Predicting the Roles and Impact of Each Chicago Bulls Newcomer This Season
With Derrick Rose looking great this offseason and with a few huge free-agency and draft additions, the Bulls look primed to contend for a championship this season. This is a talented, deep roster.
Of course, there are still a lot of unknowns in Chicago. With so many new pieces and the ouster of power forward fixture Carlos Boozer, the Bulls have a few roles that are seemingly up in the air. Are there minutes to go around for everyone? Which players can play together?
Let's take a look and predict the roles and impact for each one of Chicago's newest offseason additions for the upcoming season.
Projected role and stat line: Starting power forward, 59 GP, 29 MPG, 15.4 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 3.2 APG, .8 BPG, 49.5 FG%
Pau Gasol showed last year that he still has a lot in the tank, even though he's battled through injuries the past few seasons.
Here's what GM Gar Forman said about Gasol in the team's press release:
We are really excited to add such a versatile player to our roster who has been both an All-Star and an NBA Champion,” Bulls GM Gar Forman said in the team’s statement. “Pau is a skilled player with a high basketball IQ and is a true pro and a proven winner.
Gasol should be a wonderful fit in the starting frontcourt with Joakim Noah, as both can operate out of the high post and hit mid-range jumpers at an effective rate. The passing should be brilliant, and Noah can handle the rim protection duties defensively.
When Noah is out or misses time, Gasol can easily slide over to the 5 and pair with Taj Gibson. There isn't anyone Gasol will look bad next to, but Gibson is another guy who should mesh really well with him on both ends.
Gasol has played in 109 games over the past two combined years, so expecting him to stay healthy for a full 82-game slate might be overly optimistic. Given the crowded frontcourt situation, it's probably a stretch to think he'll play a full starter's load again. You never know with Tom Thibodeau, though.
So long as he's healthy and in the lineup, Gasol should help the Bulls offense flow more smoothly. By way of pure size, he's an upgrade over Carlos Boozer defensively as well. He could easily help carry the Bulls to a Finals appearance by playing a substantial role in the frontcourt.
Projected role and stat line: Fourth big man, 70 GP, 12 MPG, 5.8 PPG, 2.9 RPG, .6 APG, 47 FG%
Whenever you can get one of, if not the best, overseas talent to join your squad, you're doing something right.
Here's David Nurse at HoopsHype with a breakdown of what Nikola Mirotic can bring to the table:
As much of a mystery as Mirotic is to you as an NBA fan, he sure isn’t mysterious to Euroleague fans. Mirotic played back-to-back Euroleague finals in 2013 and 2014, earning 2nd team All-Euroleague honors in the process.
Oh, by the way, he was the youngest player in over a decade to be selected to an All-Euroleague Team and the only player in Euroleague history to win the Rising Star Award (given to the best young player) twice. If you’re looking for more NBA comparisons to his game and skill set, look no further than a more athletic version of sharp-shooting big man Ryan Anderson.
On the surface, it doesn't appear that the Bulls necessarily "need" Mirotic. He's not a small forward, and because Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson aren't either, Mirotic is going to find it awfully difficult to find minutes behind those three players.
That being said, Mirotic should step into a decent role should any of those players get hurt.
There may be more of a focus on spreading the wealth of the minutes and preserving guys for the playoffs than there has been in the past in Chicago, and Mirotic may prove to be too valuable as a perimeter shooter and versatile offensive threat to leave glued to the bench.
Expect Mirotic's minutes to rise and his role to expand as the year goes on and bumps and bruises start to appear.
Projected role and stat line: Backup small forward, 75 GP, 18 MPG, 8.8 PPG, 2.6 RPG, .8 APG, 46.4 FG%
The Bulls can certainly use shooting and scoring wherever they can find it, and so trading up in the draft to take Creighton star Doug McDermott certainly makes sense.
Even though it may be enticing to peg McDermott for a starting role at the 3 over Mike Dunleavy, expect Tom Thibodeau to side with the veteran and give him the bulk of the minutes. Thibodeau has typically been reluctant to give rookies minutes over the years, except for when his hand has been forced.
Even with a crumbling roster, Thibodeau only gave rookie wing Tony Snell 16 minutes a game, so pegging McDermott for much more is probably optimistic. Jimmy Butler barely played at all his rookie year.
Still, McDermott's shooting ability is going to be tough to ignore, especially if the bench fails to produce offensively. Snell can see time at the 2, which should leave McDermott in line to soak up all of the minutes Dunleavy leaves on the table.
Here's Tyler Lashbrook at SB Nation with a breakdown of McDermott's game:
McDermott is a spectacular shooter and he can do it in a number of ways: Off pin-downs, flair screens, with the ball in his hands, hand offs, spotting up, etc. He's also developed a few nuances that help him get his shot off against more athletic defenders.
But he isn't going to be even an average one-on-one defender in the NBA against either forward position. He doesn't have the size or length to defend power forwards and he doesn't have the lateral quickness to stay in front of wings. He is, however, a smart team defender and you can afford to hide him on the opposing team's worst offensive player in certain lineups.
McDermott may not contribute a whole lot in other categories, but he should shoot and score efficiently and help the Bulls space the floor. He should put up very impressive per-36-minute numbers offensively.
Projected role and stat line: Backup point guard, 64 GP, 14 MPG, 6.4 PPG, 2.1 APG, .8 RPG, 40.5 FG%
This one is tough. You could certainly see Aaron Brooks stepping and putting up surprising numbers should something happen to Derrick Rose again, but you hate to predict that sort of thing.
Here's Nick Friedell at ESPN Chicago with what Brooks can do for Chicago:
Brooks will serve as a solid insurance policy for Tom Thibodeau off the bench and should be able to play both guard spots. The Bulls have had a history in the Thibodeau era of finding guards that have thrived when given an opportunity, including Nate Robinson and D.J. Augustin over the past two years. As a six-year veteran, Brooks now finds himself in that position as well.
Given that Derrick Rose comes into the season having only played 49 games the past three years, Brooks has to be ready to play in case Rose, or veteran Kirk Hinrich, goes down with an injury.
Obviously something has gone horribly wrong if Brooks averages big minutes, as he should be spending most of his time battling Kirk Hinrich for Rose's scraps.
Still, it's fair to expect that Rose might miss some time given the injuries over the past two years, so predicting Brooks to play a little more than you'd normally see makes sense.
As an aggressive scorer, Brooks could see time in the same backcourt as Hinrich if Tony Snell falls out of the rotation or if he ends up playing more at the 3. Brooks can score, but he's limited elsewhere. Chicago is in trouble if he ends up playing quite a bit.
Projected role and stat line: Fifth big man, 22 GP, 7 MPG, 2.1 PPG, 1.6 RPG, .2 APG, 45 FG%
It's hard to imagine Cameron Bairstow getting off the bench very often, as Thibodeau has four legitimate talents to give minutes to ahead of him. Even if injuries occur, you'd think that a guy like Taj Gibson would just get bumped to playing a starter's load.
That doesn't exclude Bairstow from getting garbage time and maybe a little more. Even though he might not play any meaningful minutes this year, Bairstow is a nice long-term prospect who can develop into a very useful rotation big man.
Here's Derek Bodner at DraftExpress with more on Bairstow:
Speaking of incredibly diverse offensive players, Cameron Bairstow was one of the most diverse offensive players in the country, and his 18.4 possessions used per game were tops in this group.
With 28% of his offense coming from post-ups on 1.08 points per possession, as well as 29.4% of his offense coming from jump shots at an incredible 1.04 points per possession, few had the inside-outside game that Bairstow flashed. Bairstow has some defensive concerns, and it would be beneficial if he could extend his range out to three point territory, but the diversity of his skill set could get him a look.
Bairstow's main job will be to learn Thibodeau's defense and soak up everything Noah and Gasol can teach him this season. You should hear his name down the line, but he shouldn't make an impact this season.