On media day, I asked Tom Thibodeau one question, and since every possible angle about Derrick Rose had been covered, I decided to ask about the bench. Without a sparkplug guy like Nate Robinson or C.J. Watson, how did he expect the bench to play this year.
In typical Thibodeau fashion, he went on to compliment all the bench players, say he feels good about the bench, but there were a few interesting things to be pulled out of what he said and didn't say.
First, he noted that the guys would be integrated with the starters too. Implying that we'd see a lot less of the five man bench unit the Bulls would frequently run over the past three seasons. Without a real scorer off the bench, this makes plenty of sense.
Second, Tony Snell and Erik Murphy didn't make his list of players to compliment which implies they aren't in the rotational plans initially (not surprise there). Over the past few seasons, the Bulls bench has been a pretty special group for Chicago, they've done a great job of reclaiming lost leads and holding the lead when coming in.
Now, I think the Bulls will start substituting guys in patterns that don't leave all five starters out anymore. I expect to see patterns where two starters typically stay in the game at any given time, especially given that the starting lineup is now definitively the five best players on the team.
In fact, it will be interesting to see how much playing time goes to anyone outside of Taj, Hinrich, and Dunleavy Jr. I'd imagine that Nazr and Teague will get their share of chances, but the previous three guys can all likely play 30 minutes a night and fill up almost all the bench minutes if Thibs manages the timing of the rotations carefully.
Don't be surprised if significant opportunities (more than five minutes or so) only come for other players due to injury while the healthy lineup will lean almost exclusively on the starters and those three backups with Teague/Nazr filling in for just a few minutes here and there.
The Bulls should still have plenty of depth, but we'll see a lot more integrated play with the roster rather than the two separate units we saw over the last few seasons.