The Best Chicago Bulls Values of 2011-12
By "true value," I mean attempting to quantify performance and then balance that figure against a player’s salary. Outperform your salary, and you’ve added surplus value to your team. Underperform it with a bad season, and that player “owes” the team—at least on paper.
I’m still seasoning the secret sauce of my first NBA Value Survey, here and now, examining the 2011-12 Chicago Bulls. But by incorporating “full value” metrics like PER and win shares for balance and grinding incorporating average salary to determine the monetary value of an NBA win, this is a fair crack at the credits and debits of this past season’s Bulls team.
True to a team that finished atop the basketball world with 50 wins in 2011-12, not a single one of the 14 rostered Bulls boasted negative win shares or value added. But thanks to a few weighty salaries, there are a few Toros of the past season who finished their year in the red.
The list starts off with a bit of a shock, so let’s get started. From least to most, here are the Bulls that provided the most value beyond their season salary.
14. Luol Deng (-$4,156,495 Surplus Value)
Lu’s 2011-12 was one of firsts, particularly in the way his defense was acknowledged. Deng was award with Second Team All-Defensive honors.
While no Bull came close to his 39.4 mpg (making him in one sense the most valuable player in coach Tom Thibodeau’s eyes), signs that the heavy minutes load wore him down came in the form of diminished overall numbers. His PER, having fallen in two straight seasons, stood at 14.1 for 2011-12, below that of an average NBA player.
Production like that, thrown up against his prodigious salary (second-highest on the team) put Deng in the red above all other Bulls.
13. Carlos Boozer (-$2,568,885)
That there was some rejoicing over Booz playing a full slate of games in 2011-12 is a testament to how disappointing he’s been in Chicago.
On the plus side, Boozer maximized his production (19.5 PER) given Tom Thibodeau dropping his minutes load below 30 for the first time since Boozer’s rookie season.
On the flip, the power forward cannot possibly have a better season in 2012-13. He is virtually a lock to hold the No. 14 surplus value position for the Bulls a year from now.
12. Richard Hamilton (-$1,365,755)
The Rip Hamilton experiment wasn’t destined to be the failure it turned out to be.
Yeah, there was some rear view mirror apologizing on behalf of Rip, in that the compressed schedule killed his older legs. But Hamilton has always maintained immaculate conditioning and his ability to marathon run 82 games a year arguably has always been his greatest asset as a pro.
Chicago’s desperate shopping of the final two years and $11 million of his contract, as well as the signing of possible long-term option Marco Belinelli, tells you all you need to know about the brass’s belief that Rip can bounce back.
11. Joakim Noah ($258,315 Surplus Value)
Jo has been counted out since he was what, five years old? So far be it for me to prognosticate him doing anything but becoming a better and better value for the Bulls.
His PER has increased a full point in each of his first five seasons, which reflects nothing short of a miraculous dedication to improving and broadening his game.
He’s right on the cusp of the elite centers in the game now, and it says here he breaks through to his greatest heights yet in 2012-13.
10. Ronnie Brewer ($1,282,200)
It’s hard to look at Brewer’s time in Chicago as anything but a disappointment. His strongest asset was simply in showing up, missing just one game over two seasons. And when you’re making just shy of the average NBA salary, just showing up allows you to turn a profit for your team, as Brewer did in 2011-12.
9. Brian Scalabrine ($1,356,759)
The most profitable towel-waver in the NBA, Scal turned minimal contribution and a minimum salary into a tidy profit for the Bulls.
8. C.J. Watson ($1,506,935)
Watson did more, in less court time, than the more esteemed Ronnie Brewer, and it showed in a profit of a couple hundred thousand more dollars to the Bulls.
7. Jimmy Butler ($2,277,570)
That Butler was able to contribute anything at all on the floor only made him more profitable to the Bulls, who paid him little more than $1 million in 2011-12.
If the bigger role anticipated for the sophomore in 2012-13 comes anywhere near fruition, Butler stands to easily crack Chicago’s top-five values next season.
6. Mike James ($2,479,569)
Take a guy getting paid nothing (OK, 300 grand) and keep asking him back on 10-days, and you’re rolling in profit. That’s the story of James’ 2012-13 in Chicago.
5. Kyle Korver ($2,585,365)
For a guy who was drummed out of Chicago as an “expensive” long-range shooting option, Korver sure did right by the Bulls, providing almost $7.6 million in production on a $5 million salary.
It’s a virtual lock that Vladimir Radmanovic—signed from the Atlanta Hawks in what amounted to a trade for Korver—will be on the wrong end of Chicago's value survey in 2012-13.
4. Derrick Rose ($2,970,642)
Obviously, had Rose suited up for more than 39 of 66 games in 2011-12, the franchise would have topped this list of surplus values. That he played just half the season on an enormously profitable roster and still ranks as the fourth-best value on the club is a testament to his otherworldly ability.
Playing in perhaps a quarter of games in 2012-13 will make it impossible for Rose to duplicate this placement next season, but what the Bulls are hoping for is ace production in all of the “free” games—there’s no extra salary for the boys after mid-April, heh—come spring.
3. Omer Asik ($3,072,640)
Asik certainly provided profit for the Bulls, but the club gambled that the increase minutes the Houston Rockets will offer the center won't be met with a commensurate uptick in production.
At $8 million per, Asik will need to nearly double his production in order for Houston to break even on him. That's far from a given.
2. John Lucas III ($4,155,033)
Lucas wasn’t just one of 2011-12's biggest surprises in Chicago, but the entire NBA. His production skyrocketed beyond anyone’s imagination—which means he’s almost guaranteed to fall back to Earth in 2012-13.
However, if Lucas can avoid an absolute free-fall to D-League levels, he’ll still provide an easy profit to his new club, the Toronto Raptors.
1. Taj Gibson ($6,201,720)
Gibson is everyone’s favorite underdog, and he continues to preposterously outperform his modest salary. What’s encouraging to the Chicago front office vis-à-vis Omer Asik is how much more Gibson produced for the club in just six minutes more floor time per game.
Assuming the Bulls can wrap Gibson up long-term for little more than Asik’s average salary in Houston, Chicago will have committed big money to a much more profitable player.
Projected to an 82-game season, Gibson’s 2011-12 production would be valued at more than $9 million—accomplished by playing just 20 mpg! There’s almost no risk attached to a long-term deal for No. 22, and the brass would be well served to lock the hop-frog up now to win back some fans soured by the summer.
The Bulls were extraordinarily profitable on the floor in 2011-12. Even while doling out nearly $70 million in salary, the team still turned an on-court production profit (surplus value) of $20,055,613. While that befits a club that led the league in wins, it’s still a remarkable achievement in an era when all-too-often teams are tempted to overspend chasing a No. 1 seed.
With Rose out and the team in transition for most of the season, it seems unreasonable to expect a similar profit come 2012-13. But with the core otherwise intact and a few tricks up Tom Thibodeau’s sleeve, another $20 million in surplus value come spring wouldn’t be the shocker of the season.