes of play.
The big man displays a smooth, consistent jumper and has begun showing flashes of an improved back-to-the-basket game.
Gibson's combination of size and agility coupled with his defense and improving offensive skills make him the most talented Bulls reserve and a candidate to start on most NBA teams, even championship contending teams like the Miami Heat or the Houston Rockets.
Chicago has high-quality reserves, and the team's depth is something that will help it get deep in the playoffs.
Gibson makes up for Boozer's inconsistent defense, and now that he's added something to his offense, Gibson could potentially play some big minutes for the Bulls as the season progresses.
As for Hinrich, his versatility and efficiency make him a key asset during the postseason.
The Bulls have done well over the years in assembling their second units, and the idea that two of their current bench standouts could be starters around the league says a lot about the team's overall talent and where the franchise could be headed come next spring's playoffs.
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