Full Grades and Awards for the Chicago Bulls' 2012 NBA Regular Season
As the regular season winds down and pundits prepare to give out the league-wide awards, who should be recognized as the Bulls' best team performers this year?
Chicago Bulls Team MVP: Derrick Rose
Rose was the team's best performer this season.
It was not always pretty and he spent many games either out with injury or a bit rusty, but Chicago's success still begins and ends with Rose.
He is the critical ingredient in their recipe for winning: the electrifying, athletic point guard who can create offense in so many different ways.
To reach their potential in the playoffs, the Bulls will need him to be as close to 100 percent healthy as possible. If he can play at a high level, Chicago can beat anyone in the NBA.
Chicago Bulls Defensive MVP: Luol Deng
The Bulls have many great defensive players. Joakim Noah, Ronnie Brewer, Taj Gibson and Omer Asik are all defense-first players with significant rotation minutes.
But Chicago's defensive captain is clearly Luol Deng. He usually guards the opponent's best offensive player in man defense situations and is the wing centerpiece of the Bulls' zone defense.
So, if Rose is Chicago's offensive captain and team MVP, Deng is the heart and soul of the Bulls' defense. Together, they are responsible for the team's success.
Chicago Bulls' X Factor: The Bench
It would be hard to explain this season's success without giving great credit to Chicago's bench. It is the NBA's best and collectively one of the critical determinants of the team's success.
The Bulls have depth at every position. C.J. Watson and John Lucas III are great backups at the point. Watson is a strong outside shooter, while Lucas can fearlessly drive to the rim. Ronnie Brewer is an ace defender at shooting guard. Kyle Korver provides the best three-point shooting in basketball. And Taj Gibson and Omer Asik are the best front-court reserve tandem in the NBA.
Come the playoffs, Chicago will count heavily on the bench to be a key difference maker.
Chicago Bulls Starters Performance Grades
Derrick Rose, B+
He spent a lot of time injured, it's true. But Rose was mostly effective when healthy and did not decline in any specific way. He remains the best offensive weapon on a team with the Eastern Conference's best record.
Bulls fans must hope this season's back and groin issues do not become chronic.
Richard Hamilton, D
The former Pistons star barely played this regular season. He has been very effective in the last couple weeks, however, and could be a playoffs X-factor if he is healthy.
Luol Deng, B+
Like Rose, he has spent time injured and played hurt through many games. He has also been quite effective, staying close to his typical offensive averages and becoming the heart and soul of basketball's best defense.
Carlos Boozer, C+
He takes a lot of heat but Boozer has been effective, played the whole season without injury, and served as a crucial post threat. But he needs to average closer to 20 points than 15 and be more aggressive in the post.
He settles for mid-range shots too often and his defense is the worst of any player on the whole team.
Joakim Noah, B
He had a rough start to the season and regressed from last year's career year. But he is still a very good center with All-Star level ability.
Chicago Bulls Bench Performance Grades
C.J. Watson, B
He is a great outside shooter at over 40 percent on threes and can pass. But his overall shooting percentage was below 40 percent.
John Lucas, B+
He can penetrate, is fearless, and is a very good third point guard.
Ronnie Brewer, B
He is now an ace defender. But his offense got much worse this year and he averaged less than seven points. Can he fix that trend?
Jimmy Butler, C
He is a hard worker but did not become a critical player in limited minutes as a rookie. Grade is really incomplete.
Kyle Korver, A
He learned to become a good system defender and is the game's best three-point shooter off the bench. He knows his role and performs it day in and day out.
Taj Gibson, A-
He really grew as a player, developing offensive moves, becoming aggressive and turning into a defensive ace. But he needs to foul less to earn starters minutes.
Brian Scalabrine, A
He doesn't play so there is no point in grading him on that. But he is a coach in the locker room and a key defensive leader in practice.
Ever wonder how every Bull learns the system so seamlessly? Thank Scal.
Omer Asik: A-
He is a special defender but the offensive game has not developed just yet; will it ever come?