Two days before the Chicago Bulls open their 2010-11 campaign against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the starting lineup for the opener has become clear.
As reported by the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson, rookie head coach Tom Thibodeau confirmed his choices Monday afternoon.
As could be expected, point guard Derrick Rose, small forward Luol Deng, and center Joakim Noah will reprise their roles as starters from last year's squad.
Taj Gibson, the sophomore power forward, will also return as a starter, but will only hold that position until newcomer Carlos Boozer returns in five weeks from a fractured right hand.
A week's worth of speculation as to who was to complete the lineup at shooting guard has ended. Thibodeau, the mastermind behind the Boston Celtics acclaimed defense for the past three seasons, named Kentucky alumnus Keith Bogans as his pick to fill the vacancy at the two guard.
Bogans, who played in and started 50 games for the San Antonio Spurs last season, was chosen over Ronnie Brewer in a tight competition for the role. Brewer was the early favorite for the job, but his performance has declined as of late to due a nagging hamstring injury. Both Bogans and Brewer, formerly of the Utah Jazz, were both acquired during the offseason via free agent signing.
"He's just been solid. He's a very good defensive player. He spreads the floor, can shoot the three. He's a tough competitor. He's earned it," coach Thibodeau said of Bogans, who was an impressive 10 of 20 from long range in the preseason.
Even though Bogans, whose strong focus on defensive improvement made a good impression on his coach, has been named starter for Wednesday's contest against Oklahoma City and Kevin Durant, it has been rumored Brewer will make his way into the starting rotation once he is back to full health.
Questions remain regarding how minutes will be shared among the revamped Chicago bench.
It seems all but certain Kyle Korver, who shot an impressive 43 percent from the field and 33 percent from three-point territory this preseason, will log major minutes this season. Korver, who was signed as free agent after two seasons with the Utah Jazz, has seven years of experience in the NBA and has proved himself to be a reliable sharpshooter.
Omer Asik, who was brought in from Turkey after Chicago acquired his rights in 2008, and 15-year NBA veteran Kurt Thomas will most likely split minutes at center when the ever-improving Noah is not on the court.
Asik, whose value was an unknown to many before the preseason started, put averaged a solid stat-line—five points, seven rebounds and a block—in 20 minutes per game this preseason.
Thomas, a free agent addition, also proved his worth with four points and five rebounds and should serve as mentor for this relatively inexperienced team.
C.J. Watson, currently the only backup for Rose on the roster, reinvented his career and greatly improved his free agent stock last season in Golden State with an honorable 10 points and three assists per game. After choosing Chicago as his destination for the 2010-11 season, Watson backed-up his numbers from a last season with 10 points, four assists and two rebounds in preseason play.
Sophomore forward James Johnson's role on the team remains unknown heading into this year's campaign. Johnson, who was assigned the undesirable role of guarding LeBron James in the opening round of last year's playoffs, was expected to play a larger role on this year's Bulls after averaging only 12 minutes a game in his rookie season. However, with the acquisition of Bogans, Brewer and Korver, Johnson is likely the odd man out.
Even though his minutes may seem likely to be cut, Johnson could potentially earn more court time if he adapts to Thibodeau's defensively-oriented system.
Recent addition Brian Scalabrine, a veteran forward who was a member of the 2008 NBA Champion Boston Celtics, should maintain minimal playing time with the eventual return of Carlos Boozer.
As should be noted, with only 13 players under contract, the Chicago Bulls could soon add two players to the rotation within the next few weeks. Guard John Lucas III, who played with the Bulls during the preseason, could return to the team after being cut last week.
With the starting five now set for the Chicago Bulls' season opener, the team, led by point guard Derrick Rose and head coach Tom Thibodeau, will now shift their focus to earning a major victory over the respected Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night.