So Boozer's out with an injury, and the obvious response to what's going to happen is that Taj Gibson will slide into Boozer's role. However, that's not really what's important, because Taj Gibson was likely to play nearly 30 minutes a night anyway backing up the four and five anyway. I doubt his minutes increase by more than five or so a game due to Boozer's injury, just the timing of those minutes change.
As such, the real question isn't who replaces, Boozer, that answer is obvious. The real question is who replaces Gibson's bench minutes?
So let's assume the rest of the front line stays reasonably healthy for the period Boozer is out and that there are no other injuries. The Bulls will need to fill about 35 minutes per game with guys who wouldn't ordinarily play.
If we assume that Gibson and Noah each play around 32 minutes a game there are 16 minutes at center and 16 minutes at power forward left to fill. The most straight forward approach to this is to leave the guard rotation the same and have Thomas play 16 at PF and Asik play 16 at C. Everyone stays in a natural position, and the Bulls offense probably plays similarly, but less effectively, than what they'd have done with Boozer in the game.
In an in interview with Kurt Thomas that proved too prophetic for my liking I asked how his body would stand up to playing significant minutes if one of our injury prone big men were to miss significant time.
"I can play as many minutes as coach can dish out. I feel I'm in great shape right now, I'm healthy, I'm feeling good, and if that number is 20 minutes or 30 minutes, no matter how many minutes are allotted me I'm ready."
And while Kurt is no Carlos Boozer, the type of game he plays is somewhat similar. He'll go in play physically, hit the open jumper, set a tough pick, and rebound the basketball.
Now, I feel fairly confident that Thomas is ready to pick up whatever slack comes his way in terms of minutes, but a little less so with Asik. The Bulls do have other options available to pick up those extra 16 minutes, and I expect small ball to be implemented for a good portion of the time on the floor.
If you look at last season's minutes per game. Rose, Watson, Brewer, Bogans, Korver, and Deng add up to 170 minutes per game to fill 144 minutes per game of action. That means without injuries in the backcourt some of those guys will be playing considerably less minutes. On the other hand, without Boozer, the Bulls have less minutes to fill up the front court rotation.
Thus, another natural move is to play some small ball with Luol Deng or James Johnson playing the four and then two of Bogans, Watson, Korver, and Brewer playing in the wing positions. C.J. Watson in particular has a scoring mentality where the Bulls could put him in with a green light to create his own shot similar to Ben Gordon to lead a second unit for a few minutes at a time.
We may also see some fast paced transition oriented lineups like Derrick Rose, Cj Watson, Korver, Luol Deng, and Joakim Noah which could give the Bulls a very different look for a few minutes at a time by giving the team a lot of shooting on the floor and a high pace factor in which the goal is to play fast every possession and get an open shot in transition or an open three in the early offensive look for Watson, Korver, or Deng out of the corner.
The biggest loss with Boozer is that the Bulls most effective style of play is no longer to go inside out through the post which means they need to rework the system on the fly, or play through a system that doesn't fit the personnel on the floor as effectively for a month to build the familiarity with it.
For his part, Thibodeau has stated the Bulls intends to keep things relatively the same.
"The philosophy is not going to change," said Thibodeau. "We're still
going to be inside/out. There may not be as many postups. We may be
more off the dribble to get into the paint. We've got other guys who can
post up, Luol. Omer can post up. Jo. We're still going to play inside
I'll say this, the injury tests Thibodeau significantly early on in his tenure. Stick with a scheme no longer fit perfectly to your personnel? Try to play through gimmicks? How to manage the rotation? We're going to learn a lot about what Thibodeau is about early on in the process.
If he can guide the Bulls to a .500 finish while Boozer's out it should be viewed as a success under the circumstances.