Who closes out games for Chicago?

The starters are likely set at Rose, Butler, Dunleavy, Gasol, and Noah. The key bench players will likely be McDermott, Gibson, Hinrich and possibly a smattering of Brooks/Mirotic. However, what's important for many is who will close?

The battle for making the closing rotation is mostly an issue in the front court where Noah, Gibson, and Gasol will vie for two spots. Previously, I think everyone simply assumed that Joakim Noah would earn one of them after his amazing season last year.

However, thus far in preseason he's probably played the worst of the big men for Chicago and if he continues to take awhile to come around it's certainly possible we could see a Gibson/Gasol pairing to close games particularly since they would seem better offensively and similar defensively to Noah/Gasol and provide better balance than Noah/Gibson.

Taj Gibson has sacrificed starting minutes behind Boozer, but he was rewarded with closing minutes which eased that sacrifice. Pau Gasol noted he expects to close as well. I'm sure Joakim Noah's expecting to close out games too. The Bulls have historically had great chemistry and willingness to sacrifice under Thibodeau, but the closing minutes of the front court would seem to be a big challenge in keeping everyone happy.

In the past, Thibodeau has simply gone with the hot hand, and if he balances out the closing minutes rather than having set closers that might be the compromise everyone can live with, at least until a regular best closing lineup forms naturally.

Things certainly don't seem like they'd get so emotional on the wing rotation in terms of closing. Derrick Rose is obviously a closer as is Jimmy Butler in most situations. That leaves one spot to go to McDermott, Dunleavy, or Hinrich.

This one could also be done by a "hot hand" or "match up" model, perhaps permanently. Hinrich gives the Bulls defense and ball handling, Dunleavy and McDermott give the Bulls shooting and size. It's unlikely to see this position come down to any bruised egos since McDermott is just a rookie, Dunleavy's a three million dollar player, and Kirk's a two million dollar player.

None of these guys are likely closing games for other teams unlike the front court where all three have legitimate cases to close games and would likely do so elsewhere.

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    This article isn't saying much for the starters if they aren't able to close games too. It's also not saying much for the ballyhooed team depth if they are only able to rely on 8 players.
    Personally, I would start and end Doug McDermott and play Dunleavy with the 2nd unit.
    I don't see Aaron Brooks being much of a contributor unless there's an injury to either Kirk Hinrich or Derrick Rose, but I see Niko as a key player to the Bulls championship hopes.
    It's one thing to look at an aging Pau Gasol, a hobbling Joakim Noah, and an undersized, but seasoned Taj Gibson and hope the team has enough to compete for the title, but if those two rooks don't grow up throughout the regular season and fulfill their potential, it's going to be another year of "wait until next year". Without the offensive production of McDermott and Mirotic the Bulls will struggle offensively and will likely be near the bottom of the league in scoring.

  • In reply to Michael Cunningham:

    I agree with you about the M&M boys, but I'm really not sure how much we can expect from them as rookies even if Mirotic is a somewhat seasoned professional.

    Personally, I've seen more to like from Niko than I have from McKorver. He seems like a specialty role player as a 3 point sniper. I would likely still start him but only because otherwise we are starting Dunleavy who is nothing more than a space holder.

    Nice to see that somebody else recognizes that Taj is undersized, even for a power forward and is clearly not the answer as our back up center even in this new era.

    Also, I keep reading that Thibs really like Aaron Brooks and that he could well be out "8th" man.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Gibson is certainly not undersized for a 4 and he holds his own just fine as a 5. He's actually gotten much stronger and he doesn't shoved around ever. Height doesn't matter in basketball. You do nothing with the top of your head. Taj has ridiculous length. Basically the length of an average 7 footer. He's actually about as long as Pau. He has a monster 7'4" wingspan and a ridiculous 9'2" standing reach. He had the longest WS and SR in his entire draft class other than Hasheem Thabeet.

    He's one of the better shot blockers in the league and offensive rebounders. One of the things that makes him so effective on defense is that he is freakishly long for his height. Creates deception and guys think they can get over him or around him and they can't. He get his hands on so many balls. Deflect passes and alters shots. Height is the most overrated thing in basketball. reach and wingspan are MUCH, MUCH more relevant.

  • In reply to 5stringking:

    Maybe you didn't notice him getting destroyed this past week by Jurkic and Varejao, both of whom are true centers but not exactly Shaq. Gibson is 6'7.75" which the NBA considers undersized for a power forward. I agree that he is fine physically playing power forward, it is his natural position. However, he absolutely does not have the physical stature, however you want to measure it to play center. I'm sure if you asked him(in private), he'd tell you himself that he hates being forced to play there.

    Aslo if height is so overrated, why is the average height in the NBA about 6'7" while the average male height in the U.S. is about 5'10". Seems like being tall must have something to do with playing professional basketball. The biggest difference between Gasol and boozer on defense is that one is 7 ft tall and the other was almost exactly Taj's height.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    LOL... You don't even know what you're talking about. Varejao scored all of 6 pts while Taj was on the floor and 4 of them came on jumpers outside of 16 feet. And when Taj was on the floor with Gasol.-most of his minutes- Gasol was guarding AV, anyway.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Also, are you trying to say it's more important where the top of a players head is than what his wingspan and standing reach are? LOL. Never seen a player pass, shoot, dunk, block a shot, defend anybody, do anything with the top of their heads.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Taj's numbers as a center are actually better than at PF.. The Bulls do pretty well as team too.. He has a 104.6 off rating and a 91.2 def rating. The team was +12.4 per 100 possessions with Taj at the 5.

  • Once again, I'd be much more excited about the depth in the front court if we weren't so deficient at wing.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Jeff Van Gundy pointed out this Bulls flaw on the Grantland preview show, saying that the Bulls needed to add another starting caliber wing opposite of Butler to really challenge Cleveland.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Ditto! Except I might upgrade that to star quality wing.

  • Probably depends on whether Noah's knee is o.k.

    Also depends on the current theory of "closer," as it appears that Thibs goes for defense, while the MJ theory was making the last shot.

  • Even for Thibs this is going to be a challenge to negotiate. I think that he will have to go game by game without having a set closing rotation. Perhaps shuttling the bigs in and out on a situational basis. Clearly both Noah and Gasol expect to start and to close. If that becomes set in stone, I see a problem developing with Taj.

    My sense is that if we have a lead, it will be Noah and Taj to close out with defense, if it is a close game or we are behind he will go with Gasol for offense and Noah or Taj depending on the bigman matchups presented by the opposition.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I really have no sense of who Thibs will close with at the second wing slot, Hangdog, Dunleavy or McKorver. This will likely also come down to the game situation and the hot hand theory. Hangdog if we a leading and McKorver or Dunleavy if we are trailing and need more offense.

  • In this last preseason game, I hope they(Thibsy) make a concerted effort to get the ball to Mirotic in the mid post(or lower though he seems unable to post up on the block due to his light frame), and see what he can do with several attempts in that area rather then just using a 6'10 player to shoot threes.

    And with McDermott I think someone needs to tell him to calm down he looks a little anxious with the ball. I'd honestly let him know he's getting heavy minutes tonight, and plenty of looks so just relax and take each possession one at a time. Though I doubt this will happen, but in heavy minutes I'd see if these guys are ready to contribute immediately with any kind of meaningful role.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    Good advice for McD. He is not shooting like he did in college, and it looks like jitters.

  • Reading that Tobias Harris will not sign a contract extention with Orlando thus becoming a free agent next summer. His shoe deal(he has a shoe deal?!) with Nike has escalator clauses if he lands in Chi, NY or LA. What do you think Bulls fans should we try to get him. I actually liked what I've seen of the guy even when he was in Milwaukee. He'd certainly be our starting SF, which would unfortunately mean Butler stays out of position at shooting guard.

    I am assuming that he will be restricted so Orlando doesn't have to trade him, but maybe they really don't want to pay him big money either. Snell, Dunleavy, Sacto pick? what's Harris worth? 14 & 7, 17 & 8.5 the past 2 seasons, shoots O.K. overall 45-6%, sucks from 3. Could he get Gordon Heyward/Chandler Parsons money next summer, is he worth that? Would you rather have a guy like him or say Rudy Gay.

  • Mirotic only played 8 minutes tonight? Come on Thibs!

  • In reply to Sluggers:

    We all know what that means, no soup for you Niko.

  • Well after that craptastic affair(4rth quarter) I think that Thibs will revert to what he knows best, feels most comfortable with. He will close with Rose, Noah, Taj, Butler and Hangdog. That's it, he can't trust anybody else, Maybe Dunleavy instead of the dog if we need buckets. Gasol really looks bad on offense, he couldn't do anything tonight against a bunch of midgets.

    Zack Lavine only played a few minutes in the 4rth, but that was enough for me, after seeing Nurkic and now LaVine, as I suspected we got the wrong guy again. Lavine is an insane other worldly athlete and just a kid, but man would he look amazing running next to Rose, kind of like Tony Snell in his wildest wet dream on crank, meth, pcp and steroids. Meanwhile, McPlaydough(his new nickname until he starts actually making 3's) is not an NBA athlete at all. Can you turn into one after you enter the league, I don't know, maybe. He looked like a bobblehead doll trying to guard Budinger. I don't know, will he be even as good as Budinger. I guess Budinger is supposed to be a very good athlete as a professional quality volleyball player.

    I asked on draft day, did you want McPlaydough over any of the guys taken right after him, Saric, Lavine, Warren, Payne or even Nurkic taken with our pick. I was on record before the draft as hoping for Saric, Payton or LaVine and liked Warren as a natural born scorer at small foward.

    Even though Payton went 10th we could have had him and maybe another first round pick since Philly really wanted Saric but had a prearranged trade with Orlando at 12. We could have intercepted Saric to get Payton, or kept Saric or taken LaVine.

    For everyone and anyone who keeps insisting that McPlaydough can play small forward(nevermind the ludicrous notion that he could play power forward) he looked noticeably shorter than Budinger just as he did last week against Korver who are both at best 6'7". So I guess that he isn't really 6'8" shoes or no shoes.

    McPlaydough's only shot is to remake his body by the Ray Allen method and become a true shooting guard, who actually makes his 3's. I believe that he will eventually get the 3 point shooting down, not sure if he can remake himself into a legitimate starter though. Maybe he can become a taller little Stevie Kerr. I suppose that we could live with that.

    Mirotic who already is and certainly will be the better player looks like he won't see the light of day, as Thibs tipped his hand by not giving him any minutes in the second half.

    Well still can't wait for the real thing next Wednesday even if Brooks is our 8th man, McPlaydough our 9th and Mirotic our noneth. I just hope that Snell is relegated to DNPCD as soon as Butler returns.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Agree with you about Zach LaVine. I was for him in that draft as a sleeper with big upside potential.

  • Last night's game raised more questions than answers.

    Points of concern-

    1--Gasol sloppy and slow. 7 turnovers, and it's not the first time either.

    2--Noah had really nice stats, but I can see that knee holding him back, often.

    3--Taj, coming out with 4 minutes left. Just felt wrong.., and as it turned out, my feeling was right..at least last night.

    4--Rose and Dunleavy didn't help us much in yesterdays stretch run. Of course, everyone was missing shots, so.

    Overall, the Bulls are scoring more points but their 'D' seems weakened. We block a lot of shots, but our transition 'D' looks slow.

    Thibs has lots of work to do, bit I am NOT surprised. So ,so Many new parts, combinations+ the Noah' concerns., and hopefully limit on minutes. Good news, maybe he will be forced to spread around game minutes a little more, keepin guys fresher. Relax, it's early.

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