Marquis Teague, Tony Snell, and the battle for deep bench minutes

Whether the Chicago Bulls have depth or not will depend on whether Marquis Teague or Tony Snell can prove they belong. The Bulls have five solid players to fill out the primary guard and wing minutes. Five players is enough to cover three wing positions if everyone stays healthy without worrying about the sixth guy much at all.

That said, Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich, and Luol Deng don't have the best resumes when it comes to staying healthy. Odds are high that the Bulls will lean on at least one more player fairly heavily this season to compensate for an injury to someone in that primary guard rotation. Tony Snell and Marquis Teague will duke it out to see which of them can be that player.

Granted, it will depend somewhat on who goes down, but it really only makes a difference if that player is Derrick Rose or Kirk Hinrich. In the case where Rose or Kirk goes down then Teague is guaranteed minutes at the one, because Snell simply can't play there.

If Butler, Deng, or Dunleavy were to go down Snell might have somewhat of an advantage in terms of filling in for that player, but the Bulls could also simply shift their rotation. Say Deng goes down, instead of Snell filling in for Deng, Butler slides over as starting SF, Hinrich is promoted to starting two, Dunleavy can play with either Hinrich or Deng, and so those three cover the vast majority of two/three minutes.

With Hinrich sliding to the two full time, Teague becomes the full time backup PG. The same basic scenario is true if Butler or Dunleavy are hurt as well. In any of those scenarios, the Bulls can play the two/three with whomever is left and keep Teague at backing up the point, or they'd have the choice of using Snell instead and keeping Hinrich at the backup point.

Of the five wing players projected to play in the rotation every night, two of them mandate Teague taking a big role in case of injury and three of them give the Bulls a choice. In that sense, Teague has the upper hand if everything else is equal.

That said, it could be argued in an injury situation the Bulls may look to replace function. Teague can't replace Dunleavy's shooting, and Snell probably replaces Butler or Deng's defense better with his size. If the Bulls choose to use Teague and move the rotation around instead, they'll also be choosing to change the fundamental way the rotation works whereas Snell may come in and keep the status quo with a more similar skillset.

In fact, the skillset might be one of the biggest problems facing Teague. His best moments come defending PGs and attacking the basket with the ball in his hands. Neither of those skills are particularly valuable if Derrick Rose is on the court with him. The Rose factor will always limit how much development Teague can do.

Is there really a scenario where Rose is healthy, the game isn't a blowout, and Teague plays more than 12 minutes? Even with two injuries to other players in the backcourt and tremendous play by Teague that probably doesn't happen.

In that sense, while Teague has the edge to get some playing time, Snell's the only guy who could really command significant playing time with quality play if he can prove he deserves it. In a scenario where Deng, Butler, or Dunleavy is hurt and Snell is playing great basketball, he could easily carve out a 25+ minute niche for himself, something Teague won't do.

Of course, it's probably unlikely that either guy plays well enough that we worry about getting them burn but given the roster turnover coming next season, Chicago really needs to find out if they can rely on either player to fill in a valuable gap or whether they need to upgrade one or both next off-season.


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  • I look for Snell to be the guy relied upon to get the most minutes cause Teague is a point guard and that's it. Snell could be a player at the 2 or 3 positions especially if he has a pretty good shooting percentage and maybe grab a few boards a game. Snell from what I've seen of him have more intangibles on the floor and I'm hoping he has a very good rookie season so the Bulls can move on from Deng.

  • I agree with Reese1 in that it will be critical for the Bulls to see what they have in Snell due to Deng's contract expiring. The best scenario for the Bulls would be Snell showing enough game to let Deng go. The Bulls could then keep Boozer, or possibly go after Gasol or other free agents. Amnestying Boozer really opens up options, but it really depends on the FAs available. Mirotic should come over, so being under the cap (or, is it luxury tax?) is key so that we can offer the full MLE. Plus, Butler will need to get paid soon, and he is getting expensive. Probably a couple years out before Butler gets expensive.

    Snell should be able to play this season because 1) he can shoot about as good as anyone on the team except for possibly Dunleavy.
    2) He can play D, which is mandatory under Thibs.

    Even without an injury you can make a case that Snell may be used in key late game situations where you need shooters on the floor. (Down by 3 with 5 seconds left, for example.) He's too good of a shooter to ignore and stash away on the bench. Personally, I think that by the all-star break that he'll have a solid role on this team - maybe 15-20 minutes per game.

    His "issue" in the summer was that he was just too damn passive. However, when you have Rose being the aggressor and getting you open looks, that problem goes away. It was clear in the summer that Snell is not comfortable creating shots yet, but he won't have to in his rookie season. Butler did not do it his rookie year, but now he can. So, you hope that by year two he can be similar to Deng - a tall order, but he's already a better shooter and is a capable defensive player. It's just a matter of doing "the little things" like Deng does since he is our supposed to be our "glue guy", whatever that means!

    Teague - Ya, I'm not expecting much here. He has to improve his shot, his decision making and his ability to run an offense. Teague is too passive in my opinion. He plays not to mess up and he needs to be more aggressive. It's clear that he's not comfortable. He will be needed in year 3, like Snell, since Hinrich will probably not be back unless it's a 1 year deal on the cheap.

  • @Reese and Granby

    You guys add a lot to this article. Positions SG,PG, and SF covered nicely. Here my 2 cents:

    1--Snell, at some time will get his chance for some minutes. I think his "D" will buy him a few extra minutes in those games where Lou or Dunleavy are OUT.

    2--Teague.., now I think he will be on a shorter leash. A two-headed coin here. Like Butler, he payed some dues last year and will start his 2nd year with thst Summer League confidence. Yet, he's 20 , yes 20 years old. It will be Interesting to see how Thibs weights his experience/youth. I think lots will depend on Hinrich..,his health as well as his efficiency. He is NOT 20 years old.

    In addition, let me add, AS USUAL, my Deep Concern for a Plan if/when Noah goes down. Not a game or two..,but 4 or 5 or 6 games in a row. This notion, "NO PROBLEM, Taj and Nazr can handle it is just TOO RISKY.

    A--I think the standings/seedings for the playoffs will be quite bunched. A losing streak, against the wrong teams could be pretty drastic to these seeding positions.

    B-- Assuming Taj will answer the call implies he will be quite a bit improved over lasts years drop.(We can quibble about the amount of drop in his play..,but I think we all agree he took a step back for whatever the reasons)

    C--This Pittman guy could become a lot more important

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    If Derrick Rose is injured that's the end of the Chicago Bulls season. No need for a backup. All hope is gone. I see Snell playing regardless of injury. Mainly because I don't see the depth in the bench that I've seen in 2011. And secondly, I see Snell as a defensive bonus for the team.
    Marquis Teague is a different scenario for the Bulls. He really has to prove that he belongs in the league. His minutes will depend on how he performs when given the chance. If he runs the 2nd unit without making too many mistakes, he will quickly become a fan favorite. However; If he fails to produce up to Thibs standards I can see him as trade-bait. Scoring and defense is what Teague will have to prove that he can do since Dexter Pittman, Taj Gibson & Nazr Mohamad can't score, so there goes Teague's assist numbers. And, Hinrich is not a legit scoring guard. He is really in a bad situation for the Bulls. Teague would be better served if he went to an up-and coming team i.e. Pistons, Bucks, or Jazz. imo

  • Everybody keeps insisting that Snell is a good/great shooter especially from 3 point range. Since we haven't seen him do it in the NBA yet, and he shot a pedestrian Luol Deng like 42% in college in a non major conference I am not sure that counting on him to be a good/great shooter is a given.

    He looks pretty good in the few clips that we've seen of him, so there certainly is hope that he can be a 3 and D guy at a minimum. But to expect much, if anything from him as a rookie under Thibs is foolhearty.

    It is more important that we see more from Teague in his second year and hope that Snell follows the Jimmy Butler progression in years 2 and 3. If we miraculously avoid injuries for the entire season, we likely won't find out much if anything about either guy

    But it is still the offseason, so hope springs eternal.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I think everyone is going with Snell because at this point he seems to have more future potential than Teague. Teague is very young but he has to show some signs of improvements cause imo he looks very uncomfortable and awkward when he is on the floor. The dude really needs to develope his jumpshot.

  • Each of the last 3 summers, Bulls fans have spent the summer worrying about the bench. They are either: too young, too old, not enough offense, not enough defense, bad haircuts, bad dressers, ugly girlfriends, too many pets, ugly rims on their cars, ugly furniture in their living room, rude doorman in their building...

    Then every season, the bench winds up being much better than expected, usually one of the best in the NBA.

    So I think I'll wait until the All-Star break to worry about the bench.

    Great article Doug, as always.

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