The Chicago Bulls have plenty of depth in the front court. One might say the depth even constitutes a log jam, and if they don't make a trade, they'll continue to have more quality players than minutes to give them. Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Pau Gasol, and Nikola Mirotic. Seems like one guy to many for a typical big rotation, but the Bulls will want to get them all on the floor.
There have been plenty of suggestions that Taj Gibson can drop down to 20-23 minutes a game to make some room for Mirotic, but it doesn't feel like the Bulls are getting a lot of bang for their buck in that scenario. Not with Gibson or Mirotic.
In the end, three guys playing 32 minutes a night is all the front court minutes you get, and the Bulls have possibly four guys who could deserve that many [or more] minutes by the end of the season. Sure, guys can sacrifice, but that doesn't maximize the roster or development of your assets.
Chicago will need to wait to see what they have in Nikola, but the hope is that this is a problem. The hope is that he's good enough to worry about how to get him on the court. If he's not, the Bulls will be quite pleased with themselves for all the extra depth and not going into the season relying on Mirotic to play 30 minutes a night.
If he is then it's time to get creative about solutions. The most obvious answer? The jumbo lineup.
At first glance, the jumbo lineup doesn't seem like the greatest of ideas in an NBA era where teams are going smaller and faster all of the time.
In the past, it wouldn't have been an option because Chicago would have lacked the offensive skill to take advantage of their size.
Now? It has real possibility.
A few thoughts on why/how this could work:
#1: Mirotic is involved in any jumbo lineup. He provides the floor spacing in the jumbo lineup to keep the Bulls difficult to defend on the offensive end of the court.
#2: Pau Gasol plays in the jumbo lineup. He gives the Bulls someone who can score in isolation in the low post, pass well, and knock down deep mid range shots. This keeps the spacing on the court and puts a ton of pressure on the opponent defensively.
#3: Taj and Noah can defend any player in the NBA better than Mike Dunleavy. Sorry Mike, no offense. However, if we can afford to have Dunleavy on the floor than we can afford to play Mirotic in his place and have Taj or Noah take on Dunleavy's responsibility defensively (if not Mirotic himself).
If the Bulls go with a Mirotic, Taj, Gasol lineup then they potentially have three guys who can take guys in the low post and three guys who have at least deep mid range shots (with Mirotic extending even further). They'll hopefully be able to force all kinds of awkward defensive positions for their opponents and draw fouls.
If they Bulls go with Mirotic, Noah, and Gasol, they'll lose Gibson's offensive play, but Noah will crush opponents on the glass if defended by someone smaller and can still make all kinds of plays with the ball in his hands as we saw last season. He also scores well in the post when defended by smaller players.
Either scenario is most interesting for Chicago when surrounded by shooters and while Derrick Rose takes a breather. With the jumbo lineup out there, the ball has to run through the post. Kirk Hinrich, Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic, Pau gasol, and one of Gibson/Noah would solve two problems for Chicago.
It gets Mirotic on the floor and provides a creative solution to the lack of a second ball handler by creating an entirely post driven offense with three shooters surrounding two more interior players. Granted, Chicago could solve the same problem with Dunleavy in place of Mirotic, so it's not a necessity to go big, but the purpose is to get Mirotic some burn and possibly create some low post opportunities.
Chicago has had a history of bringing rookies along slowly, and may do that again this season. However, rookies should only be brought on slowly when there are better options ahead of them. If Mike Dunleavy's a better option than Nikola Mirotic then he's not nearly as good as we hoped.
The jumbo lineup likely only takes you so far though, if Mirotic is the real deal, the Bulls should be looking to maximize their shot at a title by making a trade.
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