6 Biggest Disappointments for Chicago Bulls so Far
Chicago Bulls fans, this is your moment. What has disappointed you the most so far?
It's now time to air out your grievances, clean out your closets, get things off your chest, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera!
I have seen some of your comments, and few of those have been addressed. There are still many of you that have yet to utter a word.
With so many things to be disappointed about, we must keep in mind that the Bulls, barring a total collapse, will make the playoffs. They have played competitive basketball all season. Derrick Rose will return at some point, offering a glimmer of hope to anyone who believes that the Bulls can reach the Eastern Conference finals.
Before we can discuss the good things, though, we have to focus on the bad.
All statistics taken from both ESPN and NBA.com are accurate as of 1-3-13.
Taj Gibson's Struggles
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Taj Gibson has to step up!
Without a doubt, a large contingent of Bulls fans would like to see Gibson start at power forward over Carlos Boozer.
Yet other than Gibson’s 21-point, 11-rebound performance against the Orlando Magic on January 2, he has struggled.
And that was the 30th game of the season.
Gibson plays good defense, yet his offensive game has stumbled. By now, he should be averaging no less than 12 points and eight rebounds per contest. His 6.7 PPG and 4.8 RPG are underwhelming at best.
Gibson is a fine player. It shouldn't have taken this long for him to show what he can do.
The fact that local media outlets have had fans question whether the Bulls made a mistake by choosing Gibson over Omer Asik says it all.
Why Can't the Bulls Get a Call When It Matters Most
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I have had a few observers, Bulls fans if you will, talk to me about the lack of favorable calls the Bulls are getting from the NBA referees. After watching several games I have concluded that their assessments are partially correct.
The Bulls, just like any other NBA team, gets their share of calls. If you look beyond the numbers, the calls they receive are misleading.
How about this for an interesting statistic; the Bulls average 22.3 free throw attempts a game, good for 14th in the NBA.
Here is another surprising statistic; the Bulls are ninth in free throw shooting differential. They take 1.2 more shots from the charity stripe than their opponents. Those numbers would suggest that the Bulls get their fair share of calls. What the numbers do not suggest is the timing of the calls.
How times do you find yourself watching the Bulls game, they are in the midst of making a run that will tie up the game. On the next Bulls possession, Luol Deng aggressively attacks the basket, but instead of getting a blocking foul called in his favor, the referee calls a charge.
In another scenario, the Bulls are staging a comeback. Their defense is smothering the opponents, but the star player on the opposing team is looking to shoot. If his shot falls short, the referees look past the fact that the Bulls have played strong defense, a foul is called against the Bulls’ defender.
Both of these situations happen during the third and fourth quarters of the game.
This has a clear effect on the game’s momentum. The Bulls will get a lion’s share of the calls in the opening quarters of the game. The Bulls’ opponents get their calls later. After the statistics are tallied, the referees have called the game evenly. The Bulls not getting the benefit of the calls later in the game is disappointing.
Did you know that despite their free throw shooting, the Bulls average 19.3 fouls per game, versus the 20.1 of the teams they have played?
The differential is 21st in the NBA, which is a clear indication that the Bulls do not get the benefit of the calls.
Jimmy Butler and Marquis Teague Do Not Play Enough
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Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau needs to play the kids more.
I'm referring to Jimmy Butler and Marquis Teague.
Butler gets sporadic playing time as the primary backup to Luol Deng. He played more minutes backing up Marco Belinelli while Richard Hamilton was out with a torn plantar fascia.
The Bulls lost no momentum when Butler subbed in for Deng or Belinelli, so it's a mystery why he only plays an average of 17.7 MPG.
Butler is good enough to start at 2-guard for the Bulls. He could play the defensive-stopper role, in a similar fashion to Bruce Bowen of the San Antonio Spurs championship teams. Starting Butler, or at least giving him 22-25 minutes per game, could give him a much-needed confidence boost.
The Bulls are going to need Butler going forward. Just as they will need Deng, who leads the NBA in minutes per game with 40.3. Playing Butler more could shave five minutes off Deng’s legs, thus keeping him fresh for the NBA playoffs.
Teague could also use consistent playing time.
There's something wrong with playing him only 8-10 minutes per game. Teague is healthier than starting point guard Kirk Hinrich, who plays 27.7 MPG. He is also a better passer.
Teague has a height advantage over Nate Robinson and is better defensively. Robinson plays 17.7 MPG.
Hinrich and Robinson are solid NBA players, but the fact that Thibodeau cannot find minutes for Teague, given their numbers, is ridiculous.
The Mash Unit: Kirk Hinrich and Richard Hamilton
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The injuries to Kirk Hinrich and Richard Hamilton keep piling up. They have missed 16 games between them.
Hinrich has missed games due to an array of injuries, while Hamilton suffered from the previously stated torn fascia.
When these two are fully healthy, the Bulls’ chances of winning are greatly enhanced.
The Bulls are 2-2 in the games that Hinrich missed and are 7-5 with Hamilton out. (Though curiously, the team is 2-0 when both players are out together.)
A healthier Bulls team would make sure of that.
Someone Please Remind Us Why Vladimir Radmanovic Is Here Again
Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports
Why does Vladimir Radmanovic have a roster spot?
This is not an indictment on him as a player; he could fill a scoring need for the Bulls. But if he never plays, does it matter what he can do?
It is difficult to justify Radmanovic’s eight meaningless appearances this season. Fans were sold on the idea that he was a stretch-four who could extend the defense, while adding an occasional rebound here and there. Instead, we've seen a player who should have the name on the back of his jersey replaced with "D.N.P."
The roster spot held by Radmanovic should have gone to a developmental player. It is disturbing to watch undrafted rookies such as P.J. Tucker from the Phoenix Suns and the Houston Rockets' Greg Smith make their marks in the NBA.
They play for coaches who understand that player development is important.
The Bulls Are Reluctant to Develop Young Talent
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
The Bulls refuse to collect and develop young talent.
Championship teams are not always built through free agency and trades. They are oftentimes built through good drafts and finding diamonds in the rough.
A show of hands from those of you who would prefer to see Malcolm Thomas (remember him) in a Bulls uniform over Vladimir Radmanovic?
Can the Bulls win the NBA championship this season? It's not impossible, but it's highly improbable.
The perceived plan is to build towards the 2014 free-agency class.
It sounds eerily similar to their plans in 2010. How did that work out for them? All of the top free agents either went to the Miami Heat or re-upped with their respective teams.
The Bulls did sign Carlos Boozer, also known as Mr. Amnesty-his-butt Out-of-Chicago. Along with him, the Bulls brought in good bench players, but not one star or difference-maker. To top it off, they are in NBA salary-cap hell because of it.
All of that and no NBA Finals appearances to show for it.
Free agency is a crapshoot. This is why drafting and developing players is important for the Bulls’ future. If they do a great job at it, what they need from free agency would significantly change.
This only works, though, if Coach Thibodeau is willing to play a rookie. Sadly, I have little faith in that.
So those are my biggest gripes. What has disappointed you this season?
Follow me on Twitter @ernestshepard.