I remember when I first saw it, the small lineup that is. It was when the Chicago Bulls took on the New York Knicks. There was a time when coach Tom Thibodeau put in a line-up that just didn’t seem to make sense. He opted to put in a lineup of: Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson.
The combination of these five players just didn’t seem right and it seemed like they didn’t belong on the floor together. Noah obviously played center and then Butler was put in at power forward followed by Deng, Belinelli and then Robinson running the point.
The more I watched this crew run the floor I drew a few parallels between what they looked to run and a team that has all but perfected the “positionless” basketball…the Miami Heat. The Heat usually opt to play several rotations throughout the game but they are all usually centered around where LeBron James is put. His size, skill and versatility allow him to play any position effectively and it seemed as though that what was the Bulls were looking to experiment with when they opted to rotate in their “small,” lineup.
The effectiveness of this rotation was not really clear and won’t be unless they play these five names together more often. But it hints to one of two things. Either Coach Thibodeau is desperate to find rotations that can allow the heavy minute players (Deng and Noah)to rest or he is experimenting because he is confident in every unit he puts into the game.
The problem however is that the Bulls do not have a LeBron type of player. They don’t have someone as versatile as him who can stretch and play every position. This simple observation could serve as the ultimate downfall in the “small lineup,” approach.