The Bulls are 8-5 through one of the top toughest stretches of the year in terms of schedule, and the fourth most difficult schedule of the season (per sagarin).
First, let's all give thanks for the improvement of Derrick Rose. When we drafted Rose, I felt that it would take him three years to come close to reaching his potential. Here we are in year three, and Rose has gone from Rookie of the Year, to All-Star, to legitimate MVP candidate. Rose has beaten my expectations every year in the league.
This season, he's stepped up and become "the man" for the Bulls team. He comes through with big play after big play, drives the paint, and all of a sudden his three point shot even looks legit. Rose is quickly on the path to becoming unguardable, and when Carlos Boozer comes back, the Bulls offense could be scary good.
Thank you Noah for immediately living up to your contract. I had a fear that extending Noah early at 12 million a season might be a mistake. It was expensive enough that I thought the max contract after the new CBA might be around that number giving the Bulls limited upside.
However, Noah has shown that he's so much more than an energy player. He's increased his scoring, rebounding, and makes big play after big play when it counts. However, more than anything, he provides a type of emotional leadership and lift that few players in the NBA can.
Right now, Noah is playing at a level worth the 1st contract max of around 15 million per season, and he's turned the decision to keep him or trade him for Carmelo into a no-brainer.
Thank you Taj Gibson for stepping up with the loss of Carlos Boozer. As the season wore on last year, people became more and more enamored with the play of Taj Gibson. By the time summer hit, we started wondering if perhaps, as a fanbase, we overrated him.
Then preseason hit, and Gibson struggled mightily. At this point, we figured we must have overrated him.
Then the regular season hit, and Gibson played so well that we found we vastly underrated him. Taj Gibson is a 10 million dollar a year player right now on a 1 million dollar a year contract. I don't know if the Bulls will afford him once his contract is up, but Taj Gibson has become one of the best steals in the draft.
Anyone still want Dejuan Blair?
When Carlos Boozer comes back, the Bulls will be in the running for best front court in the NBA.
Thank you Luol Deng for developing a three point shot. Say what
you want about Luol Deng this year, but the one thing you can't say is
that he didn't work on his three point shot. Sure, Deng hasn't played
particularly well, especially recently, and his three point shooting has
dipped from the blistering hot pace he set earlier, but through 13
games, Deng is shooting 35.8% from behind the three point arc on a high
volume of attempts.
He hasn't gone away from the shot when it hasn't fallen from him, and
he's no longer shooting stupid twos. Deng's had a rough road trip
recently, and his overall percentages have dipped, but the style in
which he's played has improved, and I feel that he'll improve as the
season goes on, especially when Boozer comes back.
Thank you Keith Bogans for playing steady basketball. Sure, Bogans may not be starter grade material, and I think it's time to go to Brewer as was the original plan, but Bogans has still played really well for a near vet minimum rotation player. He's played solid defense, moved the ball and given the Bulls steady play for his minutes.
When he's able to slide back into his natural role, he'll be viewed as more of an asset than he is now where we ask more out of him than is reasonable.
Thank you Ronnie Brewer for providing that spark after a rough start. Ronnie Brewer struggled through preseason and the early parts of the regular season, but he's gotten better and better as the season has gone on. He's given the Bulls a big lift off the bench with his defense to create turnovers and easy baskets to get them back into games.
At this time, it's probably time to start Brewer and let Bogans play the role as steady bench guard.
Thank you Kyle Korver for bringing shooting back to the Chicago Bulls. When was the last time the Bulls had a shooter like Kyle Korver? I'm not sure if they ever have. Ben Gordon was a better shot creator, Steve Kerr was more accurate, but neither player ran around screens and hit turnaround threes the way Korver does. Neither player worked opponents so hard when the ball wasn't in their hands as Kyle Korver does. He hasn't always played great, but he has always put tremendous pressure on the defense.
Thank you James Johnson for your key role in two come from behind wins. James Johnson may not have been a stud this year, and he may even be a draft bust. However, James Johnson has come in during two games where the Bulls were really down and out and given them a lift with his energy to bring the Bulls back to the game.
We've hoped for more from Johnson, but he's kept the right attitude in his limited role, and he when his number has been called unexpectedly, he's come through for the Bulls twice and probably been the spark to drive two wins this season. For a guy who might be the 9th or 10th man in your rotation, can you ask for more?
Thank you Omer Asik for shutting down the paint. Asik has a long way to go, but he's already shown that he's a legit defensive presence in the NBA. He has nice hands, and goes from the catch to the finish quickly.
I don't know how much of a chance Asik will have to develop once Boozer comes back, but he's shown that he was a legit NBA talent in his few minutes already, and I'm excited to see his development over the next few seasons.
Thank you C.J. Watson for stepping up your defense. Watson was brought in as an offensive player, someone who could provide some shooting off the bench, run the offense, and pressure the defense. He has only been able to do that in spurts while adjusting to a more structured Bulls offense.
However, while struggling with his shot, Watson has done all you can ask a player to do. He's really committed to defense, and he's tried to move the ball around well. Watson's making a strong effort to play the way the Bulls need him to play, and I'm confident his shot will start to fall. When it does, he'll become a value signing.
Thank you Brian Scalabrine for your help in getting this team on the same page. Scalabrine's not a premier NBA talent, but he's familiar with Tom Thibodeau's offensive and defensive schemes. The rest of the Bulls have raved about how much he's helped them learn their spots on the floor by playing that coach on the floor role.
In preseason, we saw how the offense always settled down once Scalabrine entered, and the Bulls learned to play inside the structure of the offense. As the regular season has worn on, Scalabrine doesn't have the athleticism to really stick against the regulars, but his contributions to getting the team ahead of the curve have helped pick up everyone else.
Thank you Kurt Thomas for accepting your role. Thomas has barely played, and when he's played, it hasn't gone well. However, he still provides some emergency depth that might come in handy at some point later during the season, and he's not rocking the boat despite no playing time.
Someone has to be the last guy off the bench on every team, and you just hope that guy can be a good chemistry guy and provide something if you call on him. I feel good about Kurt Thomas doing those things.
Thank you Carlos Boozer for playing the role of cheerleader for this team. It's a small thing, but Carlos Boozer has remained very visible with this team. He's gone to all the games, watched the team play, cheered them on, and he looks like he's excited to be apart of what's going on here.
When you're out with injury that's all you can do, and I think a lot of veteran players aren't always excited to play that role, but Boozer has been. I feel like his commitment to the team, even while injured, will greatly ease his integration with the roster when he's healthy.
Thank you Tom Thibodeau for being awesome. Thibodeau has been such a tremendous upgrade to Vinny Del Negro that it's difficult to describe in words. Thibodeau accomplishes what Vinny Del Negro dreamed up, but couldn't execute.
He has the Bulls playing tremendous defense, and I like his offensive sets. He makes great adjustments in games, and I like the way he's handled rotations. When a player steps up, he gives that player several chances to continue to play and prove himself, but doesn't stick with them forever.
He does a nice job hedging between sticking with the hot hand and his best players. His schemes are very good, and he draws up creative plays on inbound possessions. On top of all of that, he's a great interview and gives real basketball detail instead of vague coachisms after games.
Thank you Gar Forman and John Paxson for putting this all together. Sure, we wish we hit one of the big three in free agency, and despite how that's worked out, I'm not going to say I wouldn't love to take one of those guys now.
Still, the Bulls implemented a quality back up plan with their signings, and we haven't yet seen the full fruits of their labors. This is one of the most enjoyable Bulls teams in memory, rivaling the 2004/5 team as the most fun post Jordan squad.