In 20 games, Joakim Noah has played under 35 minutes just three times this season. Noah has played over 40 minutes in each of the Bulls last five games; including 44 in last night’s win against Philadelphia.
This offseason, Chicago elected not to match the back-loaded contract that was presented to backup center Omer Asik by Houston. Asik averaged just 14.7 minutes per game, coming off the bench, last season. However, the 7-footer from Turkey, who is now starting for the Rockets, would’ve seen a significant increase in his minutes had he returned.
Instead, the Bulls opted to save money and keep their options open in the future, where the status of Derrick Rose will be much clearer.
While it may very well be for only this season, Nazr Mohammed has now been charged with the task of backing up Noah. In 14 games, Mohammed is averaging 6.3 minutes, less than a point per game and 1.6 rebounds.
Chicago signed backup power forward Taj Gibson to a four-year, $38 million contract extension and it is time for Jerry Reinsdorf to get his money’s worth. It is early in the season, but Gibson is averaging a tick under twenty minutes a night.
The combination of he and Carlos Boozer may not be ideal in size, but pending on the match-up, Gibson is certainly athletic enough to make up for this shortcoming. This is especially true in the East, where there is an emphasis on small-ball lineups and versatile big men.
The Bulls need to protect their franchise center, and scale down his minutes. Noah missed the final three games of the Bulls first round loss to the Sixers last season due to an ankle injury. He was also plagued by back issues during the lockout shortened, 66-game season.
Chicago can solve this issue by increasing Gibson and Mohammed’s minutes. Though the free agent market for centers is virtually non-existent, the team could add a veteran big man such as Eric Dampier to share minutes with Mohammed.
One thing is certain, the Bulls need to protect their franchise center; otherwise, they risk a future that is built around two players trying to come back from major injuries.