After the Bulls drafted guard Jimmy Butler 30th overall in 2011, he averaged 8½ minutes per game his rookie season on a talented offensive team. A year later, he increased his average to 26 minutes, focusing on defense, defense and more defense.
Not a bad path for Chandler Hutchison to try to follow.
“Yeah, I feel like initially, being a younger player, first and foremost, [defense is] how you’re going to stick out,” the rookie forward said Friday. “On such an offensively talented team, defense-first is a good thing to focus on. And as that defense begins to go on and improve, look to be more aggressive on the other end. I know my abilities on offense can help this team, too, not just being a defensive player. But defense has been my focus first, and as I get more comfortable, I’ll find that role on offense.”
He’ll also find more minutes.
A non-factor the first two games of the season, Hutchison played just three minutes total. His defense not only earned him playing time but eventually a few starts.
In fact, size is the only reason coach Fred Hoiberg has switched Hutchison back to a bench role with the second unit the last few games, opting for Jabari Parker instead. Hutchison, who was selected 22nd overall out of Boise State in June, is 6-7, 197 pounds, while Parker is 6-8 and built like a pulling left guard.
“Jabari is the only healthy power forward we have on the roster right now, and we’re facing teams that have size in their frontcourt,” Hoiberg said. “They have good size, and they have craftiness and experience in the frontcourt, so we just feel that Jabari, having years in this league, is a guy that can hopefully get us off to a good start.”
When Parker isn’t delivering, Hoiberg knows whom to call.
“Obviously, at this level, playing defense is extremely hard,” Hutchison said. “Guys are the best in the world at what they do. With that being said, I pride myself a lot on that side of the ball. I feel like me, personally, I try and lock in, whether it’s a new coverage or anything, to just try and pick it up as fast as I can, and try and help this team on that end.”
Hoiberg is still four bodies down because of injuries but is starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Denzel Valentine (left ankle) and Lauri Markkanen (right elbow) continue to increase their activity, with returns possible in late November.
“Denzel had good news from his scan [Thursday],” Hoiberg said. “He got a repeat MRI and has significantly decreased the swelling in his ankle. As far as Lauri, he’s feeling better. [Thursday] was the five-week mark, so still a couple weeks from being out there. And then, with both those guys, they’re going to have to get themselves back in shape, get their timing back, so we’re still a ways away for both of them.”
Kris Dunn (left knee) and Bobby Portis (right knee) are still looking at December returns in a best-case scenario.