Derrick Rose had perhaps his best game since the ACL surgery, but it wasn't enough for the Bulls to beat the Washington Wizards.
Rose scored 32 points on 12-22 from the field. He was six of nine from beyond the arc including a half court heave buzzer beater to end the first quarter. It was nice to see Rose shoot the ball so well, but he's still far away from the player he was.
He drove to the basket some, but he's still not getting their with the routine ease that he used to which isn't devastating the opposing defense the way it would in the past. It's great when he has a big scoring night, but I didn't walk away from this game feeling like the performance was sustainable.
He still didn't look physically dominant by any stretch. That's not ripping on Derrick for his play, he played great. I just don't expect it to lead to much over the next few games as the start of Derrick being Derrick.
Is Jimmy Butler who we thought he was in September or December?
The answer is probably somewhere in between.
Butler's struggling through a fairly awful January. His three point percentage for the month is up to 39.4%, but everything is awful. His overall percentage is down to 36.4% from the field, and he's no longer getting foul calls.
Recently, I've seen Jimmy take a lot less close mid range jumpers. He's replaced the post turn around move from 10 feet out with an off the dribble step back 20 footer. The result hasn't been good.
When driving, I think the refs are onto him a bit and not buying all of his flopping moves. He made it to the line a ton early, but a bunch of those were fairly dicey calls. He's not getting those calls so far this month.
Butler's going to need to work his mid range shot back closer to the basket and finish better at the rim to get back to the player he was. The league adjusted to him, and now he needs to adjust back.
I think it may be the case that Butler is hurt considerably by not having Mike Dunleavy spacing the heck out of the floor next to him as well. This gets back to the point I've made frequently about guys who create space without the ball and how much value they bring.
Dunleavy is a shooter teams fear, guys like Afflalo or Chandler are shooters teams leave and hope they don't get hurt too bad if they do. Dunleavy creates space and kills you if left open, those other guys just hurt you if left open.
The Nov/Dec version of Jimmy Butler makes the Bulls contenders. The January version does not. Hopefully it's as simple as Butler making a couple of adjustments and Dunleavy's return to get back to that earlier version of Jimmy.
Pau Gasol flounders again
You know I've never been that fond of Pau Gasol on this blog. His big offensive performances can really help carry Chicago, and when he has the right match up, he's still a beast offensively.
His rebounding numbers look in line and are right where they should be. His contract isn't bad, and is in fact quite a bargain. I can't complain about it. In fact, overall, the signing has been a glorious success relative to the other options the Bulls may have realistically pursued.
It seriously was likely the best move the Bulls could have made this year most likely in the off-season given that Melo is out/needs surgery/was playing badly and Lance Stephenson has stunk up the court.
That said, when he has to go against legit quality big men, we often see nights like last night. Nights where the Bulls lose the battle on the boards too much and opponents mow Chicago down in the paint. He's late on his rotations and doesn't get out to cover jump shooters.
With Jo spraining his ankle on the last play of the second quarter and not returning, the Bulls didn't have much choice but to go with Gasol for a ton of minutes. There aren't better options, but Gasol went off on the Bulls lack of effort defensively against Orlando.
It reminds me a lot of when Nocioni and Deng complained about people not sharing the ball while having the lowest assist rates on the team.
I love and appreciate the signing of Pau for the money, but I wonder if we get to the playoffs and he's a Boozer. A guy who can't win match ups against good players who kills you on defense while also pushing our best defensive player into a role he doesn't play well.
I'd like the signing of Pau quite a bit more if the Bulls busted up the Joakim/Gasol tandem for more minutes.
Joakim Noah goes down with an ankle issue
As long as the injury isn't related to his knee, this might actually end up being a good thing for Noah. Joakim hasn't looked like himself physically and if he has to miss a couple weeks to heal up his ankle then perhaps his knee gets a chance to calm down as well.
You can love Noah because he'll play through anything, but a guy playing hurt isn't the same as a guy playing healthy. I appreciate that in the playoffs Noah will give the Bulls everything he has regardless, but in the regular season with a deep front court the Bulls can sustain his loss for awhile.
My only hope is that he doesn't rush back from whatever is going on. I think Noah's injuries combined with his age and likely questionable diet/off-season workout habits may have caught up to him. It may be the case that we simply don't see the player we saw last year again.
Joakim's been one of my favorites since before it was cool, since before the Bulls drafted him. However, I think there's a good chance that his best basketball is behind him even if it was just a year ago. That whatever they did to his knee was just stole a bit too much athleticism.
I'm hoping that isn't the case and that some rest will bring him back reinvigorated.
More Mirotic please
His numbers shooting percentages haven't always been great, but Mirotic is finding ways to score, and the team just feels like it plays better with him out there.
His biggest problem on the floor is clearly decisiveness on offense. He doesn't quite have the confidence of a true three point shooter yet and will frequently wait for the defense to close out when he should be taking the three or starting his dribble drive move.
That moment's hesitation he has is something that will only get beaten out of him with more playing time and once it does then watch out.
Nikola already impacts the game in a positive way the vast majority of the time he's out there. He's occasionally got his head turned on defense or gives up a bad play, but his effort and energy level are consistently there and often seem better than the rest of the Bulls big men.
If Joakim is down for any extended period of time then finding Mirotic more minutes won't be much of a problem.
Tony Snell looks like an NBA player
Snell was just three of nine from the field and 1/5 from beyond the arc, but despite the poor numbers his play actually looks much better to me on the court.
His defensive decision making has improved, and he's playing with energy. He doesn't seem to hesitate as much as he did earlier and looks to pass or shoot more quickly.
Maybe there's still some hope for Snell to become a Keith Bogans type of guy who can hang in the league to hit wide open threes and play defense.
I really wish he weren't playing so many minutes lately as I think Chicago's ultra big lineup was helping them more than Snell playing so much, but I do notice and appreciate an improvement in is overall play level even if it isn't necessarily showing up with great box score numbers.
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