Players Who Must Step Up for Chicago Bulls to Thrive
The Chicago Bulls have caught the injury bug once again, but it doesn’t mean they’re going to give up.
It’s deja vu in Chicago after Derrick Rose underwent season-ending knee surgery, ending most—if not all—of the Bulls’ playoff hopes. Backcourt mate Jimmy Butler is dealing with turf toe, per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, and will miss at least another week or two.
Despite the misfortune, the Bulls plan to compete. In order to do so, a few players will have to step up to the plate and play at their highest level.
With little to no players who can create off the dribble, the Bulls will have to rely heavily on ball movement—more so than they regularly do.
Chicago’s bigs are crafty passers. Joakim Noah is a spectacular playmaker from the high post, and Carlos Boozer can always find the open man when he’s on the low block, especially with his back to the basket.
The second unit will also have to step in and be effective.
Tony Snell is getting some minutes due to Butler’s injury and has been pretty effective. Taj Gibson will also have to look to score more, whether it’s in the post or using his improved mid-range jumper.
How can some of the Bulls players step up to help the team thrive?
Tony Snell has been filling in for Jimmy Butler, and he’s done considerably well.
He struggled in his first start, shooting 3-of-7 and converting on only one three-points attempt. Against the Detroit Pistons, however, he shot the three extremely well and was alert and aware on the defensive end.
Snell will go back to the bench once Butler comes back, but it wouldn’t be far-fetched to see him take some minutes from Mike Dunleavy given that he’s also a solid defender.
If the rookie can get into the rotation going forward, he’ll have to continue shooting at a high rate and playing good perimeter defense.
Chicago has needed outside shooting all season, as they're shooting just under 33 percent for the year.
Snell has shown flashes, and he has the potential. He could end up with a chance many rookies don’t get under Tom Thibodeau.
Kirk Hinrich once again fills in for an injured Derrick Rose.
Running the offense isn’t a big problem for Hinrich. Really, he might be better than Rose in that he can get the offense in its sets and execute well.
The problem is what he contributes on the scoring end. He’s obviously not the dynamic scorer that Rose was, so he’ll have to contribute through his shooting.
The 11-year vet hasn't shot well from downtown so far. Through 14 games, Hinrich has shot 32 percent, seven percentage points down from 2012-13.
Hinrich will keep logging heavy minutes going forward, especially with second-year point guard Marquis Teague still struggling to score and run the offense. If Captain Kirk can give the Bulls 10 to 12 points on average, it will take the Bulls a long way.
Taj Gibson is coming off of a career game where he scored 23 points on 11-of-13 shooting.
While he might not put up those kind of numbers on a nightly basis, he will have to look for his offense on a more consistent basis.
Chicago has done a good job of looking for him in the post and in pick-and-pop situations, but he has to raise his shooting percentage closer to 50 percent.
Gibson's strength is his ability to shoot from 18 feet, but he also has quickness and agility that a lot of forwards who defend him don't have. He has to use that to his advantage and get to the rim where he can draw contact or get a high-percentage shot.
His work in the post has been great, and he's developed a baseline spin move that works more often than not. Gibson is currently averaging 10 points per game, which would be a career high.
Gibson has to be the spark off the Bulls' bench and provide much-needed scoring to a struggling Chicago offense.
This is the perfect time for Jimmy Butler to prove he can be the Bulls’ shooting guard for the next five or six years.
The third-year swingman will be out a couple more weeks with a turf toe injury, but once he returns, his play will be essential to the Bulls’ success.
Before the injury, Butler was shooting 38 percent from downtown and was starting to get into a rhythm offensively, scoring in double digits over his past four games.
Chicago will need Butler to remain aggressive and find his own shot. He was getting to the line consistently and making well over 80 percent of his free throws.
Butler has to become somewhat of a third option—perhaps even a second option—as the Bulls look to find scoring from someone other than Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer.
Boozer must become the No. 1 option for Chicago’s offense.
His work in the post and mid-range jump shot has been very effective. According to Synergy, Boozer is averaging .83 points per post-up play, good for 27th in the league.
He's shooting 40 percent when he puts his back to the basket and has shown he can be Chicago's most efficient scorer, as he's the only player on the roster shooting 50 percent.
His passing out of the post also remains a strong point, so the Bulls might be able to run some offense through him.
The Bulls thrive on ball movement, but with little to no players who can create off the dribble, looking for Boozer in the post more often than not might not be a bad choice.
If he draws the double-team, he can then kick it out and the Bulls can drive and dish to find the open man.
Boozer has to give the Bulls the best season he's had since becoming a member of the team.