It's not exactly Colin Kaepernick vs Alex Smith, but when Rip Hamilton comes back from his torn plantar fascia the Bulls will need to decide whether he should remain the starter or whether they'll go with Marco Belinelli.
There's typically an unwritten rule that you don't lose your job to injury, but neither Marco nor Hamilton are likely to remain on the team next season. Marco's playing on a one year deal, and the Bulls are expected to exercise the one million dollar buyout on Rip Hamilton's contract.
Given that there's no long term egos to smooth over here, the only thing that really matters is immediate performance. The bench has typically floundered this season, and we've seen that Marco's struggled to perform with a less offensive oriented unit. While playing with the starters, his performance has raised considerably.
Over the last three games, Belinelli has created shots as well as knocked down open jumpers. He's been able to knock down the mid range curl, create off the pick and roll, and hit the open three. Off the bench, his three point shooting eventually came around, but he wasn't finding much luck with the rest of his game.
He definitely has more room to work with as a starter as the defense will focus more attention on the rest of the team. As somewhere between the third and fifth best offensive option on the floor, he plays with more space around him than on the bench where he may be playing as the second option on the court.
How does Rip react to a bench role?
While Belinelli's playing much better as the starter, what would Rip do as a reserve? Rip and Belinelli seem to have fairly similar games in terms of what they expect the rest of the offense to do for them to get their shots off. Both guys look to run around screens and depend on ball movement to get quality looks.
There's probably just as much reason to expect Rip to run into some of the problems Belinelli did off the bench. It's also worth noting that Hamilton became a major locker room distraction in Detroit when he became unhappy with his role. You'd like to think on a new team, in a new role, that he wouldn't have the same built up emotional investment but who knows.
The Bulls need to be at least think about the potential downfall of Rip checking out on the team.
If Beli keeps it up, it's his job to lose
I suspect Tom Thibodeau will disagree, but I think if Belinelli continues his play that you keep him in the starting lineup. Both players can thrive off the additional space afforded by playing with better offensive players. Both players can run curls, knock down jumpers, and create a little bit off the dribble if given space.
In the end, it comes down to the three point shooting threat. Belinelli provides a legitimate outside shooting threat on the floor and helps create space for everyone else rather than simply thriving off the space others create for him. The Bulls need that more than they need Hamilton's ability to play in the post against shorter guards.