• Matthew Handel

Plenty of Minutes for Improvement

The 2016 Chicago Bulls will be a team full of turnover. Not the type of turnover that happens on the court, but the one that happens on a roster. When Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah left the Bulls to join the New York Knicks the fans had mixed emotions. Rose just wasn’t the same player that had grown up in front of the Chicago faithful’s eyes, and Noah wasn’t the same enforcer down low. Add to that, the departure of All-Star forward Pau Gasol and you have a recipe for a bad year. That was probably going to be the case, well until they brought in Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, and Robin Lopez. Do these three make the Bulls automatic title contenders? No, not even close, but one thing that they do is keep the excitement in Chicago. The Bulls also nailed the draft and picked up Denzel Valentine, who is possibly one of the most NBA ready rookies coming out of Michigan State.

With so much going on this off season when it comes to the roster moves, which players are most likely to make the starting lineup? Well, if the season started tomorrow, I would like to think that Rondo, Wade, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, and Lopez would be the starting five. The most competitive position entering the season would be the four spot. They could go with the floor spacing Gibson, put in Nikola Mirotic for even more spacing, or they could go towards Bobby Portis’ direction for defense and toughness. But, if Gibson does indeed start, there will be plenty of minutes for the bench players to take their game to the next level, however high that is.

The players that will benefit from this team being one of turnover, roster wise, are Valentine, Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic, and Bobby Portis. All very young players with something to prove this year. The player that sticks out to me with the best opportunity is Doug McDermott. Averaging about 23 minutes per game last year and also averaging 43 percent from behind the three-point line, he is already coming off a solid second season. The reason I like McDermott as the player to stand out and benefit off the bench is because of that great three-point shooting. The Bulls will be in dire need of shooting the entire year and McDermott is the best shooter on the team, from a percentage standpoint. Also, at 6 feet 8 inches, McDermott has the size to play the small forward and maybe even the power forward position, which means he has more versatility compared to some players on that bench.

Rose and Gasol both averaged 31.8 minutes per game last season, so with them leaving that opens up plenty of minutes for some of these bench players to really showcase their game. Obviously, Wade, Rondo, and Lopez will take some of those minutes, but nonetheless, the bench players will have a huge season this year if they can take advantage of the minutes that will surely be coming their way. Although, I believe McDermott will have the biggest jump in production for this season, I think that Portis will have the biggest jump in minutes per game. He averaged about 17.8 minutes per game last season and I would expect that to be around 20 minutes this season. He actually had a better player efficiency rating than Rose last season, 13.9 compared to 13.5, and that is impressive when you compare the two players’ minutes per game.

We talked about Valentine a little bit earlier, but he really shouldn’t be overlooked to have a big impact off the bench for the Bulls. He is coming out of one of the best colleges in the nation, coached by one of the best coaches of all-time in Tom Izzo. He has a very mature game, which includes a nice jumper, high basketball IQ, and outstanding defense and toughness. He is exactly the type of player the Bulls’ want and that is why he will get plenty of minutes this season to prove himself. You can expect this Chicago Bulls’ bench to be one of the best second units in the NBA this season.

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