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67RIEFNS No. 1: Tom Thibodeau managing his bigs

Aug 29, 2014, 3:33 PM EDT

Chicago Bulls v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

The NBA is full of talent, personality and suspense. During the doldrums of the offseason, It’s easy to forget how wonderful the league can be. So, I’ve assembled 67 Reasons I’m Excited For Next Season (67RIEFNS). They’ll be presented in no particular order over the coming weeks.

Tom Thibodeau has a reputation for running his top players into the ground with high minutes, and it’s not totally deserved.

It’s just mostly deserved.

Since Thibodeau began coaching Chicago four years ago, the Bulls have four of the top 11 minute-per-game seasons.* No other team had more than one.

*Luol Deng in 2011-12 (39.4), Deng in 2010-11 (39.1), Jimmy Butler in 2013-14 (38.7) and Deng in 2012-13 (38.7)

Aside from Derrick Rose, whose injury history DEMANDS careful minute management, Chicago’s top talent is concentrated at power forward and center. With Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic, the Bulls are absolutely loaded at the 4/5.

There are only 96 minutes per game to go around at those positions, though. Based on last year’s minutes per game Noah (35.3), Gasol (31.4) and Gibson (28.7) nearly fill that, totaling 95.4.

I suppose Thibodeau could get imaginative/foolish and play all three together. But there’s a much bigger chance he could use Mike Dunleavy and/or Doug McDermott a bit as stretch fours, And there’s a much, much bigger chance Mirotic deserves regular playing time.

Finding minutes for everyone will be a squeeze.

One area the Bulls’ front office and Thibodeau reportedly don’t see eye to eye is the coach’s minutes distribution. This could be Gar Forman’s way of forcing Thibodeau’s hand.

I believe coaches are predisposed to play their best players as much as possible. Thibodeau just acts on that inclination more than most. Will that continue now that he has so many options at one position? Will depth give Thibodeau the strength to counter his instinct to identify top players and use them extensively?

I can’t wait to find out.

  1. nflcrimerankingscom - Aug 29, 2014 at 3:52 PM

    Memphis Grizzlies East.

    • asimonetti88 - Aug 29, 2014 at 4:36 PM

      Isn’t Memphis further east than Chicago?

      • 88heatnation - Aug 29, 2014 at 4:57 PM

        I’ve always wondered why Memphis played on the Western Conference. The East would be so much more competitive with Memphis alone, which would balance both sides and be better for the league.

      • chicitybulls - Aug 29, 2014 at 5:44 PM

        You have to forgive him. Too many concussions from footie footie football.

      • nflcrimerankingscom - Aug 29, 2014 at 7:40 PM

        nein.

      • davidly - Aug 30, 2014 at 4:52 AM

        No, it’s about 150 miles west of Chicago.

  2. lastdukestreetking - Aug 29, 2014 at 5:20 PM

    There are 15 teams in each conference. How much more balanced can it get?

    • 88heatnation - Aug 29, 2014 at 5:49 PM

      Competitive balance

      • campcouch - Aug 29, 2014 at 6:50 PM

        mmm,the Lakers and Spurs have dominated the West for 13 of the past 16 years. The East has sent 8 different teams to the Finals.If the Grizz couldn’t get past the two Western powers to even get to the Finals, I doubt they’d win against them in the Finals. The teams are better record wise in the West but only two of them have ruled the roost. The East may not dominate the league but there’s a better chance of any of their good teams to make it through. As a whole there’s no balance, but conference wise, the East is more competitive.

      • asimonetti88 - Aug 29, 2014 at 9:34 PM

        The East is more competitive? The Suns missed the playoffs in the West but would have been a top 3 seed in the East.

        The East is closer top to bottom, but when you consider the low bar the top is setting, it’s not much to be proud of.

  3. birdsflynorth206 - Aug 29, 2014 at 5:27 PM

    The Grizzlies are in the west because they were in Vancouver before moving to Memphis. Just like the Thunder are still in the northwest division when they should be in the southwest division.

    • 22yearsagotoday - Aug 29, 2014 at 8:23 PM

      Who needs stinkin’ facts?

  4. bigdaddy44 - Aug 29, 2014 at 6:11 PM

    Thibs has always done a great job working with what he’s got. Hanscom and Kocher were perfect examples of Thibs maximizing the use of his talent.

  5. 22yearsagotoday - Aug 29, 2014 at 8:24 PM

    Bulls have a better chance to compete for a championship this year.

  6. mungman69 - Aug 29, 2014 at 8:46 PM

    Wizards, Cavs, Bulls in no particular order.

  7. chicitybulls - Aug 29, 2014 at 9:36 PM

    Did I say that I really like the depth on this team.

  8. tfilarski - Aug 29, 2014 at 10:53 PM

    giving thibs track record of playing rookies, i doubt mirotic sees a lot of time on the court

    • chicitybulls - Aug 30, 2014 at 12:24 PM

      Mirotic is not your average rookie. He’s not a collegian trying to hone his game. If he plays defense he’ll see the court. His shooting, apparently, will keep him on it.

  9. peddealer - Aug 30, 2014 at 12:36 AM

    Michael Sam has 66 pairs of underwear that he is holding hostage until he finds out the other 66 reasons….

    He will sniff one a day until his demands are met….

    I highly suggest staying at least arms length away from him, he might sniff yours while you are still in them…

  10. mrhonorama - Aug 30, 2014 at 9:16 AM

    This is a poor interpretation of statistics. Yes, four of the Top 11 minutes seasons in whatever period are Bulls players under Thibs. But look more closely…it is two Bulls players…and they happen to play the same position! Both Deng and Butler have been the primary players responsible for guarding 3s on the Bulls (and, in Butler’s case, some 2s and 1s) during the Thibs era. What the minutes played totals illustrate is that he has never been comfortable with his back up options defensively at that spot. This isn’t the same as running everyone into the ground. Last year, the Bulls effectively managed both Noah’s and Heinrich’s minutes. Yes, Thibs does push his main rotation guys a bit more, but it’s only been at one position where he has been arguably excessive.

  11. pooskay - Aug 30, 2014 at 12:01 PM

    Between Noah, Gasol, Taj and Mirotic, one (or more) of these players will probably miss some games due to injury. Thibs will find out who stands out and deserves more playing time. It happens every season. Noah is the only lock out of those 4, with Gasol being a good bet to get his minutes. Mirotic could be the one that surprises. Let the Taj trade rumors begin?

    • chicitybulls - Aug 30, 2014 at 12:27 PM

      They bet not trade Taj. Of those 4 he and Noah finishes best around the rim. And he and Noah are the 2 better defensive players. Both are capable of guarding 4s and 5s and even some perimeter players which you’ll need on those pick and rolls.

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