Debate: Determining The Playoff Rotation

Debate: Determining The Playoff Rotation

It's always been fair game to throw out a myriad of players during the regular season just to see what they can or can't do, but that's not the way you do it in the playoffs. There, the name of the game is for the most part an eight to nine-man rotation with two to three players filling in if something goes wrong. You just don't juggle minutes during the post-season.

So then what will Chicago's rotation be, when they open up the second season?

We can cement Rose, Butler, Dunleavy, Noah, Gasol, Gibson, Brooks, Hinrich, and Mirotic. That's nine. With Tony Snell having come on stronger this season, it'd be quite unfair to see him miss out on playoffs as a rotation player, but carrying ten players is usually a no-go unless you're the San Antonio Spurs.

Hinrich over Snell will undoubtedly be ill-received, and rightly so, but unless Tom Thibodeau reverse his own feelings on having a slim rotation, one should expect a somewhat large quantity of Hinrich out there, which will take up further minutes for Snell and E'Twaun Moore, seeing as Jimmy Butler is likely to average somewhere in the early 40s, and Gasol in the mid-to-late 30s.

Rose remains a question mark, but putting him down for at least 30 minutes a night doesn't seem too unrealistic. That leaves 18 minutes for Aaron Brooks and would leave the point guard spot entirely filled up by two players. This means Hinrich will have to play the two, and with Butler taking up something to the tune of 41 minutes a night - though not all at the SG position - it'll be difficult to juggle both Snell and Hinrich at that spot for Thibodeau, thus the need to leave one of them out.

Moving upfront for a second, we can also lock in the minutes allocated to the center position where Gasol and Noah will play the vast majority of them. In case opponents go small, Thibodeau could theoretically throw Gibson and Mirotic out there at the four and five for some run, but given that Gibson has played less than a percentage of his minutes this year at center (his secondary position this season has been small forward, believe it or not) one shouldn't be inclined to believe Thibodeau will do that.

This means point guard, shooting guard, and center have been accounted for. Rose and Brooks helm the one, Butler and Hinrich will likely play most of the minutes at the two, with Noah and Gasol leading the five.

And thus, we come to the most difficult part of the equation. The forward spots. The remaining 96 available minutes will have to be spread out through a combination of Dunleavy, Mirotic, Gibson, Snell and arguably Butler if Thibodeau wish for Hinrich to receive more minutes. That's a boatload of players for 96 minutes, and delegating minutes fairly will be near impossible. Most of them should go to Mirotic and Gibson, but Mirotic playing the three is a nightmare defensively, as he's not one to chase around perimeter players. See Ross, Terrence.

This all leads to one thought: It's time to sit Kirk Hinrich and let the talent play.

If there's a time to break the Hinrich tradition, now is it. The Bulls haven't been this deep under Thibodeau, and it does look like everyone is bound to be healthy going into the playoffs. The following is a near Popovichian method of minute distribution, with my personal preferences.

C Pau Gasol 30/Joakim Noah 18
F Joakim Noah 12/Taj Gibson 24/Nikola Mirotic 12
F Mike Dunleavy 24/Nikola Mirotic 15/Tony Snell 9
G Jimmy Butler 35/Tony Snell 13
G Derrick Rose 30/Aaron Brooks 18

The bigs all get between 24 and 30 minutes (with the sacrifice of giving Mirotic most of his minutes at three, however), Dunleavy and Snell are in the mid-to-low 20s with Rose and Brooks handling the rest. Having a rotation like this allows for multiple line-ups and a ton of different looks for defenses who will look to adjust after every game. Snell's presence projects as being more efficient than Hinrich's, possibly even for a defensive standpoint. Butler playing 35 minutes a game is indeed low, but the beauty here is you can always scale Gibson's minutes back a bit, slide Mirotic to his preferred four-spot, and give Butler more minutes at the three.

But since we're dealing with realism here (sigh), a more likely result is this:

C Pau Gasol 35/Joakim Noah 13
F Joakim Noah 17/Taj Gibson 22/Nikola Mirotic 9
F Mike Dunleavy 28/Jimmy Butler 11/Nikola Mirotic 9
G Jimmy Butler 30/Kirk Hinrich 18
G Derrick Rose 30/Aaron Brooks 18

And with that, the floor is now open. What rotation would you like to see the Bulls run with, going into the playoffs?


Leave a comment
  • Obviously your preferred lineup is the one that should be implemented most often. That being said, the Bulls depth allows them to show a variety of lineups, which theoretically should give Chicago a significant advantage as opponents try to make game-to-game adjustments. I would image it's much more difficult to plan for the next game, when you aren't sure what group of guys you'll be going against at any given point.

  • If Hinrich plays at all, Thibs should be fired. He shouldn't even be in the NBA, let alone part of a playoff rotation.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    While most of us agree with you(certainly in a bombastic way)I think that Sam Smith just called you a moron.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I would not lose any sleep over Sam Smith, Roman. In principle, BigWay and I and most fans agree, tho I would not have a problem with 10 mpg for Kirk - provided he is not being stupid! Hey, he can even hit an occasional 3.

    If everyone is reasonably healthy, the minutes will be an interesting problem. In the past, Thibs has been slow to make adjustments. He will need to be more nimble this playoffs.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    I don't know why you'd give 10 minutes to Hinrich over Snell at SG or Brooks at PG. In the playoffs, there are not enough minutes to go around, there are no "off times" in the game. In Mort's "realism" scenario above, Snell should get all 18 of Hinrich's minutes, and I'm not a big Snell fan by any means. Not only will the experience be invaluable towards Snell's development, but he's simply a better player than Hinrich right now.

    Hinrich vs. Moore is less interesting to me because Moore will not, and should not be in the playoff rotation outside of an emergency. Sure Moore is better than Hinrich but if he's appearing in playoff games, we've got problems.

    Actually we do have problems. Hinrich is probably going to play 18 minutes a night. Sorry but he's just so awful both to the eyes and on the stat sheet, he's got no upside, arguably the worst player in the NBA, RIP. Thibs should try watching game film for once.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    In my youth I was.. let's just say "less than kind" to writers who didn't agree with my every thought (ah, the days of being an insecure teen), so Sam could theoretically come into my house and call my a moron in front of my whole family, and I'd still feel I had it coming.

    Having said that, I strongly disagree with Mr. Smith regarding Hinrich being the better player compared to Moore, never mind Snell. I get the playing hard angle, since I wrote as much a few days ago, but hard work is still second to talent. Preferably you get a combination of the two, and right now choosing Hinrich's hard-working non-talent over the opposite is basically just as bad.

  • fb_avatar

    I like your projected lineup vs the realistic one. If Niko plays under 30 mins his production drops significantly.
    If Mike Dunleavy plays 28 mpg the Bulls won't make it out of the 2nd rd. If Jimmy plays 30 mpg, that would be great, but Thibs is more likely to wear him out by playing him closer to 40 mpg.
    And finally, if a 10 man rotation has worked for the San Antonio Spurs, why couldn't it work for the Chicago Bulls? Depth is the key and the extra man or two will be able to keep fresh legs on the court defensively.

  • I think it's safe to say we're gonna see a lot of Hinrich and Dunleavy. Moore probably doesn't make the rotation even though he's more deserving than Hinrich. As for the starting lineup I also think it's safe to say that it will be Rose, Butler, Dunleavy, Gasol and Noah even though they've only played 15 total games on the season. Even though Mirotic isn't a small forward, I do wish he could start over Dunleavy as he makes good things happen. My ideal starting lineup would be Rose, Butler, Mirotic, Gibson, Noah.

  • First off, while I sort of consider him "retired" from journalism as an elder employee of the Chicago Bulls, I'm not going to disparage Sam Smith. The guy is maybe one of the last examples of democracy and the American way as it once existed. Granted that sounds hokey and sentimental as hell, but what I mean is, a guy who was a mainstream commercial voice at the Chicago Tribune would answer questions(emails) from lowly fans he didn't know from Adam. Not only would he answer them, but in a conversational tone and with substance and honestly some times surprising frankness including giving out information that I was unaware of and had not seen in the media.

    Of course I digress, as usual, but American way sure there's been plenty of shabby history with our country, but still, a lot to be proud of in fairness, opportunity etc. Which was my usage of the phrase. Now, Sam as an older fella and again works basically for the Bulls so that's really not a "source" I go to much anymore unless he has a good trade rumor I can wallow in.

    Sorry for the digression. Bottom line: Playoff rotations such as looking at the yes maybe anomaly somewhat Spurs of last year, but they did what most teams do. They played lesser support guys in the early rounds and then slashed the rotations to a bare bones 8 when they had to i.e The Finals. Look at Belinelli and Aaron Baynes respectively disappeared vs. Miami as in did not see the light of day.

    In regards to Hinrich, when it's all said and done, we know cement head aka our boy Thibsy is going to play Kirk. It's just that simple. Also, if healthy, I suspect rather then vary his minutes from one night to the next as in rest one night and tap into stored energy the next, Thibs will play "vet" Mike Dunleavy a minimum of 28-30 minutes a game. Guys like Mirotic and Snell will get table scraps likely meaning one game they might get 23-25 minutes and the next maybe 15-17. And Derrick is a real wild card as I'm not at all sure he will play in the opening round.

    Let's just say that Mirotic in most minds probably deserves around that 28-30 minute mark if we are going to have our best chance of winning and infusing some much needed offensive talent. Also, some think Moore actually has shown enough to garner some minutes in the early rounds making a cameo here and there for 12-15 minutes in a game or two(eating any Klank scraps).

    In the end, I'm not gonna worry about it as in things I can't control like the inner Machinations(or more accurately flagellation's) of one Tom Thibodeau. Rather, I'm going to hope that Mirotic, Butler, and Noah can shine with Gasol and Brooks maybe every other game doing likewise while not killing us on their "off" nights.

    I will say, this is potentially the most offensively talented Bulls team I've ever seen take the court in the playoffs A.M(After Michael - sorry for the sacrilege their it's only a joke). If Jimmy and Nik bring it like true all stars then this thing could get real interesting provided were not sandbagged too much by Kirk and Dunleavy<see Wizards series.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    Just out of curiosity, you do know that a cement head would actually be quite soft and powdery while a concrete head would be very hard to crack, at least once it has set.

    sorry, one of my pet peeves, (not unlike a persons real actual height vs his fake NBA height) especially when it comes to the media and popular culture always mistaking concrete and cement as being one and the same. One(cement) is just one ingredient that goes into the making of the other(concrete). It always amazes me how many educated self proclaimed intellectuals, academics and journalists make this common mistake.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    My pet peeve is how grocery shoppers cannot tell the difference between a tangerine and a tangelo. Even worse, last week I even heard a grocery clerk (who should know better) tell a customer that a tangerine was a tangelo. I have to tell you, I couldn't sleep that night.

  • Aaron brooks should play no more than 15 minutes in playoff. Other team will certainly exploit this match up if he plays extended period just like what happened to us when Korver was here. Butler will likely come closer to 40 minutes than 35.

  • I get the feeling that most Bulls fans are strongly on Thibs' side right now in the Thibs vs GarPax "situation". Same with most of the national NBA analysts and talking heads.

    But those same folks have all seen what a stud Niko is, and if Thibs comes out in the playoffs and only plays Niko 18-20 minutes, people are going to be like "WTF is he doing"?

    To a lesser extent, the same thing goes for Snell vs (mostly) Hinrich and Dunleavy. Tony has strongly outplayed MDJ since February 1st, and he has easily outplayed Kirk.

    If Thibs is playing Kirk 20 minutes and Dunleavy 30 while Snell gets only 10, there will be even more "WTF is he doing" to answer.

    As much as I've bitched about Thibs this season, if he can fix his shortcoming by actually playing the best players the most minutes in the postseason, he can get back to being one of the best coaches in the league. In my eyes, and I'm guessing in the eyes of most.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    I firmly believe the play-offs are decision time for the Bulls with Thibs.

    We can all accept getting beat by a team who plays against our best team (determined by personnel match-ups) but history says stubborn Thibs will have his line-ups set in stone(/cement!!) before the game and won't change and adapt. If that continue to be the case then Thibs will not be our coach next year.

    Thibs must show flexibility for the Bulls to have a chance in the play-offs; without that, lets hope management "agrees to part ways with him"

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    I can think of very few examples where any fan of any team sided with management vs. players or coaches and for that matter, not one example of fans or media ever siding with ownership.

    If I was a member of the media, I would never defend management or ownership, lest my readers will dislike me and read others. It's much easier to paint players and coaches as blue collar types who work for a living, management types as white collar desk jockeys, and owners as greedy rich people. I'll paint with that brush and fans everywhere will embrace it as the truth. John Paxson is a former player who played on championship teams and was always known as heady and hardworking, but now that he's a management type he's painted as clueless puppet for ownership.

    As a slight aside, I don't know that there's ever been a human society that villanizes the rich like 21st century America and if I were a media member I'd go with that flow, not against it. Rich people are typically admired but not here, not now. A youngish, handsome, everyman type like Mark Cuban might elicit some sympathy but an elderly, ugly, overweight, cigar-smoking Jewish businessman like Jerry Reinsdorf elicits nothing but scorn, despite a great reputation among players, coaches and other owners in both sports he participates in.

    Some people think they're sophisticated by blaming owners, "the root of the problem," but I think you're just suckers that fall for the media-induced anti-ownership agenda and the greater American anti-rich agenda. Sorry to call you a sucker but chances are, you've called those who don't side with you worse.

    So really, it would be astounding in the Thibs vs. Mgmt. battle if the media and majority of fans DIDN'T side with Thibs. Media praises Thibs for his regular-season accomplishments, which are undeniably impressive and you simply can't get those results without being a very good coach. But the same media folks never look at his playoff record, his tendency to burn out players, his head-scratching rotations and loyalties. Again, if the media did point out these things, it wouldn't go over well with the general population.

    I think many of you guys are in fact pretty sophisticated NBA fans or I wouldn't read this blog every day, and I know many of you are taking the bold stance against a highly successful regular season coach.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    "But the same media folks never look at his playoff record, his tendency to burn out players, his head-scratching rotations and [mis-placed] loyalties." Excellent observations, Roman. To these I would add his failure (sometimes) to substitute to get the best matchups.

    Thibs MUST improve in these areas to become a great coach! Period. We should know in a few weeks. If he fixes these issues, great. If not, time to give someone else a shot at the job.

  • Here is an interesting little exercise, Can anybody guess who these players are, all numbers per 36 minutes.

    Player A 19.8ppg, 10.8rpg, 2.8apg, 2.9topg

    Player B 19.3ppg, 12.3rpg, 2.9apg, 2.1topg

    Player C 17.5ppg, 10.6rpg, 2.0apg, 2.6topg

    Here's a hint one guy is absolutely and inarguably(as proved by statistics, or at least by some man made up ones) the 10th best basketball player in the world, or possibly even the 8th best depending on which set of these man made up statistics you chose to believe and which ones you chose to ignore.

    The other two guys of course are not that as you can obviously tell by the eye popping differences in their per 36 minute production.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Well, Player A and Player B appear pretty close, I don't see any eye-popping difference, with Player C considerably behind them.

    I'm guessing either Player A or Player B are one Nikola Mirotic, the other would be Anthony Davis or maybe Dirk Nowitzki or Kevin Love.

    No idea on Player C, the worst of the group. Maybe Love this year.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to BigWay:

    Player B is Pau

    The other two, maybe one is Niko and the other is Duncan or anthony Davis ?

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Correct player B is Pau, player A is year one Carlos booozer as a Bull, player C is year 4 Carlos Boozer as a Bull. So much for PER as the most reliable statistic in the history of the world.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Where is the PER stated in your A,B,C examples above? I don't think your old pal Booz ever was #10 in the league in PER as a Bull. An innocent mistake on your part I presume.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    You're right! I have always been skeptical of "man made up statistics." I prefer those statistics made up by Orangutans.

  • I am already thinking about the second round against the Cavs. And for the Bulls to have a chance, Rose's time has to match up Irving's time. Butler has to stick with James and Noah with Love. Snell will have to stick with J.R. Smith and Taj with Tristian Thompson. Nikola is the Bull's X-factor where the Cavs will have to find a big who can cover the 3 point line. So, I think Thibs is already scouting the best rotation based on match ups. The good thing about this roster is that the Bulls can go with different match ups depending on the opponents.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to BullsDynasty:

    Great post and it makes a lot of sense. The glaring problem is Rose is not a defender anymore ( although he is Prob our best option w butler on LBJ ) and Kyrie will eat him up. The key for the Bulls is Rose while getting out scored by him is more efficient and gets a lot of easy baskets for his teammates.

    Is that possible? I hope so as its the only way for the Bulls to have a chance to pull off the upset.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    I think your seriously underestimating Rose. He's literally annihalated Irving all year even in preseason. Irving just doesn't have the foot speed to keep up with Rose. Irving uses up so much energy trying and failing to guard Rose that it affects the energy he has offensively. Of course this is all assuming Rose is healthy and can be a factor but with him you never know. Like Rose always says in hi interviews," who knows. "

  • In reply to BullsDynasty:

    I don't know about matching Noah up with Love. Noah likes to stick close to the basket where he's most comfortable as a center. In fact Noah's probably the only one of our bigs who can shut down Masgov. The problem I see in that series is Gasol. Not trying to nitpick on Gasol but he's gonna be a real problem defensively in that series. Because he's too soft to match up with Masgov and too slow and unwilling to step out and guard Love. I think in that particular series you would want Butler guarding Lebron as his sole mission. We don't need one of the top two way guards of the season in this series, what we need is the 2013-14 Butler where all he did was defend. So ideally you would start Butler at the 3 which then you need a defender for J.R. Honestly right from the start in that series the starting lineup that matches up best with Cleveland is this: Noah, Gibson, Butler, Snell, Rose. However we're more likely to see the usual of Gasol, Noah, Dunleavy, Butler, Rose/ Hinrich.

  • When the Bulls beat the Cavs on 2/12/15 Mozgov's line was 13/11/0. Gasol's line was 18/10/6. Pau matched-up pretty well with Mozgov in that game- don't you think?

Leave a comment