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Are Bulls' rookies in danger of being out of the rotation?

Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic played just five minutes apiece against the Pistons. Is that an aberration or a some of things to come?

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into this season, it looked like the Bulls had one of the deepest rosters in the NBA. The question was whether Tom Thibodeau would use all that depth to his advantage, especially considering two of the players that helped form that new-found depth were rookies in Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic.

Thibodeau gave a somewhat ominous quote at Bulls Media day when asked about the playing time for those two:

"Nikola and Doug are two guys we're real excited we got. Nikola we waited for. And there will be a period of adjustment for him. And Doug as well. It's a big jump coming into our league. When you look back through history, you see that there hasn't been two rookies in a championship rotation for a long, long time. They're unproven. We have to be patient and give them an opportunity to grow and learn. But I like the way they fit. They're a good fit for us."

Indeed, McDermott and Mirotic are a good fit for Chicago. The Bulls have been looking to upgrade their shooting for years, and both guys came in with a rep as lights-out shooters. The front office paid a premium for getting the two on the roster, with a bevy of draft picks going to the Nuggets in order to acquire McDermott and Mirotic getting the equivalent of an MLE contract in free agency.

But Thibs' comments about two rookies playing in a championship rotation was a little concerning in terms of the youngsters getting consistent time. And after the Bulls' 102-91 victory over the Pistons, those concerns are still there.

Both McDermott and Mirotic played just five minutes apiece in the victory, and this happened despite some serious offensive woes in the second half. Neither played in the second half as the Bulls nearly fumbled away a huge lead against a bad team, with Chicago shooting a putrid 12-of-37 overall and 2-of-10 from deep.

McDermott and Mirotic are both offensive-minded players, and while they remain unproven and inconsistent, the Bulls' drought seemed like a perfect time to throw them out there in an attempt to inject some juice on offense. It's true the duo is weak defensively, but the Bulls have scored 115.0 points per 100 possessions in the 63 minutes those two have shared the court, according to

There are no guarantees playing McDermott and Mirotic more Monday night would have changed anything. Again, they didn't exactly do much (or anything) in their first-half stint, and the Pistons' size up front is a tough matchup for a struggling Mirotic. But I still think it would have been worth it to throw the rookies into the fire in that situation, and at the very least, it would limit the minutes of some of the other players.

Instead, Jimmy Butler played 43 minutes (including the entire second half), and both Pau Gasol and Mike Dunleavy played 35. There's just no reason to do this during an early November game against Detroit. Thibs has done a pretty good job following minutes restrictions put on Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, but Butler is already playing nearly 40 minutes per game and Gasol is at a tick under 35 minutes per game. That's too many for my liking, no matter how well each player is performing. When Thibs was asked about the lack of minutes for the rookies against the Pistons, this was his response:

That's an answer from Thibs that highlights a penchant to lose sight of long-term goals in favor of doing everything at all costs to win the game right in front on him. It'll benefit the Bulls in the long term to get the rookies a more tick, whether it's in terms of their own development or limiting the minutes of the starters in order to keep them more fresh for the postseason. There will be growing pains, and perhaps relying on them too much early in the season would lead to a few more losses. But I don't think that argument even holds much water given the depth of talent on this roster, because I'm really not sure a few extra minutes of potential rookie struggles would torpedo games.

Thus far in November, McDermott is playing 11.3 minutes per game. Mirotic is at 14.2 minutes per game this month, but he has totaled just 18 minutes over the last three games with Noah back in the lineup. I'm not expecting these dudes to play a ton, because they ARE rookies and HAVE struggled at times (especially Mr. Pump Fake), but I'd like to see more. I'd especially like to see both players get more time with Derrick Rose because of the floor spacing. I got super excited when we saw a few minutes of it against the Knicks, but we haven't seen it since.

I'm certainly willing to give Thibs the benefit of the doubt here. It has only been a few games and there's plenty of time for things to change. But it's a situation to monitor.

I didn't even mention Tony Snell because I think he's pretty bad, but even he could probably stand to get a few minutes here and there.