A look at the Bulls pre-Rose rotation

The Chicago Bulls management had a tricky off-season. They were forced to meet a strict budget while still trying to put together a team that can win a title at the end of the season and covering for the gaping hole left by Derrick Rose at the beginning of the season. Here's a look at the assembled team and the rotations we might see before Rose gets back.

Starting lineup

PG: Kirk Hinrich [32 minutes]
SG: Rip Hamilton [20-30 minutes pending camp battle]
SF: Luol Deng [38 minutes]
PF: Carlos Boozer [28 minutes]
C: Joakim Noah [32 minutes]

This lineup has a strong chance to be successful, but it will rely heavily on the health of the perimeter players and the chemistry that it can build in training camp/preseason. Each player has a ton of experience, and outside of Boozer, plays quality team defense. They should excel at moving the ball around to find good looks.

I'd predict this group should have strong success against average to below average defenses. They'll play plenty of defense, and they'll score primarily through ball movement, working for the best shot, and finding holes in the opponents defense.

The one thing the lineup lacks is an alpha dog scorer who can generate a reasonable look when the team offense fails and the shot clock is running out. Carlos Boozer will need to fill that role, but struggles with efficiency when he's not cherry picking easier shots. However, while it might lower his overall numbers, he can likely still hit 35% when fed tough looks which sounds terrible but isn't bad for bailout shots.

Common bench substitutions

PG: Nate Robinson for Kirk Hinrich or Rip Hamilton [16 minutes]

It will be interesting to see how much the Bulls play Robinson, quite a bit will depend on how healthy Kirk is and whether or not Marquis Teague can prove anything in training camp. My expectation is that Robinson plays about 15-16 minutes a night at backup PG. He can play with either Kirk or Rip playing next to him.

With Robinson in the game, the dynamic of the offense changes. The Bulls are likely best using Robinson as a guy who looks for his own shot first and the team shot second while playing with a more pedestrian cast of offensive players. Robinson's not a great creator, but playing in that role against second units he can likely keep the offense going while playing with a less offensively skilled defensive unit.

The results will likely be quite inconsistent with the unit going from very ugly to good depending on whether or not Robinson can knock down threes, a fairly similar result to what happens when the Bulls played John Lucas with a largely defensive group last year.

SG: Marco Belinelli for Rip Hamilton [20-30 minutes depending on camp battle]

When Belinelli enters the game, the Bulls will add a considerable amount of long range shooting over Hamilton. I think Belinelli also stands a good chance of earning the starting position over Hamilton because his skills may fit better with the starting group to space the floor while Hamilton's improved passing might help the second unit more.

The Bulls will also drop off defensively with Belinelli in the game and given that they'll also likely lose something going from Hinrich to Robinson, they may choose to try and keep more of Belinelli's minutes with Kirk which would also help balance out the size between the first and second units.

SF: Jimmy Butler for Luol Deng

Jimmy Butler's probably not going to bring a whole lot of anything Deng doesn't, but the hope is he'll develop into a guy who can bring the same defense while playing aggressive on offense to draw fouls when he has an opening and knock down the open mid range jumper. If manages that it will be a tremendous success, and anything more would be an added bonus.

The team has no real advantage with Butler over Deng and will instead look to simply survive the minutes while he's on the floor. I like pairing him with Nate Robinson on the court, because Robinson's not going to pass the ball so much anyway so the drop off on offense won't be so notable.

PF/C: Taj Gibson for Carlos Boozer/Joakim Noah [26-34 minutes]

I expect the Bulls to fall mostly into a three big man rotation with Nazr Mohammad playing the Kurt Thomas role of occasional big man with DNPs sprinkled in throughout the season. Gibson will likely spend some time playing center against the smaller big fives in the league while still getting most of his time at PF.

It's a coin toss as to whether Gibson or Noah is the best defensive big man on the Bulls, both are outstanding with their quickness, help defense, defensive IQ, and hands. They're two of the best pick and roll defenders in the NBA, both can isolate on a guard for long stretches on a switch, both can block shots.

When the Bulls sub out Noah for Gibson, they gain a bit of shooting while losing a bit of ball handling on size. When they sub him in for Boozer, they'll gain a ton of defense while losing the offensive creation and volume scoring Boozer can provide.

Barely playing

SF/PF: Vladimir Radmanovic

The Bulls will likely use Radmanovic as a stretch four here and there, but they could just stick Luol Deng in that role and get more defense, similar shooting, and better offense overall. For Radman to hit the floor it will require some health issues for the rest of the roster.

PF/C: Nazr Mohammed

Unlike Radmanovic, I expect Mohammed to play without injury problems, but a front court injury would change his role from matchup/foul trouble guy to significant piece. At this point, he's largely a filler guy. He's got size and is a decent fundamental player, but he has no particular strengths to bring to the table over the rest of the roster. He's merely a guy you hope can chew up minutes without getting you killed similar to Kurt Thomas.

PG: Marquis Teague

I thought Teague might come in and make an immediate impact, but those thoughts were dashed pretty quickly at summer league. While Teague still has plenty of potential, we saw just how far away he is from reaching it at summer league. It went beyond lack of basketball skill, but also lack of effort and hustle.

Teague's going to need to need to adjust to the NBA life quickly and work his ass off, or he'll be out of the league quickly. Harsh words, but he's the fourth PG on this team once Rose is healthy, the third while he's not, and he'll need to earn everything he can by practicing hard, because game opportunities won't necessarily be coming around easily for him.

Teague has the potential to bring some quickness, attacking, and penetration to the team off the bench though, all attributes the Bulls will need. If he can prove himself, he'll still likely have a chance to make an impact, but I'm betting it won't be this season unless we have a Kirk Hinrich injury prior to Rose returning.

Health is the key

Without Rose this isn't a group that's going to go out and dominate, and they sure as hell aren't going to play pretty basketball. They lack many of the pieces an elite team needs [no closer, no isolation creator, no bailout shot creator, questionable three point shooting, etc..].

That said, they do have enough defensive pieces and talent at every position to likely fight for a .500 record while Rose is out. If they can do that and get Rose healthy in January then they'll likely still be fighting for a top four seed.

However, health will be critical to this squad. An injury to Hinrich, Deng, or one of the top three big men early in the season could be crippling to the team. Kirk Hinrich in particular has a lot of expectations placed upon him this season, especially for a guy who hasn't necessarily gotten it done at PG in a few seasons.

If this unit can stay healthy until Rose returns, I'm a bit more optimistic about what it can do after giving it more consideration. It's certainly no where near a championship caliber group without Rose, but it doesn't need to be. It just needs to hang around and keep the team in the mix until (hopefully) January/February, and I think it can do that.


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  • Ugh... There's something about seeing the minutes breakdown that made my stomach hurt. While this team looks fairly similar on paper, talent wise that is, I have the feeling it won't mesh like the old squad.

    Again I say, "ugh..."

  • Doug's rethinking the matter isn't going to change some facts. The Bulls gutted their team to save money. The remaining players know this, and it's hard to believe will not be effected by it. Further, Thibs IMO is not a head coach for 30 years for a reason as in not a mentor or relationship developer like many sucessful coaches(even though Derrick talks with him every day about 'life'). When will the offensive grind slash death struggle combined with Thib's incessant harping reach Skilesian critical mass?

    How many people warned about Hamilton's age and health before the Bulls signed him? Now were going to have possibly give up a first round pick just to rid ourselves of him?!

    Looking at Hinrich's injuries and the fact that he was uncerimoniously dumped, and now were going to expect something out of him... just like Hamilton? Hopefully we will only have to give up the Charlotte pick to unload him next year.

    I predict guys like Jo, Lu, and Boozer will grow tired of this cheap ass, misguided franchise they are tied to. Joakim after coming on like gangbusters has lost a lot of his offensive gains, and honestly I have my doubts about him going forward. Boozer is in obvious and rapid decline.

    Belinelli what kind of pittance did we sign him for? Yet he's going to be a solid rotation guy? Robinson has been passed around from one team to another and is a somewhat volatile player best handled by vets, a charismatic coach, or a low key situation like G.S. I woudn't be surprised at all if his attitude at times is a detriment.

    Bottom line: Jo, a change of scenery might have been good for him and the right ball club as in offensively capable he could be very valuable. Injured so often including both of the last two playoffs with the Bulls. He's probably the guy and large contract they should have traded. Right now, with Deng's injuries I'm not at all convinced his wrist problems are over.

    Usually, you get what you deserve. In the Bulls case by gutting the team, raking in massive profits with no reinvestment in the fans, I suspect this will be an ugly season as many stated before the looming season 'wait til next year' optimism fantasy reared it's absurd head. Something like a hot start and then falling off the map with a terrible offense and no go to guy finishing in no man's land 29-39 wins. Let's not kid ourselves the Bulls offensively suck.

  • Scalabrine joins Thib's staff as a suit on Bulls bench. Interesting. Cheap salary, 'affordable' head coaching replacement for Thibs should it come to that.. ? Nice thinking ahead Gar/Pax. Stacy King on the other hand is mourning loss of, "White mamba!"

  • The starting point for the minute distribution should be the 3 big man rotation with Taj, Noah and spray-on-hair each getting at least 30 minutes a game. Nazr should only be used for a few minutes a game and for injury. The others are up in the air and it depends on how they respond. Someone like a Belinelli might actually do well in Thibodeau's spread the ball system jumpshot offense. Nate should be interesting and it all depends if he's willing to defend at a higher level. Hinrich? He sucks on offense so if he can run the team, defend his position and at least give the Bulls 2 threes a game and average 10 pts a game which is asking alot for a player in steep decline but who'll see what he has left. The only thing I like of this new rotation is the increase in minutes Taj Gibson gets and Jimmy Butler......two athletic players who I think will compliment each other well in the second unit. I'll be watching to see how they run the fast break and get to the line more....crucial without our superstar player to generate offense. Boozer does seem to play better without Rose in being more offensively minded, we'll see how he does but it does piss me off a bit not hearing anything about him during the offseason. You hear about Amare working with Hakeem but what about Boozer? dude got to get more serious about his career.

  • I am sure that it was just a typo, but you only had Deng at 38 minutes per game, I am sure that you meant 48.

    With Rose out, Linus(Thibs) will have to have his blankey(Deng) on the floor at all times. Wilts record could be in jeopardy, at least until Deng has surgery.

  • This is Thibs we're talking about:

    Luol Deng - 40min
    Belinelli - 25min
    Jimmy Butler - 15min

    Teague - Garbage minutes

    If Deng doesn't fall on his wrist, Bulls will be barely floating above .500.

    If Deng does bang up his wrist (and has to sit out a few games here and there like last year), the Bulls will be right under .500.

    If Rose comes back in March, he'll help them get on a winning stretch...enough games to get over .500 and make the 7th or 8th seed.

    #1 MIA - Obvious
    #2 IND - Same roster means chemistry+cohesion
    #3 BOS - Doc will rest Pierce and KG
    #4 NYK - They're actually pretty deep
    #5 BKN - I like the additions, but I give Knicks the depth edge
    #6 PHI - I really like the roster they have, but afraid to put them at 4
    #7 CHI - See Above
    #8 WAS - Swapped knuckleheads for professional veterans

  • In reply to YouBlewwIt:

    I agree.

    Also easily could see injuries wreaking havoc as the entire starting lineup is extremely injury prone. I think Noah is probably the key more so than Deng because if he goes down we a screwed because we have no depth and no size either. This season has huge bust factor written all over it.

    Then Thibs leaves and we get some cheap idiot who has never coached anything. Bring in more old defensive players because who needs offense... Return to perenial one and done status and then we just have to wait to give Jimmy Butler a max contract just because he was drafted by Pax and thus clearly deserves whatever his agent asks for. That is the "2014" plan.

  • Looking at conference projections I really could care less about a lot of mediocre teams with no compelling star talent and teams with sub par coaches. The Lakers are the most interesting story going in IMO.

    Is Kobe too old? Whatever his stats were last year, he sure looked like a shadow of his former self at the Olympics. Sure it's not the NBA, but it will be interesting to see if he can stay healthy and come playoff time is he 90%, 80 of the Kobe of two years ago? Also, Mike Brown is IMO is no offensive guru or visionary. Yet Miami over came Spo(ooge). Nash is older as well. As is much of their supporting cast. Will Gasol bounce back and be effective come playoff time paired with Howard? What will Nash do for Howard and the team as a whole?

    It sure is a good thing the Bulls are incapable of landing mega talents such as Dwight so we are not troubled by such bothersome dilemmas.

  • I like the last part that Health is key.

    The entire starting lineup is either going to start the season pre injured (Deng) or has been highly injury prone over recent seasons or their entire career.

    I just have a feeling it is going to hit the fan and by it I mean the Bull ____ that management has hoisted on the fans. Old, injury prone and lack scoring punch this should be an exciting season...

  • I'll make the not so bold prediction that Rip is again injured for more games than he plays, so listing him as a "starter" is like listing Rose as one.

    Because of that I think we'll see a Robinson/Hinrich back court for a lot of games: I think if Rip is out that makes rotations easier than starting with Hinrich/Belinelli. Teague will get some time in that scenario.

    Front court wise I think Deng has to play some 4. Vlad Rad and Nah-Zee are pretty useless, and you really don't want them playing much. I'm more comfortable with shifting Deng up a spot than those two should one of Boozer or Noah get injured, which history suggests they will at some point in the season. The problem becomes can you really play a lot of small ball with the players the Bulls have? They're just not a roster that has guys who are good in transition. Also playing Deng a lot at the 4 may be asking Butler to take on a bigger role than he's capable of.

    I fear the season is going to play out that the Bulls go out with the aim of winning games, kind of hang in there to start with, suffer some injuries and fall into the "too good to start tanking while still on the fringe of the playoffs" bracket and finish up with a mediocre 35-40 win total. Thus neither getting a great draft pick nor having a dark horse "team nobody wants to play with Rose back" playoff run.

  • That's a really undersized frontcourt. The Bulls made a massive mistake last season not picking up a 3rd big and it likely cost them a playoff series. Why are they making the same mistake again?

    I think Butler may turn out to be a more skilled scorer than Doug predicts here.

    On paper I guess there's not much to gripe about this offseason. With Rose back the starting 5 remains unchanged and we've got a glut of PGs to fill his role and then move midseason (hopefully for a 3rd big). But, yeah the whole thing makes me kind of queasy nonetheless. Especially losing both Korver and Brewer in a situation where Deng is an injury concern.

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