In Chicago, there is now a renewed sense of urgency to find a solid rotation following the injury to star point guard Derrick Rose's right knee. Already coming off of an injury that sidelined him for the entire 2012-13 season, Rose will now be sidelined for the remainder of the 2013-14 season as well. But, with Rose's absence comes an opportunity. A starting spot and second-unit minutes are now up for grabs.
Now comes the question, who deserves those minutes?
While already the starter, it is clear that the Bulls now must go through forward Luol Deng, who has stepped up in Rose's absence. In the three games since Rose's injury, Deng has averaged 26.0 points on 42.9 percent shooting and six rebounds per game. But it's not news to Chicago Bulls fans that Deng is their go-to guy.
So again, we raise the question—who, off the bench, is making the strongest case for more floor time?
Kirk Hinrich, already the backup point guard to Rose, stepped into the starting role as a proven veteran who has run the point in Chicago before. It was no question he would fill Rose's spot in the starting five. And though a solid player, averaging 8.6 points and around four assists per game, he just doesn't have that spark that is needed from the point position.
Cue Tony Snell, the rookie forward out of New Mexico. Chicago took Snell in 2013's NBA Draft with their first-round pick, 20th overall. And the rookie has provided that needed spark for Chicago since Rose went down.
Since starting his first career game against the Utah Jazz on November 25, Snell has averaged 13.3 points per game and was a factor in many other plays, as the Chicago Bulls' Twitter account pointed out during the game—
Against Cleveland on November 30, Snell dropped 18 points on 58.3 percent shooting, nine of which came from behind the three-point arc. Snell's 18 points in his 10th career game began to draw Kawhi Leonard-like comparisons from Steve Aschburner of NBA.com.
Though still early in his career, it appears as though this season may ride-or-die with Snell. Deng, in a contract year with Chicago, has been brought up in many trade rumors in recent weeks, and is still without a contract offer from the Bulls. However, as many are saying it's time for a tear-down and rebuild of this Bulls team, Snell has breathed hope into what little Bulls fans had remaining. A hope that this team can continue to be successful while they, again, await the return of their star point guard.
All statistics, unless otherwise noted, are courtesy of ESPN.com