With the NBA playoffs less than three weeks away, Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau may decide to rest players down the stretch. This move could mean more playing time for rookie Tony Snell and seldom used guard Jimmer Fredette.
On Mar. 30, Thibodeau told Comcast SportsNet Chicago that being healthy for the playoffs is a must for the Bulls. On top of that, the Bulls will also play several teams under .500 to closeout the regular season. As a result, a couple of veterans may sit out a few games in order to ensure their health for the NBA’s long and grueling postseason. Players most likely to sit out games are Kirk Hinrich and Mike Dunleavy.
Hinrich, who missed the final eight games of the 2013 playoffs with a bruise calf, could have been a vital contributor in the second round against the Miami Heat. The Bulls don’t need a repeat of that happening again. And with Dunleavy already logging around 34 minutes per game since the Luol Deng trade, it would be wise to rest the 11-year veteran out of Duke University.
If Thibodeau elects to rest both veterans, Fredette would move into the backup point guard role behind D.J. Augustin, while Snell would be inserted into the starting lineup for small forward Dunleavy. Since coming over from the Sacramento Kings, Fredette has only played in five games for the Bulls during the month of March.
During that time, he has managed to scrap together an average of three points in four minutes. With Thibodeau’s eight-man rotation set, Fredette has found it difficult to find meaningful minutes thus far with the team.
Unlike Fredette, Snell is somewhat involved in the rotation. The first-year forward out of the University of New Mexico is averaging nearly five points in over 17 minutes per game. He has also proven to Thibideau that he can produce when given the opportunity. On Feb. 21 against the Denver Nuggets, and with 37 minutes of playing time, Snell scored a career high 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting.
As the Bulls continue to fight for the third seed in the Eastern Conference, it’s hard to say if Thibodeau will rest anybody at all. But with the potential of Fredette and Snell, they should be ready to be big-time contributors if called upon.