In the playoffs this past season, there’s no questioning that Nate Robinson was the Chicago Bulls’ most valuable player. In 12 postseason games, Robinson tallied 16.3 points, 4.4 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game. He played 33.7 minutes per game, up eight minutes per game from the regular season. Playing behind lockdown defender Kirk Hinrich, who is normally better off playing the shooting guard position, Robinson was a sporadic piece off the bench who shined when it mattered most. But now that Robinson’s gone and Derrick Rose will be taking the starting point guard spot, it begs the question: Is Marquis Teague ready for action?
On paper, it doesn’t make sense to ask that question. Replacing a backup point guard with an All-Star and former MVP point guard doesn’t exactly equate to more minutes for the third-stringer Teague. But then again, it’s not far-fetched to think he could potentially see an uptick in minutes from the 8.2 minutes per game he got during the 2012-13 regular season.
Why? There are a number of reasons. First of all, for all the offensive production he brought to the table, Nate Robinson was a loose cannon from Tom Thibodeau’s point of view. The look on Thibs face was priceless every time he had to substitute him in, or every time Robinson committed a silly turnover or every time Robinson’s man blew past him for an easy bucket. It was a sort of hesitancy followed by resignation when he remembered how limited his injured roster was. Essentially, Thibodeau played Robinson out of necessity and not only because Derrick Rose didn’t play a game all year.
Secondly, Kirk Hinrich was similarly played due to necessity. Not that Hinrich doesn’t have something to offer the Bulls off the bench, because he’s a smart, gritty, defender and that’s the exact DNA you need to thrive with this Chicago Bulls team. But with a healthy Derrick Rose, there’s a chance Hinrich will be played at the 2-spot instead of the point guard position, either behind or in front of Jimmy Butler. It’s probable that he’ll be the backup point guard, but he’ alsos listed as a shooting guard on ESPN.com’s official roster. Plus, Jimmy Butler’s more of a small forward anyway, which means he very well could be coming off the bench behind Luol Deng.
Finally, we arrive at Mike Dunleavy, yet another shooting guard/small forward who will see a fair amount of minutes trying to give the Chicago Bulls the 3-point shooting they so desperately need. If it seems like my argument (and the Chicago Bulls’ 2013-14 starting lineup) is spinning in circles, or if it’s a little unclear, that’s exactly my point. The fact is, Thibodeau has a versatile group of players and lot of questions to answer in the next few months. Can Derrick Rose stay healthy? Did Jimmy Butler prove in the postseason that he’s worthy of a starting spot or does he come off the bench? If he does, what position does he play? Will Kirk Hinrich be a backup PG or a backup SG? And will the rookie Tony Snell even see minutes off the bench?
Marquis Teague’s minutes this upcoming season depend entirely on the answers to these questions. If Hinrich backs Rose up at the point guard position, Teague’s minutes will be virtually non-existent. And if Snell gets minutes or Butler isn’t the starting shooting guard, Teague won’t play much either. Looking at his stats last season, it’s easy to see why Thibs wasn’t exactly leaping out of his chair to get him playing time: Teague averaged 2.1 points and 1.3 assists per game in extremely limited minutes.
But after his impressive Summer League, Teague might be a little more deserving of attention. Granted, anyone can be a star in Summer League and it takes just a bit more to succeed against the regular NBA competition. But Teague averaged a notable 18.3 points and 4.5 assists per game, which means that up to this point, he’s done everything that could be asked of him in order to earn more minutes.
My prediction? Hinrich plays the backup point guard position or takes the starting shooting guard spot, which essentially eliminated Marquis Teague’s potential minutes. But it’s worth noting that if Derrick Rose or Kirk Hinrich fail to stay healthy (as they’ve done on and off for the past few years), Teague will move back into the fold. And if he’s able to show the same promise he showed in Summer League, Thibodeau may have to think twice about keeping him glued to the bench.