Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls all have two things in common. The first is that each of them are crucial to the Bulls’ success in the 2013-14 NBA regular season and playoffs. The second is that none of them played in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against the Miami Heat this past season due to injuries.
Chicago ended up losing the series to Miami in five games. However, if the Bulls would have had Rose, Hinrich and Deng, the series would have been much more competitive and Chicago may have even been able to come up victorious. Thus, Chicago must stay healthy throughout the course of the season if they want to have a serious chance at contending for the NBA championship in 2014.
Coach Tom Thibodeau has been criticized several times in the past for not monitoring his players minutes. Most notably playing Rose in the fourth quarter of a blowout win against the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2012 NBA Playoffs in which Rose tore his ACL in the closing minutes of the game. However, Thibodeau did not make a significant change in his coaching style last season as Deng led the league in minutes per game (38.7) and Joakim Noah ranked 15th (36.8) and first among all centers in the Eastern Conference. Noah and Deng both missed several games last season (the entire Miami series in Deng’s case) and this very well may have been due to the amount of minutes they played on a nightly basis during the regular season.
If the Bulls want to have the opportunity to make a deep playoff run this upcoming year, they must be at full strength, which means Thibodeau may have to start limiting the minutes of certain players. The fourth-year head coach went on the record earlier this summer to say that he plans to decrease the amount of minutes Noah will play this upcoming season. Noah dealt with a grueling case of plantar fasciitis toward the end of the regular season which caused him to miss several games. Although he played in every game of the postseason, there were times that you could clearly see that he was hurting and very far from 100 percent.
The Bulls will have their work cut out for them next year as they will have to battle with the Heat, Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers for an opportunity to represent the Eastern Conference in the 2014 NBA Finals. The last thing Chicago needs to deal with is another season derailed by injuries. Therefore, Thibodeau must make it a priority to limit the minutes of his key players, especially during the later part of the season.
Although Miami, Brooklyn and Indiana are all threats to Chicago’s run at a championship, staying healthy may be the biggest obstacle that the Bulls face all season.