We have officially hit NBA dead season. The playoffs and Finals were a high, capped off by a thrilling final two games of the season between the Spurs and Heat. But even after the Finals, there was the excitement of the Draft to look forward to, to see which teams would add important pieces to their future. And after the Draft, there was a frenzied free agent period too look forward to, full of stars changing addresses and teams bolstering their lineups and throwing around cash.
And even after free agency, diehard fans like myself clung to the NBA Summer Leagues in Orlando and Las Vegas, the last few desperate gasps of NBA air before we drown in the monotony that is the late summer sports scene. Can the rookies show any promise? Will my team find a diamond in the rough?
Well, that has come and gone too. Meaningless summer league games were played, pointless stats were put up and a Summer League champion was crowned! So if you follow a lot of NBA players on Twitter, enjoy the next few months of vacation pictures and whatever goes through Metta World Peace’s head in the offseason. So, with no real news to talk about, let’s look ahead to next season! Specifically, let’s take a very early look at the Chicago Bulls depth chart/rotation for next year.
Hmm. That first name. It looks familiar. Can’t seem to remember…did he play recently for Chicago? Not sure. Anways, Marquis Teague looked pretty solid at…
Just kidding, Derrick Rose returning is the biggest acquisition any team made in the offseason. The Bulls get their heart and soul back, not to mention a pretty fine player. We know what Hinrich does at this point, and at some point Teague will be called upon to play some solid minutes, whether it’s once Kirk Hinrich inevitably gets hurt or if Tom Thibodeau eases Rose back into heavy minutes. Chicago looks pretty good at the point guard spot.
SG/SF: Luol Deng, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Tony Snell
I lumped these two positions together because all four guys listed above have attributes that will allow them to play either position, it’s more of just a “wing” position than defined guard and forward with this group. We’ll have more time to talk about Deng’s situation in Chicago and Butler’s development, but for now my interest is in how Tom Thibodeau will use rookie Tony Snell. Snell is clearly behind Deng and Butler in the lineup, but he should battle with Dunleavy for the first wing spot off the bench. Dunleavy brings ace shooting, solid ball handling and smarts, but is, well, really slow. I would guess Dunleavy will start off as Thibodeau’s first wing off the bench, because he will probably pick up on the defensive principles quicker than the rookie Snell. By late season, though, if Snell can learn, he has all the tools to blow by Dunleavy in the rotation, by virtue of his athleticism and length.
PF: Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, Malcolm Thomas, Erik Murphy
Man, if someone could come along and like, meld Gibson’s defense with Boozer’s offense, that would be fantastic. I would love a jersey with “Giboozer” on the back. I’m sure Thibodeau has looked into it. Until then, though, Chicago will have to settle for having one or the other on the court at a time, and if you look at who the coach is, it’s no surprise that Gibson often gets the crunch-time minutes. As infuriating as Boozer is to Bulls fans though, what he offers on offense is sorely, sorely needed. His combination passing with Joakim Noah brings a legitimate threat to the offense, and his mid-range jumper can be a godsend when Chicago’s offense is being suffocated. Thomas has shown promise as an athletic rebounder/shot-blocker type, and Murphy can shoot (which should greatly help his roster chances).
C: Joakim Noah, Nazr Mohammad
Ah, the man himself, Joakim Noah. One of my favorite players ever. The way he single-handedly kept Chicago’s offense going in Game 7 of their first round series against Brooklyn forever endeared him to me. Ugly running hook after ugly running hook after tornado jump shot splashed through the net and helped the Bulls secure a magnificently gutty win. The way he never gives up on a play, and importantly, the way he openly shows his disdain for the Miami Heat…I love the guy.
Mohammad is basically what the Bulls had in Kurt Thomas a couple years ago. He will come in, be in the right spots defensively, pick up a couple garbage buckets, use his fouls, and generally look really ancient on the court. What worries me is if Noah continues to have yearly injury problems, will they ask Mohammad to play heavy minutes?
So, that is an early look at the Bulls roster. It’s remarkable how, despite having entirely the same core as the team that had the best record in the NBA two years in a row, I feel a sense of finality with this group, like they have peaked. If Butler and Snell develop big time, if Rose is Rose again, and mayyybeeee Deng is dealt for a nice piece, that can change. But for now, it’s one more rodeo with this group.