Chicago Bulls: Recent Injuries Creating Opportunities for New/Young Players

Josh Herman@@JoshHermanPJSCorrespondent IMarch 17, 2010

CHICAGO - FEBRUARY 20: Acie Law #0 of the Chicago Bulls looks to pass against the Philadelphia 76ers at the United Center on February 20, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the 76ers 122-90. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

When the Chicago Bulls acquired Acie Law from the Bobcats (along with Flip Murray) for disgruntled power forward Tyrus Thomas, they probably weren't planning on the former Aggie getting much playing time.

Then again, at that time, the team probably didn't think it'd be sitting in the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference, a game and a half behind the final playoff berth with only 16 games remaining, and stars Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, and Joakim Noah riding the pine.

However, with injuries piling up and the Bulls currently on an eight-game losing streak, the team's new acquisitions, along with their recent draft picks, are finding their way into games, and not just in "scrub time."

The box score for Tuesday night's game against the Grizzlies would've looked pretty funny if presented to a Bulls fan before this season: no Rose, Deng, Noah, Thomas, or John Salmons—the projected starting lineup in the preseason. Their most recent draft picks, Taj Gibson and James Johnson, getting 26 minutes...each.  And the three leading scorers in the game were Murray (25), Hakim Warrick (22), and Law (18)—all players that were in trade deadline deals.

But with a disappointing end to the 2009-10 season comes the optimism of auditioning cheap role players that could join the team next season. 

And while these moves were initially made to clear cap space for the much anticipated 2010 offseason, there's no doubt that with only six roster players set to return next season the Bulls will have to find cheap alternatives to fill out their roster if, in fact, they dish out a max contract to a Dwyane Wade or LeBron James-type player.

Now I've been riding the Warrick train since he arrived from the Bucks (for John Salmons) and still think that he would be a good complement to next year's squad.  However, the most impressive showing I've seen from a newcomer since the trade deadline was Acie Law's performance against the Grizzlies.

Law, who averages just above 12 minutes per game while only playing in 131 games in his three-year career, played harder and with more passion than any Bulls' player since Noah was sidelined with plantar fasciitis earlier this season.

The former first-team All-American in college showed why he was taken with the 11th overall pick in the 2007 draft. 

He was 6-11 from the field (1-3 from behind the arc) and 5-6 from the free throw line, coming within two points of his career high that was set last season with the Atlanta Hawks.

Joining Law with impressive play as of late has been the Bulls' No. 1 pick of last summer's draft, James Johnson.  While Tuesday night's game may not seem like much, he still contributed four blocks while playing with incredible defensive intensity, showing the athleticism that was the reason the Bulls took him instead of a DeJuan Blair-type player.

Johnson also impressed in the two games previous to Tuesday.  Last Thursday, he had 13 points, four assists, and three steals in a losing effort to the Magic.  Friday against the Heat, he put up a career-high 20 points on 8-11 shooting and added six rebounds and two blocks.

But while the recent injuries to the Bulls' top players have been the main reason for their slide in the standings, it's quietly creating an opportunity for players who usually don't see much floor time to audition for a job with the team come next season.

And with only six players returning to the Bulls, low-paying roster spots will inevitably be available.

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