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The Bulls' Small Forward Conundrum

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The team has a huge hole at small forward, and putting Mirotic in the starting lineup there isn't fixing it.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Fred Hoiberg has tried mixing and matching lineups all season to find the right combination. Nikola Mirotic starting at SF isn't one of his better decisions.

Here are the Bulls' 4 most used lineups:

Stats current as of 01/12/16 from stats.nba.com

Tony Snell is not the answer. But he's still a far better option at SF than Nikola Mirotic. The Bulls increase their net rating by 7.1 points per 100 possessions simply by replacing Snell and Mirotic.

This isn't to say Mirotic is bad. In fact, Mirotic has improved his play as of late since being named a starter. But he's been splitting his time between SF and PF and has playing better mostly in the minutes he's received at PF. At the SF, he's been invisible on offense and a minus defensively. Other coaches have started putting their guards on Mirotic, and he hasn't been able to capitalize much at all.

John Schumann of NBA.com has some more evidence of how poorly the Niko at 3 experiment has fared:

The debate over whether to start Snell, McDermott, or Mirotic at the 3 is one that fans should not even be discussing. While Snell is the best of a bad group, the Bulls' small forward position has been an albatross all season.

Ian Levy wrote for The Sporting News of teams with glaring positional holes. He included this nifty chart showing how using basketball-reference's box plus minus, the Bulls have gotten great production out of their SG, PF, and C spots but have been suffering at PG and SF:

We knew coming into this season that backup PG and SF were the team's most glaring holes. Inexplicably, the front office did nothing to address these holes and the Bulls are now paying the price.

Whether Mirotic, Snell, or McDermott starts, the Bulls still desperately need to upgrade their talent at SF as priority #1. The team had been counting on Mike Dunleavy to make a return, but his back prognosis seems to be getting worse and worse with every new update released.

Paxson has stated that he's waiting until February to test out the trade market, so it may be a bit of a wait before we finally see this hole plugged.