Chicago Bulls rotations and camp battles

With just two games preseason games left to play, the Chicago Bulls need to start figuring out their initial regular season rotation. Their problems in preseason have largely involved a lack of scoring and poor bench play on the wings. Will Tom Thibodeau set the rotation based on preseason play or go with a pre-canned plan regardless of performance?

The starters appear set in stone

It was going to take something awfully special to happen to shift the expected starting lineup and so far nothing remotely special has happened.

The starting lineup barring injury will be:

PG: Hinrich
SG: Hamilton
SF: Deng
PF: Boozer
C: Noah

That's probably as it should be as well. The one argument to be made is Gibson over Boozer, but I think we'll just see Boozer play fewer minutes overall with Taj picking up some more time at center in smaller lineups.

Players in the mix off the bench

PG: Nate Robinson
SG: Marco Belinelli
SF: Jimmy Butler
PF: Taj Gibson
C: Nazr Mohammed

Again, no huge surprises.

Vladamir Radmanovic appears out of the mix picking up a couple of DNP-CDs in the past two preseason games while performing poorly in the first three. If he was competing directly against Belinelli perhaps he'd have a chance, but instead he's competing more as a small forward/stretch four.

I expect Vlad to play sparingly in specialty situations where the Bulls want to add shooting and that's about it.

Marcus Teague will have to wait his turn for minutes as well. Hopefully Teague improves his game in practice because its unlikely he sniffs the court without an injury and when Rose gets back he'd need two injuries to get on the court. Teague plays with high end NBA athleticism but lacks the skills to make an impact. Fortunately, one of his great faults, shooting, can be improved without logging serious NBA minutes.

How will the units/rotations break down?

While only a guess at this point, I suspect we've seen the end of the five man bench mob playing together. At least until Derrick Rose gets back. On Rose's return, I think the Bulls may have more options to go with a five man bench unit. They'll also have a log jam of guard which will leave at least one player fairly unhappy with their role, not that Bulls fans will care much at that point about Belinelli or Butler's feelings on the issue.

The initial rotation may shake out something like this:

PG: Hinrich 38 / Robinson 10
SG: Hamilton 30 / Belinelli 18
SF: Deng 38 / Butler 10
PF: Boozer 26 / Gibson 22
C: Noah 30 / Nazr 10 / Gibson 8

Despite playing the worst in preseason, Belinelli will still likely get a chance to play a good chunk of minutes every game simply based on need. However, if his struggles persist for more than a couple games and Nate Robinson plays well then the Bulls will like make a shift to something like this:

PG: Hinrich 30 / Robinson 18
SG: Hamilton 30 / Belinelli 10 / Hinrich 8

Something along those lines is possibly right off the bat as well, especially if Robinson continues to play well over the next two preseason games and Belinelli continues to struggle.

Before the season started, I expected the bench rotation to effectively be a three man group with Nazr Mohammed getting plenty of DNPs, however through six preseason games it is apparent that Mohammed is a rotation quality player and can put in at least 10 minutes a night for Chicago.

That should ease the burden on the Bulls front court rotation considerably as well as relieve any pressure for Luol Deng to play the stretch four position regularly. The man missing out most here is Vladamir Radmanovic whom would have had a potential niche as a stretch four coming off the bench.

With quality big man play all around, he's pushed into a pure niche role as noted above.

Final thoughts

The Bulls biggest problem thus far has been perimeter scoring/shooting. While Belinelli has no where to go but up at this point, he'd better get there soon or his role could disappear all together with Hinrich claiming a bunch of back up SG minutes and Butler sliding over to take a bigger role as well.

Butler doesn't add to the scoring mix any, but if Beli can't score anyway what difference does it make? Butler at least brings defense, energy, offensive rebounding, and foul drawing to the table.

Also, I doubt it will surprise anyone if we see Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich logging 40 minutes a night. Thibs has already shown a willingness to leave Deng out there for huge periods of time, and Kirk's the type of player who will fall into the same boat.

Filed under: Coaching

Tags: chicago bulls, nba, rotations


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  • Doug,

    I can't see Belinelli getting more minutes than Robinson at this point.

    I think your second set of times is more accurate, with Hinrich sliding over to 2 guard to get Nate some more time.

    I had high hopes for Belinelli, but they were completely irrational and based purely on me being beat down by an absolute shit show of an offseason.

    Also, I wouldn't doubt that we see Boozer's minutes completely dependent on how we start the game and how far ahead we are. If he starts off hot he *might* hit 26 minutes, but only against cellar dwellers. If the game is close, he's gotta be on the bench as we know Thibs values some D. Plus, when Booz is shooting a lot, our offense always seems so stagnant. Very much a "pass to Boozer and wait" scenario. Not to mention he's always in foul trouble due to slowness and idiocy.

    That's where I see an uptick in Noah's minutes from your estimate, with Gibson not playing much at center.

    I hope Teague gets some PT when it matters, only to see what he can do - a la Jimmy vs. the Knicks. If nothing else, to boost his trade value.

  • In reply to Who is Willie Gault:

    The thing with Hinrich sliding over is that he still needs to rest at some point. It's tough to have him slide over and manage his breaks unless Thibs runs him into the ground. I do think that's a possibility, but I think initially that Beli just gets a shot.

    I doubt we'd rest Boozer as much as you think, but we'll see. I think Thibodeau still tries to keep him out there for offense, and he does at least rebound well.

    I can't see Teague getting any burn at all without injury.

  • I would like to see Butler, Robinson and Nazr with 15 minutes a game and I hope he totally gets rid of that ridiculous hockey line shifts and blends the bench with the starters so there is at least two starters on the floor at all times.

    Not to change the subject but there is only one week left for a Gibson extension and they didn't pick up the rookie 3rd year option on Butler. That is why I hated the Radmanovic pickup, preferring the Bulls pick up another young powerforward from the Rockets or Bucks who are loaded with them. Jajuan Johnson has talent and he is rotting away in Houston, so is Epke Udoh in Milwaukee.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    Just because another team is not utilizing a young player, doesn't mean he would be available for the plucking, unless you overpay for them, like an Unprotected 1stRounder.

    JaJuan Johnson was actually a player HOU wanted to get, and Udoh was the other player in the Bogut-Monta trade MIL wanted.

    Udoh has shown more at this point in their careers, but I don't see MIL giving him up to a division rival for peanutes.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    The Radmanovic pickup defied logic. Phil Jackson absolutely hated him in Los Angeles. The "stretch 4" role is a joke anyway. Another banger is needed if Boozer, Taj, Noah or Nazr gets a serious injury.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    I could see Robinson and Nazr starting off the game around 15 minutes, but I don't know if Butler will get that much time.

    I look for Gibson to get an extension in the 11th hour.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    I guess that means that people will start ragging on him for being overpaid at 11:01.

    My sense is that the Bulls will only sign him if he accepts a 4 year deal for $7.5-$8 million per, Ryan Anderson/Irsan Illyasova money. If he is looking for Ibaka money, the Bulls will wait and ultimately lose him.

    Unfortunately, Taj does things that you don't usually get paid for in the NBA. Due to his limited offensive game, he is really not quite good enough to be a legitimate starter, i.e. as long as he is your starter, you are always going to be looking for a better one.

    I love what Taj brings to the table, he is definitely my kind of guy, which is why I argued for drafting him in the first place. That being said, even at "only" $7.5-$8 million per he will be overpaid under the realities of the new CBA.

  • Kirk Hinrich has not averaged over 35 minutes a game since the 06'-07' season and has never averaged 38 minutes. Over the last 5 years he has averaged 29 minutes a game, but he's now going to play 38-40 minutes a game? Is Lance Armstrong going to give him some magic fairy juice to accomplish this feat?
    We saw a good tempo in the bulls win the other night. Hinrich is not capable of that tempo. When he tries it, he turns the ball over and gives the other team easy baskets.
    Hinrich is not stupid, i.e. his ability to charm bloated contracts, he will find a way to give his minutes to more athletic players. 'water tends to find it's own level'.

  • In reply to 4zen:

    The question isn't whether or not Hinrich can play those 40min. The question, do you think Thibs is going to sit Hinrich if Robinson can make a shot and Teague backs him up?

    I can totally see Thibs running Hinrich and Deng for 40min per (give or take a minute or 2).

    And with all honesty, I think Rip can put up big scoring numbers again, but all of that will be mitigated if Thibs puts Rip out for for 35+min too because Belinelli can't make a shot.

  • In reply to 4zen:

    Luol Deng averaged 33 and 34 minutes the years before Thibodeau came to the Bulls. Hinrich's been on some teams with better options the past couple of years. The Bulls don't have good options right now.

  • Radmonovich hasn't gotten any preseason minutes, so I would like to see him get some in the remaining 2 games, so we know if he will be apart of the rotation.

    If Belinelli continues his shooting drought, I would like to see a 'Bench Mob' of...

    C. Nazr
    PF. Taj
    SF. Radmonovich (for his 3pt shooting)
    SG. Butler
    PG. Nate

  • In reply to YouBlewwIt:

    Radmanovic needs to prove he can play for that to work, and he's looked just as bad as Beli (albeit with far less opportunity).

  • Belinelli being so bad has really screwed up the rotation. My guess is that we will be seeing more of Nate Robinson than you think, with Belinelli logging some DNPs.

  • In reply to Vic Nardozza:

    I think Beli will play better. I mean, how could he play worse? He's a better player than what we've seen so far. Though I'm a Robinson booster, not a Beli booster. Nate and Kirk would work well on the court together (we're talking low expectations this season) with Kirk handling most of the traditional point guard duties and Nate looking for his shot and to attack the D when it's vulnerable + speed up the pace.

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