The end of the bench mob

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.


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  • Good point about the integrated lineup of starters mixed with bench guys. Makes sense.

    Also, when healthy, Dunleavy-Hinrich and Gibson may account for 90% of all bench minutes. Perhaps when playing a team with a true center Naz plays more. Teague and Snell will have to create an opportunity because there are better players ahead of them - assuming Hinrich plays more PG than SG.

  • We'll see how Pittman looks in early games. It would be nice if he could play 10 minutes per night and be effective. If not, and if the Bulls are winning most of their games, look for a trade for a big later in the season with a view to the playoffs.

    Many of us feel it will be important for the Bulls to play Snell and Murphy to see exactly what they have in those guys and to accelerate their development. - especially Snell. This would help to keep everyone else rested.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    Goood point rustyw!!!

  • I do see thibodeau giving Nazr a chance with minutes with the second unit but if he sucks, I can see a bulked up Gibson at the 5, Deng at the 4, Dunleavy at the 3. I see Deng playing with the second unit since he "helps them function better". I'm not so sure of Teague, he may give him a chance and move Kirk to the 2 in a double pg offense. Losing a bench scorer like Nate leaves the Bulls with only Dunleavy and Deng as go to guys on the second unit.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    Nazr will suck.

    Question is can Gibson step up and play like a borderline starter.

    Kirk at SG makes me cringe. But that is what they plan on doing at times. How can a sub 40% FG shooter (ala someone that can't shoot) play SG??? His defense is over rated at this point in his career as well. I rather see Teague at PG and Rose at SG.

  • In reply to Chad:

    Kirk sucks on offense but he does get praised by players like Deng and Boozer for running the team and setting up players. Seeing him run the backup point for 13 minutes a game, setting up Dunleavy and Deng with the second unit. This basically leaves Teague out of the rotation. Nazr probably will be used sparingly, maybe 5 minutes a game with Gibson taking on more backup center minutes. He does look like a legit 240 lbs which I believe is close to Noah's weight? He should be fine at the backup 5.

  • In reply to Chad:

    I don't think it's a given that Kirk will shoot sub-40% this year. It's possible last year was "the end," but it's also possible it was just a bad year. Kirk has a tendency to start slow then get in rhythm, but last year he was out so much he never really got in rhythm. He was shooting well in December/January then went down again, then was back to shooting well by April and for the playoffs. I also don't think it's a given he will have as many health problems this year - the elbow stuff really was a quirky injury, and that was a lot of his missed time.

    But defense of Kirk aside, I would guess most of his "SG" minutes will really be playing with Derrick where they both take more of a hybrid role. I don't think we'll see much of Kirk and Teague playing together unless it's a blowout or Derrick is hurt.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    This Taj stuff at the 5 just SCARES ME. The opposition would REALLY have to go small for me to be happy.

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