His absence has been pretty surprising given the amount of games he has missed due to the ACL tear he suffered over a season ago, and helped pave the way for a more featured role for young small forward Jimmy Butler, who took complete advantage of the expanded opportunity.
Butler emerged as a young star in the latter portion of last season and at only 23, he seems destined for big things as his career progresses. He improved his job status immensely and also is a great athlete for someone who stands 6-foot-7. The one problem with Butler moving forward is that the Bulls already have a very expensive option to play the same position in Luol Deng.
Deng is a very good player, but he is starting to get a little long in the tooth, and Butler offers more upside at this stage in their respective careers. The Bulls would do well in exploring Deng’s trade market to see if they can get back a shooting guard or more forward depth in return.
The Bulls could play Deng and Butler together with Butler occupying the two-guard spot, but that is probably not the organization’s preference given the state of the team. Both players are good but not great shooters, and spacing issues would arise with both on the court together for lengthy stints.
Butler looks poised to become one of the better young players in the league and the Bulls need to create an even larger role for him this season.
Rob Lunder covers the NBA for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @rlunder18