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?