The Chicago Bulls sit with a 5-5 record, and all things considering, it could be much worse. However, the 5-5 record also would make the Bulls look like a middle of the pack team, and they aren't.
Their best win? They've defeated the 5-4 Timberwolves, a team also playing above its record without Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. They've also defeated teams with records of (2-8, 3-6, 4-7, and 2-8). They've lost to two great teams (Clippers, Thunder), but have also lost to Boston (6-5), New Orleans without Anthony Davis (3-5), and now Portland (5-5).
The Bulls are, so far, beating the dregs of the league and losing to the upper and middle class. That's not going to cut it.
Joakim Noah came to play last night
Noah had 16 points, 15 boards, and eight assists falling just two assists shy of his second career triple double. The nice thing about Noah's night is that he repeatedly scored by taking his man off the dribble and banging in the post. Noah continued his trend as offense creator rather than simple garbage time scorer.
He played 41 minutes and looked a bit gassed by the end of the game, but he was one of the few bright spots for Chicago all night long.
Luol Deng was mostly fine
He shot 50% from the field, scored 14 points, had plenty of boards, but the Bulls probably needed more volume scoring out of him than just the 14 points. Nicholas Batum also racked up 21 points on 5/10 from the three point line getting plenty of open looks, some of which due to the fact that Deng wasn't hustling back on defense, a trend which many Bulls seemed to share last night.
Moreover, the defense failed Chicago as the Bulls shot nearly 50% from the field.
Did we overrate Taj?
After signing his contract Taj Gibson has played abysmally on offense this season. He turns the ball over at a high rate while probably deserving to get whistled for twice as many travels as they actually call. His defense was very good earlier against the scrub teams, but he's struggled to make a defensive impact against better competition.
I'm still glad the Bulls locked up Taj, but he needs to get his head back in the game, find his jumper, and play with more consistency.
You ever see Rudy?
"You just summed up your entire sorry career here in one sentence! If you had a tenth of the heart of Ruettiger, you'd have made All-American by now! As it is, you just went from third team to the prep team! Get out of here! "
That's how I felt about Carlos Boozer when he was back on defense three feet from the basket on a fast break [miracle he was back at all you say?] then a Blazer just came swooping in from the baseline and dunked the ball. Boozer was watching him the entire way but never made a move to contest the shot. Just sat there and watched as a play went from near the three point line to a dunk without taking one step to get in front of him.
Kirk Hinrich shot 33% from the field and raised his FG%
Yes, it's that bad. He's not stopping anyone on defense either, so let's not pretend he's making it up on that end of the court. The one thing I'll say about Hinrich is that he's transformed into a pretty good playmaker, the rest of the guys run the offense smoothly while he's on the court, but man he needs to find his shot.
So why was Rip Hamilton out?
Hamilton had a strong offensive night scoring 15 on 7/10 shooting, but unusual for Thibs, he didn't keep the hot hand in the game down the stretch. Now generally speaking, I'm not going to complain about Rip riding the bench. He belongs there more games than not, but last night you keep Vlad in because he's part of the unit leading the comeback and tonight you don't keep Hamilton in despite being perhaps your teams most effective scorer?
If you have a general philosophy of riding the hot hand, but you want to use some exceptions then I totally get it. How is Vladimir Radmanovic worthy of one while you make one to go against Rip Hamilton? Just kind of odd.
The Bulls need to find some three point shooting
Marco Belinelli was wide open. He had time. He wasn't contest. He set his feet. He fired. He missed. This is the shot Kyle Korver knocks down 9/10 times while Marco knocks it down maybe 5/10. That difference in three point shooting is killing the Bulls who struggle to get anything done from beyond the arc.
Belinelli's percentage (39.1%) isn't too bad, but what is missed out on this is that he's taking far easier threes than Korver would take. He's not drawing the defense the way Korver would, and he's still hitting a lower percentage. Granted, Korver's a top 2-3 three point shooter in the NBA, so it's unfair to compare Belinelli to that role. He came in at least than half the salary, and he's doing the best he can.
That said, the replacement is really hurting Chicago, especially given how strong a season Noah's having down low, if they had Korver on the wing instead the Bulls would be much more dangerous offensively.
Nate Robinson still one of the pleasant surprises
Sometimes he overdribbles, sometimes he plays too much heroball, but overall, he's been effective for Chicago. He's typically playing in units where there's no one to pass to and has to take quite a few shots himself. I'm sure he's fine with that. To Nate's credit, he's generally done an excellent job of creating offense for himself with a weak offensive cast around him.
He was 5/10 last night for 18 points and brought the Bulls back within fighting distance at the very end though his effort was ultimately too little too late.
Besides being generally effective, Robinson and Noah might be the only two fun players on the team to watch (maybe I'll give you Jimmy Butler and Taj on a good night).
Nazr Mohammed used up all his juice in preseason
I was so pleasantly surprised watching Nazr in preseason. I thought this guy's going to help us more than Asik. Well that thought ended real fast once the games that counted came. He's been completely abysmal so far. Hopefully he can find some of that magic that allowed him to actually score down low or play a reasonable facsimile of defense, because it's been a train wreck so far.
More middle class teams coming
The next three games the Bulls will go @Houston, @Milwaukee, and Milwaukee. While Milwaukee presently has a good record, it's hard to take that record too seriously at this point. These are the types of games Chicago needs to prove they can win. 3-0 will restore my faith in the team, 2-1 will be a good mark, 1-2 will be disappointing, 0-3 and some vents of epic proportion are coming.