Chicago Bulls Stock Watch: Who's Rising and Falling Halfway Through Preseason?
The Bulls started training camp with 18 players, including 10 newcomers and one injured superstar in Derrick Rose.
The Bulls’ second unit, overhauled in the offseason, is much like the stock market thus far, with its fair share of ups and downs.
The Bulls have struggled to score at times, while learning the system and how to play with each other. The Bulls’ problems with cohesion were expected, but how some of them have performed, good or bad, have been surprising.
A few players have witnessed their stocks crash, most notably Kyrylo Fesenko, the burly center who so far has failed to live up to his size. And Fesenko was not the only player to have his stock take a nosedive.
But there are not as many disappointments as you would imagine; there have been some pleasant surprises.
Here are the Bulls players whose stocks have risen or fallen at the halfway point of the NBA preseason.
Kirk Hinrich: Rising
When Kirk Hinrich agreed to return to the Bulls, there was a subtle sigh of relief from Bulls fans.
In terms of production, there is little mystery to what he brings to the team: He is a jack-of-all-trades type of player who can do a little of everything well, yet not great.
As a coach’s son, Hinrich has a good understanding of the game. He knows when to pass, shoot and take a charge.
As a former captain for the Bulls, Hinrich also knows when to pick up his teammates.
Those intangibles have been apparent thus far in the preseason.
After the first four preseason games, Hinrich leads the Bulls in assist (6.0 APG), is third in both scoring (11.3 PPG) and steals (1.33) and he is second on the team with minutes played (27.7 MPG).
Those statistics are proof-positive that Hinrich has what it takes to be just as good the second time around as he was in his first stint with the Bulls.
With Hinrich, the Bulls are in great hands until Derrick Rose returns from injury.
Taj Gibson: Distressingly Sliding
The time is ticking for the Bulls and Taj Gibson to agree to a contract extension.
With a deadline (courtesy of CSNChicago.com) of October 31st, neither side can afford to waste much time.
Gibson seems to be playing under the pressure of justifying his potentially huge raise. He has shot a woeful .321 from the field, and has been in foul trouble consistently throughout the preseason.
Gibson on his preseason struggles (courtesy of ESPNChicago.com):
"I'm just trying to take my time, letting the game come to me," Gibson said. "Trying to take some open looks every now and then. It isn't going good so far from the shot standpoint. But I look at how I've been playing this preseason the last couple years. Just trying to let my game come to me and just take it in stride, learn from it and come back to practice the next day and go even harder."
What he must do is relax and let his agent do the heavy lifting during contract negotiations, while he returns to his normal self by doing the heavy lifting on the basketball court.
The Bulls will certainly finalize an extension with Gibson at some point between now and the deadline. The team needs him in the fold.
Jimmy Butler: Going Up
Because of the NBA lockout, rookies from the 2011 NBA draft class came into the league without a full training camp under their belts. Teams could not have practice sessions (via nba.com) during the lockout.
This hurt Jimmy Butler’s development.
Without time to practice and become acclimated with his fellow teammates, Butler saw very little time on the floor for the Bulls.
The Bulls will count on Butler to play big minutes this season, and he has proven thus far that he can handle the load.
Nazr Mohammed: Skyrocketing
It is only the preseason, but Nazr Mohammed has been a revelation for the Bulls thus far.
He has been an offensive rebounding force (7.5 RPG) and his scoring (9.0 PPG) has been better than many fans can imagine. Mohammed has opened more than a few eyes with his performances.
The Mohammed that Bulls fans have been privy to is not the same player we see now, judging from his previous seasons in the NBA.
If he keeps up his torrid play, Mohammed will add a different dimension to the Bulls. Combining with starting center Joakim Noah to score 20 points and grab 17 rebounds a game will translate into more victories.
Kyrylo Fesenko: Gone Without a Trace
There were some reasonable expectations with Kyrylo Fesenko.
The Bulls are in need of more depth in their frontcourt, and if Fesenko could provide energy and defense, he would be in a good position to make the roster.
Defensively, Fesenko has the talent to be a solid contributor on any NBA team, and playing for Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau would be beneficial to his growth as a player.
But the opportunity was short-lived, as Fesenko struggled to make an impression, resulting in the Bulls giving him his walking papers (Chicago Bulls waive Kyrylo Fesenko report via nba.com/bulls).
The big center from the Ukraine appeared out of shape, and it cost him.
Fesenko would have given the Bulls more size and a young center to develop. He will have to wait and see if another NBA team is willing to give him another chance at making their roster.
It's a shame that it did not work out with the Bulls. Perhaps by being waived, Fesenko will turn this setback into a wake-up call.
Ryan Allen: Things Are Looking Up
After the Bulls waived Fesenko, Ryan Allen’s slim chances (via CSNChicago.com) at making the team dramatically increased.
Allen has not played much during the preseason, but he is a surefire Tom-Thibodeau-type of player.
He is a grinder, much like his older brother, Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen. Thibodeau coached the elder Allen brother during his years with the Boston Celtics, and Thibodeau has shown a penchant for taking care of players (Nate Robinson, Brian Scalabrine and John Lucas) that he has coached.
Playing for the coach who helped oversee his brother’s development is not Ryan’s only tie to the Bulls: He is also one of Derrick Rose’s best friends.
That has to weigh heavy on the minds of the Bulls management as they decide who will make their final roster.
Financially, the Bulls are in a bind. They are facing the hard cap and cannot sign anyone to a guaranteed contract for at least another month.
The beauty of Ryan Allen is that he is an undrafted rookie that the Bulls can sign and not incur the risk of a heavy tax penalty.
In the end, having a real chance of making the Bulls roster makes Ryan Allen the biggest winner of the preseason.