Chicago Bulls fans have enjoyed some mild success in the first week of the NBA season, and several Bulls’ players have earned high grades. Keeping up with the current time, kids across Chicago are receiving their report cards. It is never too early to hand out report cards to the Bulls’ players, which I am about to do.
The Bulls have looked good with a 2-1 record. They were one bad third quarter against the New Orleans Hornets from being undefeated at 3-0.
During the first week of the season, the Bulls have had a few pleasant surprises, but two of their players have stood out.
On their report cards, players will only be graded on what they have done on the basketball court. What will not factor in the grading process is how fans personally view that player.
In other words, fans may want to see a few players off the team, but we must give credit when credit is due.
Vladimir Radmanovic may be a good player, but he is not a fit for what the Bulls need. He has played three minutes and scored three points in two games.
The Bulls need size at the center position. Radmanovic can still hit the occasional three-pointer, but he does not provide the frontcourt presence the Bulls need if they want to be competitive against bigger NBA teams.
The Hornets used their size on defense to harass the Bulls when they took shots in the paint. A player that is more adept at making shots in the post would have helped the Bulls versus the Hornets.
The Bulls may bring a player on board later on in the season. Keep your fingers crossed.
Marquis Teague gets an incomplete for now because by playing only four minutes this season, he has not been put in a position to make an impression.
What is aggravating is that, with the Bulls stuck in the dregs of the NBA, there is no reason why Teague cannot play six or seven minutes a game. Teague could get a sample-size of NBA experience by playing minor minutes for a team that does not factor into the NBA Championship picture as of yet. It could be a win-win situation for both Teague and the Bulls.
Nazr Mohammed’s playing time (7.7 MPG) has a lot to do with his grade. It is difficult to say that he has struggled because of his limited time on the basketball court. Bulls’ head coach Tom Thibodeau may be playing Mohammed sparingly, saving him from logging heavy minutes so that he will be healthy going forward.
At least during his brief time on the floor Mohammed has played good defense. He has not hurt the Bulls when he has played, and that is good enough for Bulls fans.
Jimmy Butler has been good on defense but he has been bad on offense. The reason why he has been bad on offense is his reluctance to look for shots.
Butler has taken six shots in three games this season.
That is not good enough.
It is understandable that Butler’s primary focus is on the defensive end. He must guard the opposing team’s wing players. That does not mean he should shy away from taking shots.
It is very early and Butler has time to become a reliable offensive player but he has disappointed so far.
Confidence has been Marco Belinelli’s arch-nemesis so far during his stint with the Bulls. He struggled to find a role in the preseason and as a result, he risked losing his potential place in the Bulls’ rotation.
As the season began, many Bulls fans were ready to write off the Italian sharpshooter, but three games into the season, Belinelli has shown what he can do, and his confidence has risen.
His scoring has been good (9.0 PPG), and his passing has been crisp. Belinelli has shown good offensive awareness, while understanding when to pass and shoot.
Now, Belinelli has to improve his defense. If he continues to build confidence, the Bulls will be tough to beat, but if his confidence takes a hit, it may be a long season.
Taj Gibson has played well so far, but the problem is justifying his new four-year, $38 million contract (via USAToday.com). Averaging 8.0 PPG and 5.3 RPG is not enough for a player earning $9.5 million per season. He can no longer have the standard “Taj Gibson-type” of season.
Gibson spoke with reporters about signing his contract extension to stay with the Bulls (via chicagotribune.com):
Pax and Gar stressed they wanted me here a long time. It dawned on me I didn't want to be a selfish player. I wanted to get what's fair. It's a lot of money. I can't really turn it down, especially for the security. You never know what can happen during the year. At any given moment, I could pull a groin or hurt my knee.
The good thing is the season is still young, but now that Gibson has signed off on a new deal, his expectations have increased.
Nate Robinson played exceptionally well during the first week of the NBA season. His averages of 12.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG, and 5.0 APG could lead to NBA Sixth-Man of the Year consideration.
In three games, he has proven that he can play the point guard position and run the offense effectively, while not taking many bad shots. With starter Kirk Hinrich still hobbled (via Chicago Sun-Times) with a sore groin, Robinson played extended minutes against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Hornets.
Kirk Hinrich has been steady during the beginning stages of his second coming, but a groin injury has slowed him down. The beautiful thing about Hinrich is that he is a consistent performer who keeps mistakes at a minimal and does not hurt the team in any way.
Hinrich must increase his scoring of 4.7 PPG to at near double-digits in order to keep opposing defenses honest. His injury may be why he has struggled to score, so for now he will get a pass.
In the first week, Deng has done a little bit of everything. He has gotten to the free-throw line (5.3 FTA) when the Bulls have needed scoring and grabbed rebounds (8.3 RPG) when needed. Deng has also made several key defensive stops.
His defense against the Hornets, despite an 89-82 loss (via ESPN.com), helped spark an early second quarter Bulls’ run. They only outscored the Hornets 26-25 in that quarter, but good defense by Deng gave the Bulls the lead most of the period.
Richard Hamilton has looked great at times (19 points versus the Cavaliers) and has looked bad at times (four points and 2-of-10 shooting against the Hornets). He is second on the team in scoring (14.0 PPG) despite his bad outing versus the Hornets.
What is alarming about Hamilton is Coach Thibodeau's reluctance to play him in the fourth quarter of the Bulls' loss against New Orleans. The Bulls clearly needed more scoring on the basketball court, but Hamilton, a proven scorer, was glued to the bench.
Carlos Boozer had a bad game defensively in the loss to the Hornets. Boozer was consistently out of position when the Hornets ran pick-and-roll plays. Whether it was Ryan Anderson burying jumpers or Jason Smith getting free and easy dunks, Boozer’s man was unopposed for much of the night.
Despite his uneven performance in the loss to the Hornets, Boozer has played well.
He has not scored many points, only averaging 13.7 PPG, but he has been active on offense.
Boozer has set good screens and has taken good shots, but defenses are paying closer attention to him thus far. The Bulls have also shared the ball well, as seven players are averaging eight points or more per game.
Despite it being early in the season, Joakim Noah’s improvement is noticeable.
After three games, Noah leads the Bulls in scoring (14.7 PPG), rebounding (8.7 RPG) and steals (2.7 SPG). He has been active in every facet of the season for the Bulls, defensively and on offensively.
Noah has aggressively looked for his shot in the low-post and on the perimeter. With his energy, Noah has taken on a larger leadership role with this team and the team has responded. Noah has set up the defense and has had the offense run through him at times.