The Chicago Bulls and head coach Fred Hoiberg have been making headlines lately due to the benching of one of their prized free agent signings: Rajon Rondo. With a plethora of injuries, Rondo was thrown back into action and played pretty well forcing Coach Hoiberg to relent and admit he may stay in the rotation. Rondo has received praise from Dwyane Wade about his attitude and handling of this benching and Taj Gibson bluntly stated the Bulls are a better team with Rondo on the court. It’s hard to argue with that assessment: Per NBA.com/stats, 4 of the 8 best Bulls lineups per +/- include Rondo (minimum of 5 games played). The Bulls coaching staff, however, seem committed to Michael Carter-Williams being the starter, but MCW’s offense has been absent thus far as he is averaging only 7.2 ppg, 2.5 apg, and 4.5 reb on 32.4% field goal shooting and a putrid 16% from three. For a team that’s dying for space, MCW doesn’t provide that. Rondo, on the other hand, has been awful from three, but is still shooting 29% from beyond the arc and 36% from the field while averaging 7.3 ppg, 7.1 apg, and 6.3 reb. His numbers aren’t stellar, but they’re better than MCW’s.
The argument for MCW seems to be his defense, but per NBA.com/stats, the starting five with Rondo has a better defensive rating than the starting five with MCW (105.4 with Rondo in 27 games compared to 108.4 in 5 games with MCW). Also, the Bulls offensive rating with Rondo in the starting five is 106.3 for a net rating of 0.9 and with MCW it’s 102.6 for a net rating of -5.8. The Bulls staff and fans may enjoy how the Bulls look with MCW, but the statistics suggest they would be better off including Rondo with the starting lineup.
If the Bulls keep Rondo in a secondary role, I can see him having a great effect on the bench. Valentine has really come on as of late shooting 50% from three in 2 games since the first of the year. A bench group consisting of Rondo, Valentine, McDermott, Mirotic, and Felicio is intriguing. Rondo is an excellent floor general and this young group could play with the pace and provide the space that Hoiberg was brought in to construct. With three shooters on the court, Rondo would be able to play to his strengths: Be ball dominant, weave into the lane, and create open looks for the Bulls’ shooters. This may be the stroke of luck the Bulls need to energize their pathetic second unit.
We all knew coming into this season that the fit of Rondo, Wade, and Butler would be tricky and that this team would have a volatile chemistry. Hoiberg is taking a chance by moving Rondo to the second unit and it could pay big dividends. If this works and the Bulls can get healthy, this may help turn their season around and provide some consistency. The second spot in the East is still there for the taking. Can the Bulls reach out and grab it? To do that, they’re going to need Rajon Rondo on the court not getting guys Gatorade.
Brandon Pence is the co-founder of B2 Hoops and the founder/editor emeritus of “The Bulls Charge.” Follow him on Twitter here.