Who will start at power forward for the Chicago Bulls? Will it be veteran Bulls’ forward Taj Gibson, their stretch forward Nikola Mirotic, or Bobby Portis, who is in his second year? Although one Bulls player has somewhat distinguished himself from the pack, the starting job at power forward remains up for grabs.
After a busy NBA offseason, especially by their standards, the Bulls have all of their starting positions filled except for one. It may be the most important position on the Bulls. Whoever winds up the starter at power forward for the Bulls will be in charge of creating openings in the driving lanes and a bulk of the hustle plays.
While it would be great if the starting four to be able to spread the floor, doing a lot of the dirty work is a necessary thing.
Those moves set the Bulls up to have a strong backcourt. It also allows Jimmy Butler to switch back to playing small forward. Playing at small forward gives Butler similar freedom on offense that he enjoyed two years ago when he first became an NBA all-star.
At that time, Pau Gasol was the Chicago Bulls’ starter at the four. Gasol, a future hall of famer, knew how to free up the lane for Butler and others to drive the ball.
Of the three players who are in the running to be the Bulls’ starting power forward, Taj Gibson has shown the knack for doing the little things, but his finishing above the rim must improve.
He has the penchant to bring the basketball downward after receiving a pass. Opposing defenses surround him before Gibson can bring the ball up to dunk or complete a layup. When Taj Gibson does this, it creates missed shots or turnovers. Despite this flaw in his game, Gibson has performed the best out of the trio.
And although none of the Bulls players, including Dwyane Wade, would weigh in on who should be the Bulls starter at power forward, the answer should be obvious. Taj Gibson deserves to be the Bulls’ starter. When Dwyane Wade was pressed on the subject, he stated that he immediately waived his input.
“I’ve learned to stay out of it, stay out the way. When I was younger, I thought I had that pull to be able to do that. Then it starts getting a little tricky. You start getting in relationships with guys. You don’t want to get involved if a guy’s not playing or a guy is not there no more. So I totally took myself out of that situation.”
“I just started being a player and letting the coaches decide who they want to play, and let the GM and president decide who they want to bring in. Business can take over and it becomes tough. Don’t want to be in the middle of it.”
If were all about defense, Taj Gibson would have the Bulls’ starting job in his back pocket. He is arguably the Bulls’ second-best overall defender.
The Chicago Bulls would prefer for Nikola Mirotic to take the reins as the final starter. His ability to shoot three-point shots is needed for the Bulls to be able to spread out the floor. Despite his height of 6-foot-10, Mirotic is more of a jump shooter and less of a rugged defensive player.
It would be perfect for the Bulls if Mirotic were a combination of both, but that player may never materialize. At best, the European star would further develop into a lesser form of Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki. If so, the Bulls would be in great hands.
Nowitzki, also not known for his defensive capabilities, can drill teams with jumpers, rebound, and occasionally make a key stop. Dirk Nowitzki is who the Bulls had in mind when they drafted Nikola Mirotic.
The problem for the Bulls is that Mirotic has a shaky jump shot. This is partly due to the fact that he overthinks during shooting opportunities. His pump fake can fool a handful of defenders, but what it truly does is turn an open shot into a contested one.
That can aggravate most, if not all NBA head coaches, and Bulls’ head coach Fred Hoiberg is no exception. It could be enough to keep Nikola Mirotic out of the Bulls’ starting lineup.
The wildcard to Chicago Bulls’ battle for the starting power forward spot is Bobby Portis. Portis is a combination of what Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic are. The exception is that he is still green.
The potential is there for Portis to become a solid NBA player, much like in the mold of Milwaukee Bucks’ forward Greg Monroe. Bobby Portis could continue to grow if thrust into the Bulls’ starting lineup if they were a rebuilding team.
That does not seem to be in the Bulls’ plans. Not with the acquisitions of Wade, Rondo, and center Robin Lopez. The only advantage that Portis has at this time is that the Bulls could use a youthful player to group with them. If the mandate is to win, the Bulls are unlikely to live with Portis’ mistakes if he were to start. That would eliminate his name from the battle at power forward.
Expect the Chicago Bulls to reluctantly put Taj Gibson in the starting lineup. It is long overdue for Gibson to be a starter. He is a solid player and deserves the nod. If Nikola Mirotic were to get hot at any time during the NBA season, he would earn back the role. That is what the Bulls prefer.
Two other names to keep an eye on as the NBA season gets underway are Doug McDermott and rookie Paul Zipser. If the Chicago Bulls decide that playing small ball gives them the best chance of winning, they will look in their direction. Both McDermott and Zipser can shoot, but the latter is a better defensive player.
[Featured Image by Jason Miller/Getty Images]