Eli Horowitz | Medium Talk Co-Creator
As I sit trying to write a post-mortem on the Cubs, I realize quite quickly that everybody knows what the Cubs need: more starting pitching. More experience. Another reliever. The Cubs had an incredible season and are primed for some crucial off-season moves to cement their status for next year. The Cubs strategy is pretty straightforward; it’s just a matter of execution moving forward.
As far as Chicago sports go, the big question mark this year is the Chicago Bulls, who improved to 3-1 after last night’s lackluster 92-87 victory over the winless Orlando Magic. As I wrote about in my prior column, the inevitability of playing against LeBron and Cleveland in a seven-game series this Spring tempers any serious excitement I may have. And yet, as fans, we proceed to hope.
Intriguingly, the Bulls have 13 players who have a legitimate claim to minutes. Anyone who has played or coached basketball knows that playing more than 8-10 players in a game is hardly realistic. At some point this season, the logjam for minutes will present a problem for first-year head coach Fred Hoiberg. At Barclays Center last week, Kirk Hinrich, Joakim Noah, and Aaron Brooks were visibly frustrated by substitutions. That’s a lot of egos to manage and very little playing time to go around.
But before you make your own judgments about who should play and who shouldn’t, let’s meet the 15 men on the Bulls roster:
1. Derrick Rose: Derrick needs to accept that this is Jimmy Butler’s team. If he can stay healthy, keep the ball moving, and cut out jump shots, this team can maximize it’s potential.
2. Aaron Brooks: Aaron knows his role: come in and score 7-15 points off herky-jerky acrobatic layups and ill-advised three pointers. His issue only arises when Derrick Rose is hurt and Brooks is forced to start. Aaron Brooks is not meant to be a starting point guard.
3. Kirk Hinrich: We need to buy Kirk a very comfortable bench seat to make his role clear to him. Kirk should only play if Derrick Rose is injured. In that case, his veteran experience is best served starting with Brooks continuing his bench role. Otherwise, he can have the best view in the house. We thank him for past contributions.
4. Jimmy Butler: Jimmy needs to demand the ball in late-game situations. He did so against Cleveland and scored on a late pick and roll to help the Bulls win. When it was Rose’s turn against the Pistons, he settled for an ugly jumper and then blamed his double vision.
5. Tony Snell: With Dunleavy out injured, Tony Snell is the de facto starting wing alongside Butler. Snell is unique in that he has the length and athleticism to defend as well as the potential to be a very good shooter, but his soft and passive play is still causing reason to doubt.
6. Mike Dunleavy: Dunleavy should be a veteran bench player who finishes games when he’s hot. Ask yourself: Can you win a championship with Butler and Dunleavy as your starting wings? I think not. Having said that, Dunleavy’s experience and shooting is invaluable and I expect him to play a big role when he returns from injury.
7. E’twaun Moore: Moore, like Snell, is another player who can give you solid minutes on both ends of the floor. Under Thibs he would be an emergency option, but under Hoiberg will get the opportunity to flourish or flop.
8. Doug McDermott: On paper, he is the best shooter on the team, and if his early-season shooting percentage holds, I can see him competing with Snell and Dunleavy for crunch-time minutes.
9. Cristiano Felicio: Every year, one guy unexpectedly makes the roster from training camp. This year’s rendition is Brazilian and is a raw 6-foot-10 forward/center. While I don’t expect him to get playing time, it’s about time this spot go to someone other than Nazr Mohammed.
10. Nikola Mirotic: While I am certainly skeptical of his shot selection and defense, Mirotic starting is a sign the Bulls are playing to win. Mirotic has a killer instinct in the fourth quarter that puts teams away and his ability to draw fouls will be crucial with Butler and Rose still lacking consistency in their offensive games.
11. Joakim Noah: Trade him! The problem is that if the Bulls simply don’t play Noah his trade value will plummet. Don’t get me wrong, Noah is still a capable rebounder/energy guy, but in today’s NBA, how can you justify having an offensive liability on the floor?
12. Taj Gibson: Gibson tends to drop easy passes, miss point-blank layups, and spends far too much time complaining to referees. Taj may be the odd man out when the trade deadline approaches as the Bulls will likely look to move him or Noah to get depth at the point guard and shooting guard positions.
13. Pau Gasol: Gasol was signed for the playoffs, and I think that Hoiberg will benefit from resting Gasol during the regular season and giving some extended minutes to Mirotic, Gibson, and rookie Bobby Portis.
14. Bobby Portis: Clearly a steal, Portis will give Hoiberg headaches trying to figure out how to give five quality big men the minutes of four. With Gasol likely resting more this year and Gibson and Noah both injury-prone and on the trading block, Portis should play a role sooner rather than later.
15. Cameron Bairstow: No comment.