Every week, ESPNChicago.com Bulls writer Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Chicago Bulls followers.
1. Does Carlos Boozer deserve more playing time late in games?
Friedell: No. He's a poor defender. Why would Tom Thibodeau change his strategy now? Especially since Taj Gibson is much better offensively this season.
Jon Greenberg: Depends on the situation, and how both he and Gibson are playing. I don't really begrudge Boozer for speaking his mind. You want players to have that kind of confidence and chip on their shoulder. It's good for the spirit. Once upon a time, you figure Boozer would get the nod if the Bulls needed offense and his jumper was wet. Gibson would get more time if the Bulls needed his defense. But Gibson is showcasing a more potent offensive game nowadays, so it's not quite that clear anymore. Boozer can see the writing on the wall as far as next year goes. Still, it's a mistake to mark this as a black-or-white situation. The Bulls' offense is mostly very effective when Boozer is on the floor. There are times when I think Thibodeau should be playing Boozer late in the game. But it's a case-by-case basis.
Scoop Jackson: That's a tough one. To me, that's a game-to-game decision, not a preconceived or predetermined rotation decision made by a coach who has nothing to do with the "feel" of the game that is being played at that moment. With the Bulls, Boozer has had some good fourth quarters, and he's had some not-so-good ones. That's kinda been his M.O., as has it been Thibs' to not play him much in fourth quarters in their four years together. Honestly, I think with just about any other coach in the league, looking at Booz's offensive numbers, he'd be in games at the end. But to Thibs, defense wins games. And until there's a different overall defensive commitment from Booz, "it is what it is" is going to continue.
2. Who will end up being a better NBA player, Jimmy Butler or Tony Snell?
Friedell: Both players are very hard workers. They live in the gym and spend hours working on their games. But if I had to choose the player with the higher upside right now, it would be Snell. That's because he's a better pure shooter and will get even better defensively with time. Butler can still be a very solid player, but Snell has a better shooting touch.
Greenberg: I think Butler will be the more complete, well-rounded player, but Snell could really carve out a niche for himself as a dead-eye shooter. I know he can do more than shoot, but his release is so smooth and so quick, as a spot-up shooter, he's going to be a problem for defenses for years to come. Butler's scoring hasn't picked up like we thought it would, but he's a go-to defender with attitude. He has the benefit of experience right now, and I think his personality lends itself to a more assertive role defensively than Snell, who sometimes seems as if his head is swimming with details. I'll have to see Snell in two years to really judge them against each other, but I'll still go with Jimmy for now.
Jackson: Depends on who stays with Thibs the longest. LOL. I can't see both players being here that much longer. In the greater scheme of the Bulls' rebuild, one is probably going to be gone within the next year or two. I think Tony has a slight edge as far as offensive aggressiveness goes, and right now, that is something the Bulls are looking for. But Jimmy is still a much better defensive player, and he probably always will be because his game is not predicated on how much he scores. So "better" player to me is subjective in that Butler could end up being another Shawn Marion and Snell another Kevin Martin. Which one of those two is better?
3. Will the Bulls be able to afford D.J. Augustin next season?
Friedell: Given how the rest of their cap situation will likely unfold, it appears the answer right now would be no. It all depends on what other teams are willing to pay Augustin. Thibs loves what he has done since coming to Chicago, but he also has a track record of getting everything he can out of almost every point guard who has come through not named Marquis Teague. The Bulls would like to keep Augustin, but it has to be at their price.
Greenberg: No. His one-year fellowship in the Thibs PG Academy will end after the playoffs. Augustin doesn't want to back up Rose, and we don't yet know if Derrick Rose would want to play more off the ball to make room for Augustin. I imagine he wouldn't throw a fit about such a move, but the point is going to be moot when teams offer Augustin a solid, multiyear contract based on his play this season. This was the perfect opportunity for Augustin, filling in on a veteran-laden, serious-minded team with a basketball genius at the helm. And Augustin has been much better than expected. I think he'll find himself a nice deal next season and the Bulls will have to find another backup for Rose who can start as well. Just in case.
Jackson: They'll have to. Unless they have someone else in mind to replace him. Look, the one thing they cannot afford again is what happened to them by not re-signing Nate Robinson (even though he did recently tear his ACL and is out for the season.) What the Bulls can't afford is to be left thin at the point position in case Rose goes down again and they are left scrambling to salvage a season by finding a replacement point guard on the fly. As well as he's playing, no one is saying that D.J. is the end-all-be-all, but regardless of how much he may demand (within reason, of course), the Bulls have to overpay someone to be their insurance policy. Why not him?