The Chicago Bulls did an exceptional job filling out their roster this past summer, but there are still a couple of flaws in its construction—if we nitpick.
The Bulls bolstered the frontcourt, adding two solid bigs in Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic. Trading with the Denver Nuggets for Doug McDermott was also a big addition for their perimeter shooting, an area of weakness over the past couple of years.
The Bulls are also lacking extra ball-handlers around the perimeter. Rose could end up shouldering most of the work offensively without any other playmakers.
Lastly, there's also a small problem up front (remember, we're nitpicking) that could garner a second look, especially if health issues arise as the season progresses.
Let's dive a little deeper into each issue for the Bulls' current roster formation.
No True Backup Center
This was somewhat mediated with Gasol because he'll slide up when Joakim Noah is on the bench, but if both are on the bench, it could be very similar to the 2013-14 season.
Taj Gibson played some center last year, but at 6'9", he could become a mismatch for bigger centers like Marc Gasol or Dwight Howard. Luckily for Chicago, the Eastern Conference isn't packed with big, physical centers, but it's something that may have to be remedied as the Bulls look to reach the NBA Finals.
Currently, Cameron Bairstow is the Bulls' backup center, but as a rookie second-round pick and with a stacked power forward position, there is little chance the New Mexico product gets any meaningful minutes.
The days of Brad Miller and Kurt Thomas doing the dirty work are long gone; Chicago has no players like that, but someone with that style could help during the postseason. A good example is Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams; he rebounds the ball well and is a tremendous physical presence in the paint.
This isn't a huge issue, but it is something that could be worth another glance once teams gain an extra roster spot during the winter.
Ball-Handlers at the Wing Positions
Rose has been working on becoming a better off-ball player during his recovery, as Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver reported:
The strategic wheels are already in motion for Thibodeau, who singled out Chicago's decision to re-sign Kirk Hinrich as key in allowing Rose to spend some extra time off of the ball. Thibodeau seemed ready to welcome back a player who was still capable of displaying elite athleticism but who also has added a richer comprehension of the action.
The problem is there aren't many ball-handlers on the roster. Really, there are only three, and one may not play very much, leaving Hinrich as the only alternative to Rose.
Now, this isn't a permanent shift by any means; it's just a way for Rose to become a bigger offensive threat and shed some of the ball-handling responsibilities. The problem is Chicago has no starters who can take on that task.
If the Bulls elect to do this solely when Hinrich is on the floor, they're going to lose size in the backcourt by moving Butler up to the 3, consequently losing a three-point shooter.
The only other playmakers on offense are Noah and Gasol, but they work at the top of the key, which often limits their passes strictly to players making cuts to the basket. Rose does this really well, but teams can always pack the paint to counter it.
The Bulls are likely to put an even bigger emphasis on ball movement this year, but when defenses clog the paint, it will be up to Rose to create for himself and the rest of the team.
Rose Injury Would Keep Bulls in Purgatory
The San Antonio Spurs proved that having two or three top-20 scorers wasn't essential in winning an NBA title, but it surely would help.
One of Chicago's biggest weaknesses the past few years has been its offense. While it was attributed to it missing its top player, without that second scorer, it had no real scoring threat on the court.
That's why the front office continued to pursue Kevin Love, per the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley, despite completely filling out the roster.
Chicago's brain trust knew it had to strengthen the offense by adding another elite option, but in failing to do so, the Bulls were left with no insurance for the team. Tom Thibodeau can probably turn Aaron Brooks into a solid backup like he's done in the past with others, but like those before him, Brooks will simply be a stopgap.
This is easily Chicago's biggest roster flaw.
As diverse and deep as it is, losing Rose will leave an irreparable tear in the Bulls offense like it has in the past. Gasol is no longer at a stage in his career where he can lead an offense, and no one else on the perimeter can attack the rim like Rose can or draw the same kind of attention.
If Chicago stays healthy, it's hard to find many holes in their roster. It still doesn't have that second scorer, but the ball movement should be spectacular, particularly in the high-low game, which could mask that problem.
The Bulls can win with this roster, but if Rose goes down again, a lack of scoring could leave the Windy City with another "what if?" season.
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