With the injury to Mike Dunleavy Jr, Tom Thibodeau has played Nikola Mirotic at SF the past two games to a fair bit of success. Mike Dunleavy is questionable to return, and whether he returns tonight or not, he'll clearly return soon. Will (and should) Tom Thibodeau stick with Mirotic when Dunleavy is back?
The simple answer is "yes", but the question then becomes to what degree? Are the Bulls better when they consistently play big? How many players should they have in the rotation? Will playing SF minutes wear down Mirotic and Gibson [who covered some of the defense at the three in the lineups]?
I don't know that Mirotic is a sustainable option at the three for big minutes every game. I do know that the Bulls should continue to milk it until it proves gimmicky over a multi-game stretch.
Nikola used his length to disrupt the opposing defense, and the Bulls definitely benefited with additional size on the floor. They became a throw back team going big when the rest of the league was going small.
It's a match up that few teams can guard against. Especially when Gibson, Mirotic, and Gasol are on the court together. That's three players who can shoot mid range jumpers [Nikola out to the three point line of course] and three guys who can score in the post.
That means the opposing defense is always going to have one post match up that is difficult to defend [likely Mirotic draws the weakest post defender], or they're going to have to switch like mad and wear themselves out defensively trying to always rotate their big men.
Even if they keep the big men on the post, Gasol, Gibson, and Mirotic will shoot right over most defensive threes. It's a look few teams will see much this year or have practice defending, it's a look that gives the Bulls a nice personnel advantage, and it's a look that keeps their uber-talented rookie on the floor developing.
That said, Thibodeau is stubborn. He went back to Rip Hamilton after he returned from injury despite being a cancerous loser, so I won't be surprised if Mirotic goes back down with his minutes when Dunleavy returns.
The good news is that micro-managing minutes and substitution patterns [and the recent struggles of D-Rose] is about all Bulls fans have to complain about.
The Bulls are co-favorites to win the NBA title. Personally, right now, I think the Bulls are slight favorites to win the whole thing.
A Las Vegas sportsbook finally made official Tuesday what NBA fans have known for some time: The Chicago Bulls have surpassed LeBron James' struggling Cleveland Cavaliers as NBA Eastern Conference title favorites.
Bovada.lv has installed the Bulls and Golden State Warriors as 5-1 co-favorites to win the 2014-15 NBA championship. The Cavaliers, beset by injuries and saddled with a 19-16 record, slipped from 5-2 to 6-1 (also trailing the San Antonio Spurs, with 11-2 odds).
I figure if the Bulls stay healthy they probably have a 40% chance or better of coming out of the East. I'm not sure I'm ready to take the Bulls against the field yet, but they have to be viewed as the strong favorite against everyone.
While I think the Bulls might be slight underdogs against whomever comes out of the west, the key is slight. 40/60 in the worst case scenario. There's no team in the West that I'd give more than a 25% chance of getting out of the West, and I'm not sure I'd even go that high on any individual team.
Because Chicago has such an easier path to the finals, their odds of winning [even if underdogs if they get there] seem much better than any individual team out West.
To win the whole thing, Chicago will need to groom all of its pieces. Most importantly will be finding out what Derrick can do on a night in and night out basis. If he can't play at a superstar level then getting him to limit his shots, focus on defense, and pass the ball more and accept a lesser role.
Getting Nikola Mirotic and possibly Doug McDermott ready to play meaningful minutes. Mirotic has already proven he can play and make big clutch shots, but will need to continue to develop. McDermott is probably still the next guard in line afterwards, and it'd be nice to see him feel confident enough to contribute if needed [though he's likely dropped from a playoff rotation if there are no injuries].
They'll need to continue working on refining their big man rotation and improving the pairing of Gasol and Noah. Joakim Noah received MVP votes last season but doesn't even look close to all-star level this season. He's got plenty more to offer if the Bulls can work through the continuity problems they have.
This team is starting to have a championship vibe to it.
1: You see a swagger with this group. They don't always play at full intensity and have an extra gear for real opponents. It sounds like a negative, but it's not. They know they're better than the crap teams of the league and can beat them on talent and half effort.
2: They have a multitude of clutch scoring options and can create points all over the floor. In past seasons, their offense was extremely limited, but they've now got efficient options in the post, at the three point line, and multiple players who can drive.
3: Many of the players on the team have grown together for awhile already. They don't quite have the continuity of some of the other teams out West, but Gasol and Mirotic are the only new faces on the team even if Rose hasn't played for a couple seasons.
We'll see where things go for Chicago. I think they've maybe got a 20% chance to win the whole thing this year, in that sense, I think the Vegas odds are right on, but that makes for a great seasons for Bulls fans.
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