Bulls: Season report card

The Chicago Bulls’ season came to an end on Thursday with an 83-80 loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.

No one saw these Bulls, led by 22-year-old NBA MVP Derrick Rose, going to the East finals with the top seed in the NBA. But there they were, three games away from the NBA Finals after a 103-82 win in Game 1 over the Heat. Late game situations in Games 2 to 5 killed the Bulls, though.

Still, it was a positive season for the Bulls all-around. Let’s take a look at how the players and head coach Tom Thibodeau performed in what was a 62-victory campaign.

Derrick Rose--Game 5.jpg


Derrick Rose, PG: A
Rose was the league’s youngest MVP ever, and rightfully so. He improved drastically from his rookie and sophomore year, taking a major leap in his play, as he averaged 25 points, nearly eight assists and four rebounds in 81 games. Every part of Rose’s game improved — his passing, shooting (midrange and three’s), leadership and clutch play. He led the NBA in points accounted for — overall and in the fourth quarter. It led to loud MVP chants for Rose throughout the season. But when the playoffs came, Rose was blitzed and saw plenty of new defenses whose goal was to thwart the MVP. He saw plenty of hard fouls, too. The game of the playoffs for Rose was his dominant 44-point, seven-rebound performance in Game 3 versus the Atlanta Hawks in Game 3 of the Conference semifinals. Although when the Bulls needed Rose most, in the Eastern Conference finals, he came up short. He averaged a playoffs series-low 23 points versus the Heat on 35 percent shooting. Simply, the Heat didn’t trust any of Rose’s teammates to make plays, instead, they threw double, triple teams at Rose and clogged up the paint on nearly all of his drives. It was tough for Rose to find seams, passing room, and it didn’t get much easier as the Heat went to the 6-8 LeBron James late in games to defend the 6-3 Rose. But Rose continued to try to get into the paint, though the proper play, at times, was to shoot the jumper. He shot plenty of three’s during the postseason, six per game to be exact, though hit just 25 percent of them. Rose will need to continue to make strides on his jump-shot, because teams will continue to give him space in attempts to stop him. His midrange game has been consistent during his first three seasons, but Rose went away from it in the playoffs, reverting to more three’s. Still, it was a tremendous, breakout season for Rose, solidifying himself as the league’s top point guard. He, like the Bulls, exceeded all expectations and will continue to get better.

Luol Deng, SF: A-
He called it his best season in the NBA. And it’s hard to argue with that. Deng averaged 17 points and six rebounds in all 82 regular-season games and was the second-leading scorer during the postseason (17). He also made great strides defensively, and even though LeBron had moments of dominance in the East finals, Deng defended him, Danny Granger, in round one, and Josh Smith and Joe Johnson, in round two, to a tee. He did rack up the minutes, though, so the offseason couldn’t come at a better time for Deng, who will definitely need to rest up for next season. It’d be great to see Deng continue to improve on his three-point shot, though there’s not much you could’ve asked from the 26-year-old. He won’t ever be The Man people saw him as four years ago, but, barring injury, he’ll be a cornerstone for the Bulls for years to come.

Joakim Noah, C: B-
If not for the torn ligaments on his right thumb in late November, Noah was heading for an All-Star season with the Bulls. But the thumb really hampered Noah’s play, as he went away from the midrange jumper he worked hard on developing (and was hitting early in the season) during the offseason, and never seemed to get a great feel around the basket with that right hand. Still, Noah’s game is predicated on energy, and that was up-and-down during the postseason. He had his moments, including a 21-point, 14-rebound game in the first round, but never had the impact we felt was needed for a Bulls title run. He’ll have to work on maintaining health next season, because this is two seasons in a row in which he’s experienced injury issues. As long as Noah works on getting back his outside touch and health, he should be an All-Star next season. But he’ll also need to work on his conditioning; he looked gassed early in second halves for the Bulls simply due to the high pace of games.

Carlos Boozer, PF: D
Brought to Chicago to provide 20 points and 10 rebounds per game, he struggled to find the offensive touch late in the season, including the playoffs, and was the Bulls’ worst defender. Boozer came close to expectations during the regular-season, averaging 17 points and nearly 10 rebounds, though the way he finished the season, averaging 15 points and eight rebounds after the All-Star break, was a foreshadowing for things to come. He averaged 13 points and 10 rebounds in the playoffs, a far cry from the 20-point, 13-rebound playoff average coming into this one. No team will want his contract, so trading Boozer’s out of question. The Bulls will just have to hope he steps up his game — on both ends — but the defensive end may be a pipe dream, at best. But with a full training camp and preseason, and hopefully season, his on-court chemistry should grow with Noah, as the two didn’t look comfortable on the court, at times, and never able to gel the way we expected.

Keith Bogans, SG: B-
He started all 82 games for the Bulls and averaged a putrid four points. He did shoot the three-point shot well, hitting 38 percent in the regular-season and 42 percent in the playoffs, though he never created for himself, or others, and because of that, teams were able to sag off him. Sure, he’d hit one or two three’s per game, and really stepped up his defense in the playoffs, especially versus Dwyane Wade in the East finals, but when the Bulls needed a bucket, they were, for the most part, playing four-on-five. He did start every game for the Bulls, but never played starters minutes, often sitting out second and fourth quarters in favor of Ronnie Brewer or Kyle Korver. For $1.6 million, the Bulls got a cheap option to play alongside Rose this season for leadership and size (6-5). But, in order to compete with the Heat, which they’ll likely find themselves doing next season, the Bulls will have to upgrade at two guard. They know that. To the delight of many Bulls fans, that means a dip into Bogans’ playing time, if not no Bogans at all (gone via trade).

Taj Gibson-DWade.jpg

Taj Gibson, PF: B
After averaging nine points and seven and a half rebounds in his rookie season, he averaged just seven points and six rebounds this season. But that had much to do with the Bulls’ addition of Boozer. Gibson did show improved post play when the Bulls would give him the opportunities and his midrange jumper came around late in the playoffs. At age 26 by the time next season rolls around, Gibson should continue to make strides. He won’t be a 20 and 10 guy, but with the way Boozer played in the postseason, he could certainly end up playing big minutes next season.

Ronnie Brewer, SG: B
Many thought Brewer, who was signed last offseason, would be the Bulls’ starting two guard this season, but a hamstring injury during preseason set him back. It was an inconsistent season from then on, and the playing time was never there, as Brewer averaged 16 minutes during the regular-season, almost 10 under his career mark. He suffered a sprained left thumb late in the season, though still sucked it up and played a big role for the Bulls in the playoffs. If Brewer can get completely healthy — with his thumb and nagging hamstring, as his leaping wasn’t as good as advertised — he could find himself as the starting two guard unless the Bulls sign a better option. They’ll have plenty to choose from: Jason Richardson, J.R. Smith, Arron Afflalo (restricted free-agent) and Jamal Crawford, to name a few.

Omer Asik, C: B
Noah may be the Bulls’ best basket defender, but it’s clear Asik was the Bulls’ best help defender, and late in the season, showed he can potentially cover players on the perimeter, as well. There’s no question he’ll need to work on his hands and develop some kind of offensive game besides just dunking the basketball. But it was a positive rookie season for the 25-year-old, who should only get better and become the Bulls’ primary backup center by next season if the proper improvements are made and hard work is put in on regaining health on his broken left fibula.

Kyle Korver, SG/SF: C-
The sole reason he was brought to Chicago was for his shooting. And it was very streaky throughout the course of the season. It got even worse in the playoffs, coming in the biggest of moments. After shooting 59 percent of three’s in round one, Korver made 38 percent in round two and 29 percent in the East finals. You just have to chalk it up and hope Korver can hit shots, because he’s a complete train wreck on the defensive end. And with the lack of shooting on the Bulls’ roster as currently constructed, the Bulls will give Korver plenty of opportunities to regain the touch on his smooth-looking jumper.

C.J. Watson, PG: C
It’s tough to be the MVP’s backup, it really is. In that regard, you have to cut Watson, whose playing time was up-and-down the entire season, some slack He had his moments, though, including a 33-point game versus the Denver Nuggets in November. Ironically, Rose missed that game with a tweaked neck. In the playoffs, Watson had more inconsistencies, and wasn’t the true pass-first point guard you want from your backup. At $3.4 million for next season, the former D-Leaguer will probably stick around, though the Bulls may target a pass-first guard in the draft. He wasn’t a pass-first player to begin with, and when the Bulls tried to put him in that role this season, he had his struggles. Hopefully, he’ll refine his decision-making and give the Bulls more consistency next season.

Rasual Butler, SG/SF: IC
When the Bulls picked up Butler midway through the season, Thibodeau reminded that the Bulls already had a set rotation and Butler wouldn’t get an opportunity unless there was an injury. Thibodeau was honest. Butler never got a chance to prove his worth, and when he did get brief moments, he showed he can knock down shots. Both sides can work things out for a return next season, as Butler will get a training camp and preseason to learn Thibodeau’s system, but it’ll be a wait-and-see approach. Who knows, he may end up being the Bulls’ answer at shooting guard. We’ll just have to see if the Bulls resign him, because a Rose/Butler backcourt would be fun to watch with Rose’s penetration and Butler’s shooting, kind of like Rose and Korver, though Butler’s a much better defender than Korver.

John Lucas III, PG; Jannero Pargo, PG/SG; Brian Scalabrine, PF: A
The three usual suspects to hold the Bulls’ inactive spots did a great job cheering their teammates on and warming the bench. The chances either of them return next season is slim, though the way Bulls fans love to chant and cheer for Scalabrine, you may see a return of the man Stacey King calls, “The Man, the Myth, the Legend.”

Tom Thibodeau, head coach: A
What more can you ask of a first-year head coach? Thibodeau’s imprints were all over this 2010-11 Bulls team, as they talked and acted like him from the beginning of the season to their Game 5 loss against the Heat. He also took home the NBA’s Coach of the Year and tied Paul Westphal for most wins by a rookie head coach. That’s pretty darn good. Although Thibodeau has some substitution issues to straighten out — at times, keeping players on the bench too long or in the game too long — everything else he brought to the table exceeded expectations. He’s no Vinny, that’s for sure.

In the end, the Bulls: A
Although the Bulls lost in five games to the Heat in the East finals, it shouldn’t take away from the breakout season they experienced in 2010-11. Coming into the season, did many have them winning 40 games? Yes. 50 games? Maybe. 60 games? No chance. They notched 40 wins on February 26; notched 50 wins on March 21; notched 60 wins on April 10. In theory, this young cast may have achieved this success — the NBA’s best record and East finals berth — too early. And still, they didn’t feel content with their success and felt like they should have been in the NBA Finals come June, not sitting on their couches. These Bulls will be back, knocking on the door of an NBA Finals berth again, likely next season with those same Heat. After a preseason with low expectations, the Bulls passed them all. It was a successful season for the young, inexperienced Bulls, who hold all the potential in the world with the run they had this season.

Comments

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  • Kurt Thomas A- always ready! Keep him!

    Korver is a D! He has to play more to get in the shooting groove and he can't play D! Dump him!

    No-Shot Noah the Nancy is a C- or a D+ at best, he gets pushed around as if he were on roller skates. Noah is a flyweight weakling, Rodman was slender and powerful. NOAH is an over rated joke who still gets winded. This clown will never have an offensive game. You must be drunk to beleve that No-Shot will be an All-Star. Trade him while he he is worth something!!

    Boozer is a C because of his injuries! Bad toe could not jump!

    Deng is a miracle, he was not hurt this year! He is a B-, he disappears in the 4th quarter.

    Bogans is a C-, can't or won't shoot.
    .
    Asik is a C. The turk has a real up side. He should start instead of Noah the florida fairy who can bring energy and nothing else off the bench.

  • In reply to Alex:

    Before Noah tore ligaments in his right thumb, it was a foregone conclusion that he was heading to the All-Star game in February. He's one of the top centers in the game, though with the lack of them that isn't saying much.

    He's got for a double-double every night and is a good defender, too. This offseason, however, it's clear he's got to work on his conditioning. He looked gassed throughout the postseason. That thumb injury probably has a lot to do with the lack of conditioning, though.

  • In reply to Shams Charania:

    It took No-Shot Noah the Nancy, the first 1-3/4 years in the NBA to get in running shape. One trip down the court and the clown was winded! Noah can't compete against strong or talented big men! He is a weakling!
    One point and five rebounds is a low against the heat.

    Reality is tough: Noah is Nothing and if he is starting the Buls can't win a championship!

    Yes, I am a big Buls fan!

  • In reply to Alex:

    That isn't true on so many levels. Noah, if healthy, is one of the best centers in the NBA.

  • In reply to Shams Charania:

    No-Shot Noah can not compete against good and strong centers and power forwards! He gets pushed around, open your eyes and you can see it!

    When all the chips were down Noah the Nancy was glued to the bench because he is not and never will be a scoring option!! Noah is a flyweight!

    Boozer was hurt, Deng disappears in the 4th quarter and Korver is a joke!

    Butler and Brewer maybe the answer at SG and Asik should get as much time as Noah the Nancy! Howard is a pipe dream,

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