A key part of winning the NBA championship comes from the reserve players. If a team cannot maintain momentum while their big names are getting a breather, it becomes very difficult to persevere through the grueling postseason. The Chicago Bulls' bench has been consistent through the year, and these players are the reason why.
Ronnie Brewer is in a three-man rotation with Keith Bogans and Kyle Korver at the shooting guard position. Bogans is more of a defensive guy, with the ability to knock down the occasional three. Korver has an amazing shot, but gets beat often on defense. Brewer is essentially somewhere between those two.
Brewer's shot may not be the best and he gets beat defensively at times, but he's a good middle ground. He's not necessarily great or terrible at anything, but a solid role player off the bench for the Bulls.
It's very difficult to differentiate between the importance of each particular player on this Chicago Bulls team. Each player dedicates a certain flavor to the recipe for winning.
Kurt Thomas carried the load while Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah struggled with injuries. He is one of the main reasons that the Bulls have made it this far. His minutes may be few in the playoffs because of the current health of the team, but if anybody down low goes down, expect this veteran to be able to step in and play lock down defense. Thomas' mid range jumper is also a threat if he is left open around the free throw line. He brings strong leadership and mentality, as he is one of the oldest players in the league.
Omer Asik is a great story, himself. At the beginning of the year, I had mentioned that I have never seen such an awkward basketball player in the NBA. He missed screens, misread offenses, and just didn't seem to know exactly what was happening.
I believe the exact quote out of my mouth was, "Who is this awkward, lanky white guy just sitting in the paint? Oh-mur A-sick?" Credit to coach Tom Thibodeau for sticking with him and developing his skills to the point that he can become a factor for the Bulls.
Asik often adds momentum to this Bulls team by making a key defensive play or throwing down a hard jam. His skills are still obviously developing, but he can come in and play a few minutes in order to give the starting big men a rest.
The reason these two are sharing a spot is because Thomas played more towards the beginning of the season, and Asik played more towards the end. The obvious thought is that Asik will play more because obviously Thibodeau trusted him more down the stretch, but he may end up choosing the veteran, Thomas, over the rookie in the rotation through the playoffs.
C.J. Watson has come off the bench to play solid point guard for the Bulls when Derrick Rose needs a breather. At times, it seems as if Watson is attempting to imitate Rose by driving and putting up a ridiculous shot, and many times he is successful. He also does a good job protecting the ball, has a decent mid range jumper, and can even knock down the occasional three.
Watson plays pretty good defense and does a great job playing the first six or so minutes of the second and fourth quarters in order to give Rose time to rest. For backing up an MVP, Watson certainly does the job.
There's no doubt in my mind that C.J. Watson could be a good starting point guard for a few of the lower-tier teams in the league. At times, coach Thibodeau has put Rose and Watson on the court together, making the Bulls capable of spreading out the defense by having two quick drivers. This may be seen in the playoffs.
Kyle Korver is known for one thing: shooting. He is essentially a liability on the defensive side of the ball. Opposing teams naturally target him when he's on the floor but also have to change their own defense to protect against his deadly shot. Korver shot 42 percent from the field during the regular, but also had the reputation of being unable to hit a shot during clutch time. During the series versus the Pacers, Korver hit one of the biggest shots in game one that capped a Bulls' comeback to put them ahead in the series.
If he can keep his shooting up during this postseason, it will be difficult for the opposition to take advantage of the Bulls' bench. Whenever Chicago is down in a game, look for Korver to be put in to hit a momentum-changing shot.
Gibson has been another player who has exceeded expectation due to the injuries of Noah and Boozer, similar to Thomas and Asik. Gibson got over 20 minutes a game in the regular season and has done a fantastic job for the Bulls. It seems that he has learned new post moves from the newly acquired Carlos Boozer as the season has gone along, and is consistently battling for boards. He is took home seven points and six rebounds per game, which is great within a 20-minute span.
With Boozer's struggles in the playoffs thus far, it is extremely important that Gibson comes in and plays solid basketball to give the Bulls stability down low. Without Gibson's presence off the bench, it's hard seeing the Bulls going much farther in the playoffs.