Who wins the battle for shooting guard minutes?

By the end of last season, Rip Hamilton frequently morphed into Kieth Bogans, starting the first and third periods then playing sparingly after that. Hamilton is expected to start again this season, but the battle for who gets the minutes at SG could be intense.

The Bulls have solid depth at guard while Derrick Rose is sidelines and will be overloaded at the position when he returns. Presently, Hamilton, Belinelli, and Butler will vie for shooting guard minutes. When Derrick Rose returns, Kirk Hinrich will join the fray and see action at shooting guard as well.

Rip Hamilton is the early favorite to take the minutes

Rip Hamilton will be given every opportunity to win the lion's share of the minutes. Most coaches prefer to go with veteran's and Thibodeau is no exception. Hamilton's also the most likely to grouse and mope if his minutes are cut and already lead a revolt against his head coach in Detroit over playing time.

If the Bulls reduce his role too much, it's not out of the question that they lose him completely. Rip can be a great teammate, but we've already seen the darker side of him even if he was stuck in a lousy situation of not playing for a lousy team. For as long as he's healthy, I think it's fair to assume that Rip pulls down 20 minutes a night and retains the starting role.

The news around Hamilton so far is positive. He's talking about how healthy he is, not playing a compressed schedule, and getting back to form. However, it's been four years since Hamilton had a reasonably healthy season (72 games played) and a decade since he played all 82. Let's not buy into the hype that he'll be much of a cornerstone this season either.

I put the over/under on games played for Rip at 55 games.

Marco Belinelli has potential

At 26 years of age, Marco Belinelli is entering the best years of his career. He still has room to grow as a player, can put the ball on the floor, shoot, and brings a much needed aggressive scoring mentality to the table. His defense has historically been called into question, but Thibodeau raises all boats on the defensive side of the ball.

I expect Belinelli to perform well above the expectations that are typically set for a guy on a one year two million dollar deal. That said, those expectations are typically set very, very low. That said, I won't be surprised if Belinelli outplays Hamilton while coming off the bench starting a grass roots movement by fans to see his role increase.

He'll need to prove all the skills he's flashed can be put together into a consistent game, but he possesses many of the tools needed to play as a starting shooting guard and his skill set would fit more naturally around a healthy Derrick Rose than Rip Hamilton's would.

Jimmy Butler impressed in summer league

Jimmy Butler told me at media day that the biggest thing he improved upon was his confidence taking the jumper. He worked plenty on the jump shot this summer, but noted that last year he was often scared to use it during games. He still intends to attack the basket quick and hard to draw fouls, but hopes to help space the floor a bit more as well.

He'll initially make his money as Luol Deng's backup, a role which historically would grant a guy about 30 seconds of playing time per night (I kid). If he plays well, he'll likely see 12-15 minutes a night at SF, but he could challenge to gain more playing time at SG when the Bulls want to go with more of a defensive front.

He's likely the Bulls defensive ace at the position which means there will be some minutes for him there regardless of what Hamilton and Belinelli are doing on offense. The Bulls will throw out looks with Butler/Deng on the floor if they really want to shut down the perimeter.

How many minutes this happens will likely come down to how much Butler can bring to the table on offense.

Kirk Hinrich lurks in the shadows

When the glorious day of Derrick Rose's return comes, Kirk Hinrich's minutes aren't likely to drop to 10 a night. He's going to be thrown in at shooting guard as well and likely receive a minimum of 10 minutes a night at what then becomes a very crowded position.

Hinrich may push Butler out of the SG role all together, because his fit at the position may be the defensive sub with more shooting skill. This might be the best way to keep locker room piece as it would still give Butler 12-15 minutes as backup SF and leave SG as a three man rotation instead of a four man one.

That said, it all comes down to who proves it on the court.

Final thoughts

The Bulls potentially having a four man minute crunch at the position at year's end shows why teams need star power rather than depth. Throwing more average or guys with potential at the problem doesn't do much to solve it if no one gets enough minutes to find a rhythm and prove themselves.

It also has a high risk of sowing locker room discontent as someone will always feel they deserved to play over a guy ahead of them. Given that Hamilton and Hinrich have both struggled with significant injury problems, it's possible that things get worked out without much of a log jam due to health concerns, but Thibodeau will have to tread carefully if the roster stays healthy.


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  • Obviously a lot of this depends on Rip's health. I still think if he's fully healthy he's the best option we have at the two.

    I suppose Bellinelli can improve under Thibs, and Butler can shine enough in his backup minutes that he plays more and more, but it's really hard to predict stuff like that.

    Bellinelli just hasn't shown enough to make me think he's deserving of starter's minutes, and Butler, while I do like his overall skill set, the lack of a jumpshot is gonna severely limit his upside on this team.

    As for Hinrich, he's been garbage the past two years, and he was nothing special when he was with us. And that's when he was even healthy enough to see the floor. If he's getting a lot of minutes at the two this year, I suspect we'll be in a lot of trouble as a team.

  • In reply to Juiceboxjerry:

    As I noted on Hinrich in one of my articles, he played quite well last year for Atlanta if you subtract the first month while he was returning from shoulder surgery. That month dragged done his numbers, but the rest of the season he shot 47%/38% (fg/3pt) for the season and played very well.

  • One thingh I think you are missing in this discussion is the likely possiblity that Luol Deng plays more minutes at PF this season as part of filling the gap left by Asik's departure. More small ball is likely this year, and that in turn opens up more minutes at SF which creates additional opportunities for the 4 guys competing at SG.

  • In reply to scotter:

    Excellent point, especially if there is an injury.

  • I'm semi-amazed that the Kirk-Hinrich-injury-prone theme continues to get so much time. He missed the very end of one season with a hamstring injury. Not something that has been a constant problem in his career, and something he had time to heal from completely since he wasn't rushing back. He then had shoulder surgery from an injury he'd played with for quite a while, because a cyst developed. Again, it's not like shoulder is something that has been a historic concern, and he showed by the end of last season that he was back to normal. Outside of that, he had the thumb injury when he was a Bull, which was kind of a freak thing. So a guy with one lengthy previous injury has one additional "serious" injury and one that only stands out to Bulls fans because he missed the Bulls-Hawks playoff series.

    I get people aren't going to believe he has anything left in the tank until he proves it on the floor, but the injury thing has gotten way overblown. It (injuries) is far less of a concern with Kirk than Rip, or Lu or Joakim for that matter.

  • In reply to clancy:

    When you have significant injuries for consecutive years and are older than 30 then injuries should be a concern going forward. That said, I do agree that he doesn't have the type of injuries that are likely to recur.

  • In reply to clancy:

    We'll see how that goes. I think Watson was a better shot creator than Hinrich though Belinelli is better than Korver. It's hard to say if the Bulls got better overall in that category or not.

    Their biggest potential for improvement is probably Rip Hamilton staying healthy and having a quality year. I don't know how likely that is given his recent history, but the Bulls got next to nothing from him last year and if Hamilton proves he can still play it'd be a major bonus for the team.

  • I'm just happy for the simple things like the Bulls bringing in guards that can actually dribble and shoot threes. Watching the likes of Keith Bogans and other guards dribble the ball over the last two years was a horrifying experience and its no wonder why teams would double or triple team rose. This team has the ball handlers and decent shooting, the only thing we don't know is if the defense-rebounding edge holds after the loss of Asik, Brewer and Korver were pretty good rebounders off the bench. I think Hinrich for a small guard is a pretty decent rebounder, superior to Watson or Lucas. So we lost some things but we gained in other areas. I'd like to see the two guard minutes split evenly between RIP and Belinelli, keeping both players fresh and contributing throughout the year.

  • I am not sure that Jimmy Bulter has much of a future at shooting guard.

    First he doesn't have the type of offensive game for it. While he might be capable of defending the position most of the time, it seems that even his best defensive efforts have come against small forwards.

    To me he is a small forward whose only hope of significant playing time is Deng's departure in addition to his own development.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    That's probably true on offense, but I could easily see the Bulls bringing him in to a defensive lineup and playing him at SG while knowing that he's not going to do a whole lot offensively there.

    His hustle/size could still probably get him some points simply crashing the glass and attacking over a smaller defender.

    That said, you're probably right that it won't be a major minute position for him at any point in his career.

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