After reading about Tyrus Thomas not being given (oh no! entitlement!) his starting job back in the latest preseason game, I promised to you all that I wouldn't go too far into the macro-level implications of such a move. And I still won't, until it actually happens. And while it seems far-fetched, remember that this is the same team that started Thabo Sefolosha on opening night last year.
(and actually, it's tough to really care about anything besides Rose's bum ankle. As that, plus a tough early schedule, could have this whole thing off the rails by Thanksgiving. Is it too late to revise my projected win total down to 36?)
But since Doug Thonus at ChicagoNow is actually coming out and advocating the move by reasoning of 'team success', we can put that 'big picture' reasoning as to why benching Tyrus could be a disaster on the backburner (it's simmering, I assure you) and get to how it'd effect the team this year.
I think the Bulls should start [Taj] in a Chris Duhonesque way where he's the first one out of the starting lineup, but limiting the minutes where Noah and Tyrus are on the floor together is a good thing.
Firstly, I never thought I'd see Scott Skiles' self-sabotage as a positive example of strategy...
But I do get why one would (again, for purposes of winning games this season and being completely blind to the franchise tailspin) want to limit the Thomas+Noah lineups. All the best lineups last season included Brad Miller, and you can see how Noah and Thomas duplicate eachother in skillset a bit too much.
But to make sure Taj Gibson started and got at least 12 minutes a game? Thonus doesn't really expound on why Taj starting is a better idea...
Tyrus didn't do anything to make his case over Taj during the game as they had similar box scores on the night, and Taj looked like the more aggressive and assertive player from the half of basketball that I got to watch.
This is, of course, pure hot garbage. But I assume Thonus isn't just basing things on one game he sort of watched. Maybe he's crediting Taj with being the smarter player, as Taj's shown good defensive instincts and fundamentals (outside of the rampant fouling, though more than a few of those fouls is because he's the only one helping).
Maybe it's been Taj's surprising jumpshot that has Thonus thinking he's a better fit with Noah than Thomas, but it's not like Taj has much range on the shot, and as a 66% foul shooter in his last season in college it's very possible we've seen a bit of a fluke. Thomas has had longer stretches of good jumpshooting anyway, and in regular season games.
But the main problem with the Noah-Thomas frontcourt is a deficiency in defensive rebounding, helping make the Bulls 28th in that category last season.
And during Taj's rave-worthy (by me only relative to expectations) preseason, it includes a defensive rebound percentage of 14.3%. To put this in perspective, while one of the more worrisome trends in the career of Tyrus Thomas is his falling DREB%, and last season was his worst in that area...it was still nearly 19% that year.
(and as an interesting note on those preseason stats, basketball prospectus recently did a study and found that rebounding stats translated fairly well...though if anything that doesn't hurt Taj's case. If you want to hurt that case, one could add that the Bulls preseason is especially meaningless given their cruddy opposition.)
(and while I do think Taj has shown some solid team defense fundamentals, for all of Taj's smarts he's turned over the ball (his hands' fault more than his head's) at a way higher rate than Thomas did last season)
So even taking away the big-picture implications of sitting Thomas in his contract year and how it could effect the team and locker room all season, doing so to start Taj Gibson makes no sense to me. He's not nearly as good as Tyrus (amazing, and a bit detestable, that it's even become a discussion), and doesn't fit the team better either.
(Though when it comes to me and starting lineups, you can nearly always stop after deciding 'who's better?'.)
But of course we can't think in such simple terms anyway, everything's connected. And as Thonus concludes in his post with "I'll error to the side of Joakim and Gibson starting together simply because both players are likely to wear the uniform next year while Miller and Tyrus are both free agents.", it just reaffirms how bizzare this season is, with a franchise trying to make the playoffs while possibly stripping the whole thing down at the same time. Not to mention Vinny Del Negro eager to screw up an obvious 7-man rotation he barely needs to touch. It leads to situations where a surprisingly good preseason from a rookie leads to legitimate fear.