The Chicago Bulls are starting a whole new era as they prepare for the 2015-16 NBA season, as rookie head coach Fred Hoiberg promises to guide them to a more potent offense and hopefully a deeper run in the NBA playoffs. Unfortunately, the team looks to be slightly under-manned, at least in the beginning of the year.

Per reports, veteran swing man Mike Dunleavy will miss the next 8-10 weeks after undergoing surgery on his back this week. Dunleavy had been complaining about nagging back discomfort and after numerous conservative measures were exhausted, Dunleavy finally opted for surgery.

Replacement Options

The first names that come to mind to help replace Dunleavy in the starting lineup are Nikola Mirotic or Doug McDermott. Mirotic was a mild stud at times last year, as he proved to have a knack for shouldering a heavy scoring load and was adept at getting to the basket and drawing fouls. McDermott had a back and forth knee issue as a rookie and was unable to ever get into a groove – or the rotation. In Hoibgeg’s up-tempo system, both could prove to be quite useful while Dunleavy is out, while Mirotic is the likely candidate to start games.

There is also the option of just sliding shooting guard Jimmy Butler to the three spot for long stretches during games, as he tends to guard the opponent’s best player no matter the position, and also has the size, athleticism and skill-set to be a high level player at the three spot.

New Deal

Chicago just made an investment in Dunleavy as their starting small forward, when they signed the 35-year old swing man to a three-year, $14.4 million deal. The Bulls likely thought they were getting a savvy veteran for a good price, but instead they got a potential liability.

Playoff Odds

Dunleavy even being lost for the season wouldn’t necessarily kill Chicago’s playoff hopes. They’re already one of the best teams in the weaker half of the league and losing a 35-year old wing player wouldn’t cripple them. It could negatively impact their ability to go deep into the playoffs or win a title, however, as Dunleavy provides outside shooting, can create offense and even is a competent defender usually. The big thing he provides is depth and versatility, as he can play three positions and even if he wasn’t starting he’s still an extra guy with size and length that can shoot and help out in a number of areas.

Losing Dunleavy for any amount of time isn’t to be brushed off completely, even though at first glance most Bulls fans won’t think it’s a huge deal. However, the young talent Chicago has behind him is quite good, so the Bulls should be just fine for the first month or so of the season. Mirotic is a guy who the Bulls could look to as a starter over Dunleavy already anyways, so the real ticket may be what the Bulls can get out of second-year sharpshooter, Doug McDermott. If Dougie Buckets is ready to contribute, Dunleavy will be missed far less and the Bulls won’t miss a beat.

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