Chicago Bulls Midseason Report Card: Grading the Team's First Half
The Chicago Bulls have officially completed the first half of their 2012-13 campaign after winning January 23rd against Detroit. As of the 23rd, the Bulls stand right at 25-16, good enough for fourth in the Eastern Conference, and only three games behind the top seed in the East.
The Bulls so far have exceeded expectations without Derrick Rose for the first half of the season. Many analysts, including me, thought that the Bulls would be the type of team fighting for a seventh seed or so, and that they would maybe win one playoff series at best.
It is true, the East has been weaker than expected, but the Bulls have undoubtedly been better. They are currently on pace for 50 wins, and they are soon to get superstar point guard Derrick Rose back from ACL rehabilitation. That said, how does the team rate for the first half of the season?
Vladimir Radmanovic/Daequan Cook/Nazr Mohammed
Radmanovic: 12 GP, 2.8 MPG
Cook: 6 GP, 3.3 MPG
Mohammed: 29 GP, 6.6 MPG
Vladimir Radmanovic and Nazr Mohammed were both signed to be backup big men just in case of injury or foul trouble. So far, neither of those cases have really come to fruition. Daequan Cook was picked up a few weeks ago to bolster a short small forward rotation but has barely been used despite a Luol Deng injury.
While I could fail these three for contributing nothing to the team, it seems unfair to judge them when they haven't had a chance to perform. Therefore, I'll give the three of them an incomplete.
Stats: 7.0 MPG, 1.9 PPG, 1.3 APG
Marquis Teague so far this season has played limited minutes, but we have been able to get somewhat of a look at him at times. If there's one thing that isn't a question, it's that Teague has the physical attributes to play in the NBA. His quickness and agility sometimes is underestimated, and he makes defenses pay.
Right now the biggest issue with Teague is that he's too complacent on the court. Not trying to draw a comparison, but Derrick Rose is always looking to attack when he is on the court, even if it's to try and get other teammates in a good position. Teague seems perfectly happy to sit back and let others run the offense while he just sits at the top of the key.
If Teague can learn to be more aggressive, he could potentially be a great player in this league.
Stats: 6.1 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 48.4% FG
At this point last week, I likely would have given Jimmy Butler right around a C. He had played relatively well but probably not above what we expected from him. On top of that, the numbers just were not really there at a level we would have hoped for.
However with Deng out with injury, Jimmy Butler has answered the call. Butler has played 20-plus minutes in five of his last seven games, including a combined 137 minutes in the last three. In all of those games, he has scored in double digits. On top of that, he has played elite defense against Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce and Rudy Gay, holding them to a combined 45 points on 18-of-58 shooting from the field.
We will see if this production can hold out, but it is very encouraging to see that Jimmy Butler can answer the call if asked.
Stats: 21.3 MPG, 10.6 PPG, 3.6 APG, 39.0% 3P
It's easy to forget, but Nate Robinson came to town on an unguaranteed minimum contract. At this point, it's shocking that Nate couldn't get any more from around the league, because he has thoroughly outplayed his contract.
For long stretches of games, Nate Robinson has been the Bulls' best offensive player. Nate is averaging 18 points and 6.1 assists per 36 minutes, and that presence is felt on a team lacking a true scoring presence.
The bad can come when Nate shoots too much and ends up shooting the team out of games, but that's a side effect that you deal with if you get "good Nate" for so many games a year, and win games behind him. Again, relative to his contract, a HUGE steal.
Stats: 9.7 PPG, 39.9% FG, 39.5% 3P
Marco Belinelli so far is having a head-scratching year. At times, he has looked like the shooting guard of the future for this team. At times, he looks like he's barely an NBA-level player. The numbers reflect these two divergent truths as well, and it largely has to do with whether he starts or not.
When Marco Belinelli starts, he averages 15.3 points per game on 43.2 percent shooting from the field, 40.8 percent from three-point land, and gets 1.2 steals per game. When Beli comes off the bench, he averages 7.2 points per game on 37.4 percent shooting and 38.5 percent from three.
When you put the numbers together, his cumulative numbers look pretty solid, especially on a team in dire need of three-point shooting. However, the question comes up: Which player is he?
Stats: 20.2 MPG, 7.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.3 BPG
Taj Gibson signed a long-term contract with the Chicago Bulls this offseason that will keep him in town for at least the foreseeable future. Gibson struggled to start the season, similar to Joakim Noah when he signed his big-money contract.
Even now, we are not getting what we might have hoped out of Gibson, but that may not be so much his fault. Carlos Boozer has emerged on the offensive side of the ball this season, and that has earned him more meaningful minutes with Derrick Rose out.
I would not be too worried about Taj Gibson, as he is still bringing it on the defensive end, even if he's struggling to find his shot right now. I just hope for Gibson's sake that Coach Thibodeau lets him spell Joakim Noah, because Noah is averaging an insane amount of minutes as we speak, and Gibson has more than enough room to expand.
Stats: 6.5 PPG, 5.2 APG, 36.7% FG, 36.3% 3P
It must be said that I did not want Kirk Hinrich to be on this team this offseason and absolutely not for a multiple-year, significant-money contract. I want him even less now that I know that O.J Mayo got a similar contract from Dallas. However, after an abysmal start, Hinrich is at least starting to move back toward the mean.
At least at this point, Hinrich is starting to hit his wide-open three-pointers at a more reasonable rate than early in the season. At the beginning of the year, Hinrich just clanked everything that he threw up, shooting 27.6 percent from three in November. Since then, Hinrich has taken his percentage up to 40.9 percent from long distance.
It does need to be said that Hinrich does more than what appears in the box score, but he has still been even more underwhelming than expected for most of the season. Hopefully he is turning things around, but right now his grade reflects his performance.
Stats: 24.3 MPG, 12.0 PPG, 2.5 APG, 44.8% FG, 37.1% 3P
Richard Hamilton missed most of last season with injuries, and there seemed to be no reason that this season would be any different. Although he did miss time with a torn plantar fascia, his season otherwise has been surprisingly good.
Hamilton has managed to be a true scoring threat at times for the Chicago Bulls. There have been instances where he has absolutely taken over quarters and scored double-digit points in a series of minutes, and that is what Chicago can use from Rip Hamilton.
The question that comes up is whether Marco Belinelli would fit better next to Derrick Rose when he comes back, but that may be dangerous to Hamilton's production. Either way, we will cross that bridge when we get there, and we should give credit where credit is due to Rip.
Stats: 39.8 MPG, 17.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.0 APG, 44.2% FG, 1.1 SPG
Luol Deng has played an absolutely integral part to this team's success this season. With Derrick Rose out of the lineup, Deng is leading the team in scoring. He has been the focal point of the offense, despite not being known as an isolation player. Despite that, his field goal percentage is actually up from last season.
Deng also is playing his usual brand of defense, even while leading the whole NBA in minutes per game. Even though Deng likely will not make the All-Star team this year after making it last year, he has made strides and deserves recognition.
Stats: 16.1 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 48.3% FG
As things stand, I could not be happier with Carlos Boozer's season to date. Boozer's efficiency numbers are down from last season, but his overall production is up. Right now, he is tied for fourth in the NBA with 23 double-doubles, which leads the Eastern Conference. Boozer has also managed to have a more effective offensive game that appears to be having more of an impact on the outcome of games. The production is also finally earning Boozer closing minutes, despite his defensive shortcomings.
Most miraculously, Boozer has managed to be completely healthy so far this season, playing in all of the team's 41 games. In fact, Boozer is the only starter so far who has not missed a game. After playing every game last season as well, perhaps Boozer has finally shed the "injury-prone" label, and that is a great thing for Bulls fans.
If Boozer can keep up his production when Derrick Rose gets back, Chicago will be a very dangerous team heading forward.
Stats: 12.2 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.3 SPG, 2.1 BPG
Even though he is not the leading scorer on the team, Joakim Noah is the most important and most valuable player on this Chicago Bulls squad.
More than perhaps any other player in the league, Noah's contributions do not show up on a stat sheet. Although he is top 10 in rebounds per game, that does not express the opportunities for second-chance points that he creates. Although he is top 10 in blocks per game and the second-leading center in steals per game, that does not do him justice as the leader of the defense. Although he leads all big men in assists, it does not show the playmaker that he is from the center position.
To really appreciate Joakim Noah, you just have to watch him play and look at his team's results. Where would this Chicago team be without Joakim Noah on the court? I can guarantee not top five in the East. Because of all of this, the coaches will likely reward Joakim Noah with his first ever All-Star appearance this season.
It's impossible to overstate the job that Tom Thibodeau has done with this basketball team. The Bulls brought in a completely new bench that includes such defensive liabilities as Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli and has still managed to make the Bulls a top-three defense. Thibs has also managed to institute a very effective offense relative to the fact that the Bulls' best creator is Nate Robinson. The fact that they are staying afloat is a miracle at times.
Because of this, it's impossible not to give Thibodeau an A+. If he scaled back Luol Deng's and Joakim Noah's minutes a bit and kept up this production, I would have considered giving him an A++. Regardless of that, Thibodeau has been fantastic this season and in my opinion should be leading the race for Coach of the Year once again.