In a league that’s all about its stars, the Chicago Bulls seem to be following the reigning NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs’ format of a team-first mentality.
While the Bulls have many stars of their own, they’ve found a way to play complementary, unselfish basketball through the first few months of the season and now find themselves in a favorable position to make an NBA title push of their own. Even with stars like Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Pau Gasol, and Joakim Noah leading the way, arguably the Bulls biggest star this season is head coach Tom Thibodeau.
In his fifth season at the helm of the Bulls, the 2010-11 NBA Coach of the Year continues to find ways to get his team to buy into the “team before self” mantra that is becoming a rare idea in today’s game. What’s most impressive about Thibodeau though, is that he’s changed his personal coaching style from a defensive guru to an offensive wizard in the matter of a few months. All this comes following a critical past few seasons filled with questions surrounding his ability to manage players’ minutes and run an effective offensive scheme.
Just like watching a young player develop over the course of his career, it’s been a lot of fun watching Thibs adjust to a new team this season. With so much frontcourt depth and two possible future stars in rookies Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic, everyone had their eye on Thibodeau to begin the year to see whether or not the former Jeff Van Gundy and Doc Rivers assistant coach would change his mindset on players’ minutes. To many people’s surprise and joy, he has, and it’s been paying off big time for the Bulls.
Now, Thibodeau will consistently go eight, nine, even ten players deep in order to win ball games. This depth has not been seen on a Bulls team since they went to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010-11, Thibodeau’s first season with the team.
While Thibs still plays Butler an NBA-high 38 minutes a night, he’s taken his foot off the gas on players like Noah and Rose, both of whom have battled injuries in recent years and were main concerns of analysts coming into this year. This new mindset on Thibodeau’s part has opened up opportunities for Mirotic, Aaron Brooks and Purdue product E’Twaun Moore. Now, Chicago has a formidable second unit to go with an already top-tier starting group.
After Bulls management reluctantly had to trade away Thibs’ favorite player in Luol Deng last season to avoid the luxury tax, there were multiple reports Thibodeau would be on his way out of town in a short there after. But after an offseason of revamping the roster, it seems things are back in good standing with the Bulls head coach, who has made adjustments of his own to better fit a unit poised to contend for an NBA title.