Tuesday, October 10, 2006

How Inclusive Will Chicago's Rotation Be?

Granted, the type of positive training camp stories linked herein are endemic to every team, but Scott Skiles has demonstrated a willingness to play a lot of guys. Eleven Bulls played at least 50 games last year and each one of them averaged over 11 minutes per game. Some of that time got spread around because none of Mike Sweetney, Darius Songaila, Malik Allen, or Othella Harrington ever made a strong case that they deserved the bulk of the minutes at the 4, plus all four players had to fill in at the 5 because of Tyson Chandler's nightly battles with foul trouble.

Still, it's possible that one of those guys would have played better had they been given a consistently defined role and the accompanying minutes. Furthermore, I refuse to believe that the 11th guy in Skiles' rotation, Jannero Pargo, needed to play a career-high 643 minutes last year.

Pargo, Chandler, Songaila, and Harrington are gone, replaced by Ben Wallace, PJ Brown, Tyrus Thomas, and Thabo Sefolosha which appears to make the Bulls just as deep, numbers-wise, but with a better collection of players. With Viktor Khryapa (who is already earning compliments from Skiles) and Adrian Griffin, useful players both, replacing Eric Piatkowski and Eddie Basden at the end of the bench, Skiles will have the opportunity to use 12 legitimate NBA players every night.

Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, PJ Brown, and Ben Wallace figure to start with Chris Duhon, Thabo Sefolosha, Adrian Griffin, Andres Nocioni, and Tyrus Thomas likely comprising the second unit. Khryapa and either Sweetney or Allen (more likely Allen as Sweetney's conditioning does not appear to have improved) will fill out the active roster most nights.

That much quality depth will help Chicago survive the minor injuries that impact any NBA team's season and provide a reasonable level of insurance should any key player miss significant time, but the NBA playoffs almost always reward concentrated, front-line talent over depth. The Bulls could easily end the regular season with the East's best record (especially if Ben Gordon really has turned into even a competent defender and rebounder) and still find themselves as legitimate underdogs to Miami or Detroit in a second-round playoff matchup, especially if Chicago's two promising first-round draft picks fail to make an immediate impact and get stuck at the back of the rotation, stunting their development.

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