Thibodeau hitting the right note with minutes and rest

Thibodeau hitting the right note with minutes and rest

One of the big concerns with Tom Thibodeau has been getting to the end of the season healthy. He's had a habit of wearing down players through overuse and having his teams limp into the playoffs while overachieving in the regular season.

While it's still early, Tom Thibodeau looks to have found a positive balance with playing time, minutes, and rest.

Rest in blowouts

The Bulls crushed the Knicks in their opening game. Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose didn't come back in for meaningless fourth quarter minutes. A decision he may not have made a few years ago when he tended to keep his star players in regardless of score.

This is crucial in that it's the most obvious way to gain some rest for your players without impacting the win/loss total at all.

No one has hit 40 yet

Luol Deng seemed to hit 40 minutes almost every other game and despite playing an overtime game with five extra minutes, missing Jimmy Butler for two games and Taj/Rose for a game (shortening the rotation) no player has played 40 minutes in a single game yet.

He's playing a deeper rotation

In game one, Tom Thibodeau went 10 men deep even before it turned into a rout. In games two and three he went nine men deep. He said in the preseason that he envisioned a nine man rotation.

With everyone healthy, I think the Bulls will likely shift to a 9.5 man rotation going 10 deep in some games and nine in others and keeping guys healthy.

Already gave the guys a day off

Coming off a back to back, Thibodeau gave the team Sunday off instead of practicing. They haven't played particularly well in the areas Thibodeau is most concerned about (defense and rebounding), but instead of punishing the team, he gave them rest anyway.

In the past, Thibodeau would give days off after good play, but when they were struggling, especially on defense, there was always more practice. The Bulls barely carved out a win over Minnesota and lost to the Cavaliers, but the team was given a rest day anyway.

Some decisions taken out of Thibodeau's hands

We've heard that certain players have minute caps this year, and the decision to sit Derrick Rose was made without consultation with Thibodeau. It appears that the organization is making sure that its voice is heard.

Joakim Noah appeared to blow past his minute limit already in the overtime game, but the fact he sat out the first two minutes before coming in makes me think there was likely a discussion/approval process for him to do so.

Still early...

It's a long season, but Tom Thibodeau looks like he's either learned from the past or been given a roster good enough where he no longer finds it necessary to overplay his guys.

Hopefully, the trend continues.

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  • Taking something from Popovich's style, hopefully. In his first 2 seasons the mpg were good outside of Deng because he had a bench to use.

  • Wishful thinking, I think it is all coming coming down from the FO and Thibs is hamstringed by the early injuries. I don't expect it to last, but I will be pleasantly surprised if it does especially if he works M&M into the rotation...

  • In reply to Sluggers:

    Early injuries would make him more likely to overplay the guys left, not less likely.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Yes that is my point and when everyone is healthy he will go back to pushing them all to the max.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Butler did play 39 minutes in his first game back from an injury, so that was very Thibs like even if it was an overtime game and an obvious opportunity to play him 48 minutes plus.

    My sense is that Butler will be the only guy that Thibs abuses with minutes this season, at least as long as he is still in one piece. Everybody else has issues that he cannot ignor, so he will have to "manage" their minutes, or they are simply not worthy of hyper minutes.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Butler's also the only perimeter defender. You could go Dunleavy or McDermott for shooting. For defense you only have Butler.

  • Holding to reasonable minutes for players will likely cost a few games, but it should pay dividends in the playoffs. Simply smart game management, and it could bring a title.

    Some concern about M and M - especially the shooting of McD. I wonder how he is doing in the gym. If he shoots well there, he must be nervous on the big stage. Strange, he did so well in college, and teams schemed for him.

    Brooks looks like the best FA signing so far - he is getting reasonable assists too. Great value for the cost - moneyball.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    Yea, like I said, don't sweat the preseason, we'd like him more as the season progressed. The only other guy that I thought might have been interesting was Barbossa, who is quite a bit older, has had some injury problems the past few seasons, but ended up in Golden State as the backup point, I think.

  • Thibodeau will use a 9/10 rotation if he gets production from the bench. Brooks has been good and deserves the minutes. Mirotic has been solid albeit still hesitating to shoot sometimes. I'm most concerned with Mcdermott, his shot has been way off. He'll need to prove he can produce and hit a few threes a game. The minutes distribution has been good, its the rebounding that has been horrible, the Bulls were an elilte rebounding team, the guards will need to come back and help the bigs rebound. This should improve with Butler back in the lineup.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    I think a big part of the rebounding problem is that Noah is playing power forward and spending way too much time out of the lane.

    Gasol is averaging "only" 8.7 rebounds per game about .5 less that his career average and 1.0 less than last season. His bozoholiness averaged 9.0 per game over 4 seasons with the Bulls, but is only averaging 10 & 5.5 so far with the Lakers, PER under 10 to Gasol's over 21, so the problem can't be just Gasol.

    We were not as good of a rebounding team last year as we used to be and I think that the problem got worse as the season wore on, and likely in the playoffs too. Noah who had little margin for error is losing some athleticism and getting to fewer balls than he used to even when he is in position to get rebounds. Clearly the wings are going to have to crash the boards and help out the bigs, or at least block out their man to prevent them from crashing.

    I.E. Saturday night against Minny late in the 4rth, Dunleavy was totally caught flat footed(at the free throw line) staring at the shot as Wiggins blew past him for a put back dunk that gave them a one point lead and would have been a Bulls rebound had he just done the right thing, i.e buried his ass in Wiggins thighs. It really kills me how often the pros don't do the most basic things that they've been taught since day one. Boxing out is almost a lost art in the NBA these days. Even if you can't get a rebound yourself, the best thing that you can do is to stop the other guy from getting anywhere near it, giving your big guys a better chance to clean up the boards. You'd think that a task master like Thibs would be all over boxing out.

  • I too think much of this is coming down from the front office, not solely Thibs changing all on his own. I do like they way Bulls are playing a deep rotation, including the rookies, and even Snell.

    The guy to watch now is Jimmy Butler. Will Thibs over-rely upon him now that he's playing?

  • In reply to Edward:

    Yes, yes he will.

  • The rebounding is caused by the absence of Jimmy, trust me. If he was on the Cavs game, I don't think they would have had that many offense rebounds. With Rose and Butler on the backcourt this team is going to be terrifying on the defense, probably top 3. With that said, if Jimmy is healthy, I don't know if his minutes will be less than 40, unless on blowout games.

  • In reply to BullsDynasty:

    I'd like to think that was a big part of the problem, but Jimmy played against the Wolves, another ostensibly small team, and we still got beat(killed) on the boards, 52-42, I think.

  • I like playing more guys early. It's an 82 game season. Most every player will be needed at some point in the season - some in key playoff situations. Why not see what you have with rookies and fringe players and focus on less minutes for the starters in the first 2-3 weeks of the season.

    McDermott will be fine. It's an adjustment. I recently read how Steph Curry started slow and had not hit more than 2 3-pointers in a game until midway through his rookie season. He improved dramatically over the final half of his rookie season. Both Curry and McDermott were high volume guys in college.

  • In reply to Granby:

    I agree on the shooting part, McBobblehead will get that part right as the game slows down for him and he relaxes. The real question is can he learn to become an adequate team defender in the Dunleavy mode, or will he always be more of a liability in the Korver/Bellinelli mode. He will always struggle as a defender individually.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Really, even Korver didn't seem as bad under Thibs tutelage.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I've liked McDermott's defense so far. His effort has been strong, and he's been a good rebounder, boxes out well, fights for tough boards.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    I agree that his rebounding has been good, but neither his individual or team defense has been anywhere near good. You might be mistaking activity for effort. He looks, and often is lost, out of position, looking the wrong way, just flopping around in a scatterbrained frenzy. That's why I'm going with McBobblehead, at least until he starts giving us the hot sauce.

    I think/hope that this can be overcome with experience and time. I doubt that he is ever a good individual defender, but like I said maybe he becomes a decent to good team defender, like Dunleavy.

  • Thibs is playing the bench, but I'm not sure if it's a GarPax mandate, or if Thibs just knows he has a stronger bench this year so he's playing a deeper rotation. Probably the latter.

  • In reply to Granby:

    In Thibs' first 2 seasons, outside of Deng the minutes were good because he had the bench players to turn to. Seems like fans enjoyed complaining about the times that Snell and Boozer were on the floor which is fine but then they also complain about Jimmy's and Jo's minutes. The long stints that Thibs played them could have been better but you can't have it both ways.

  • I agree with Bullsdynesty that rebounding will improve with Jimmy comin back(hand heeling). Taj too, once his ankle heals.

    I think we'll have to watch/see about minutes distibutions.

    The M and M's MUST keep getting so many minutes per game. Then ADDED minutes per each game that they earn .

    I like the fact that Thibs is working in Snell each and every game. This not only helps Snell, but can help Jimmy keep those minutes down.

    I love when Jimmy's on the court, but you just gotta stop playin' him Over 40 minutes. This is Thibs biggest challenge! Don't ya'all think?????


  • As far as the bench not being good enough in the past for Thibs to play it more, that's total nonsense. By NBA standards, the Bulls have had a good bench every year that Thibs has been here. Sure the Bulls haven't always had the Bench Mob, i.e. the best bench in the league every year, but every year there has been "more than enough" talent in the bench to play it more minutes. If Thibs has to have a top-3 NBA bench to play it normal bench minutes, that's on Thibs. "Either give me one of the best benches in the NBA or I'm running the starters into the ground" is not good coaching in terms of allocating minutes.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    The benches have been at both ends of the scale though. The first couple seasons we had a top bench and Thibs used it. Last season we had a bench player in Dunleavy starting because of the lack of talent. When Deng was here for the first 30 or so games Jimmy only played 32mpg. Tony Snell must have been one of the worst backup guards in the NBA last year. More like "Don't give me one of the worst benches or I'll overuse the starters."

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Not sure that I totally agree with you, at least for the last 2 seasons. With Rose out, Hangdog has started instead of playing off the bench. We've gone through other significant periods with another guy out or gone(Deng) so that we lost another bench guy to the starting lineup, (Dunleavy). So if your 9 deep and 2 of those guys end up replacing starters, you suddenly have a 7 man rotation (plus a little Snell in desperation), which is more or less what the Bulls went with after the Deng trade. Actually it was a 6.5 man rotation since one of those 7 was the bozohole, who rightfully never saw the light of day in the 2nd or 4rth quarters. He did better the previous 2 seasons when the Bulls went 10 deep and didn't suffer significant injuries.

  • The Bulls FO might be able to set minute limits, and they can come down and say Rose is sitting out due to injury; but that still wouldn't explain the entirety of Thib's roster/minutes management early on. The FO certainly has something to do with it, but those saying its solely the FO? You're letting your pessimism and bias cloud your judgement. It's plain as day the FO can't force Thibs to do much at all, what are they going to do fire him? Firing Thibs would be the end of GarPax's tenure as the Bulls showrunners(they'd get run out of town). If they are smart and good at their jobs; they'll push Thibs in a direction but not all out force him. It seems this is exactly what they are doing. Setting minute limits for 2(yea two WHOLE PLAYERS!) players, and taking Derrick's game status out of Thibs' hands. Those two things don't even come close to explaining what we've seen early on. More likely that Thibs, who is a human being, has used his brain and perhaps come to some realizations, you know, adults do change their stance on things as they get older. This idea of Thibs as this guy who cannot and will not change his ways is just ridiculous; bull headed? Stubborn? Of course he is. But that just means its harder tor him to change, it does not mean he can't.

  • My sense is that he is going to play a 10 man rotation, particularly in the first half of games, that's what he has done so far with at least one guy missing each game, so that Snell was the 10th man.

    If everybody is healthy does Snell become the 11th man and does Thibs extend the rotation to 11 men, or does Thibs stick with a 10 man rotation and Snell stops playing?

    Brooks is clearly the 8th man, and he has to play both of the M&M boys some minutes in every game, doesn't he?

  • When it comes to minutes, I think Derrick can't be shielded forever. Right now he's at 23 minutes a game, and if the FO is going to dictate minutes limits under 30 beyond the first two or three weeks then I think that's handcuffing the coach and Derrick's game. If he's healthy(obviously not at the moment with the ankle) 33-34mpg and no less.

    Noah looks limited so I'd understand keeping him to 30 minutes likewise Gasol(maybe 33) which means Taj and Nikola need to stay healthy. As I've said, McDermott's minutes, he looked alright in the Knick's game where he played a decently long stretch there I believe in the third quarter/second half. I just hope he starts hitting threes because at least in lower volume he should be 38% or better.

    Hinrich and Brooks seem good about where they're at though I'd shave three minutes off Kirk and add those to Brooks.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    Clearly Rose's average is down right now because he didn't play at all in the 4rth quarter of the blow out on opening night, and then he didn't play at all in the 4rth against the Cavs due to injury. Had he gotten an normal rotation in both those 4rth quarters(8-9)minutes his average would be over 30 which is fine for just starting out the season. I'd love it if he only has to play 32 minutes a game, and 36 should be a forced limit. Irrespective of how Hangdog has played so far, I'm always going to be in favor of less Hangdog, and more Brooks, or DJ, or Nate, or...

  • Living out here on the west coast, San Diego and Vegas, I watch the Clippers every now and again, so I see Reddick play some when he's not hurt. His numbers aren't bad, but he has never really impressed me. I believe that we signed him to an offer sheet in 2010 before Orlando matched it and we moved on to Korver. I think that I'd clearly rather have Korver over Reddick.

    Question for Bulls fans, who you got Reddick or McBobblehead? Had Orlando not matched, its possible that we'd still have Reddick and never made the trade for McD.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Always should factor in money! Play moneyball. Even if Reddick would be a slightly better player, if he costs 3 times as much, McD is the better deal!

    However, based on college careers, McD should become more valuable as a shooter. We sure hope so.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    McDermott might be better than JJ per dollar, but you'd have some other rookie filling his money slot if you didn't have him giving you value per dollar at some other position.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    For where the Bulls are right now I would take Redick given that he's a more proven commodity. However, he also costs a good chunk of change, so he would have screwed up our cap space and cost us Gasol.

    I'd rather have Gasol + McDermott, than Redick + some other guy at #11.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    That is moneyball, Doug. Best bang for the buck.

    The FO has hit on many FA Gs, not however on SFs or PFs - unless Gasol breaks the trend. Still need the SG unless Butler stays healthy and McD finds the basket.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    Of course, Gasol is costing a lot more than Brooks, so Brooks is the better value.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    I was kind of leaving the money/cap stuff out of the equation. More of a who is, or will be the better player.

    I will ultimately be disappointed if McKorver isn't better than Redick, who has never really looks that great even though he has put us some decent numbers. He is probably better right now this season, although I don't really remember him doing much for the Clips in last years playoffs after an injury plagued season.

    Redick put up 15 ppg and 45% from 3, 90% from the line his past 2 healthy seasons, so thats pretty good, but basically what I'm looking for from McKorver in order to consider him a good draft pick.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Redick has been a legit starter throughout his career. You're right, he's not all that great, but players who are clearly better than him are basically great players. I'd be satisfied if McDoug can become a legit starter.

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