Chicago Bulls' Hottest and Coldest Players Heading into the All-Star Break

Ernest Shepard@@ernestshepardAnalyst IIIFebruary 13, 2013

Chicago Bulls' Hottest and Coldest Players Heading into the All-Star Break

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    Which Chicago Bulls’ player has impressed you the most over the past few weeks?

    A few players have caught my attention as the NBA All-Star break is approaching. The Bulls have one of the Eastern Conference's best records for a reason. Look no further than three players who are playing their best basketball over the last month.

    The three players detailed in the following slides are on fire. Unfortunately, a couple of players cannot get themselves untracked. They are either struggling on the defensive end, failing to put the ball in the basket or both. They are regular contributors to the team that have gone missing as of late. For those players, the All-Star break could not come at a better time.

Hot: Taj Gibson

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    Taj Gibson has officially bounced back from a sluggish beginning of the season.

    Injuries to center Joakim Noah and power forward Carlos Boozer forced Gibson into overtime work on the basketball court. In the month of February, Gibson has averaged a near double-double with 11.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in six games.

    Gibson’s play has served as a reminder that he is capable of starting if Boozer is injured again or if the Bulls make a trade.  

Cold: Richard Hamilton

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    Richard Hamilton where art thou? Hamilton is struggling offensively, and his defense is slow-footed.

    The month of February has been unkind to Hamilton thus far. He is averaging 8.2 points over the last 10 games. This is despite breaking out to score 16 points against the San Antonio Spurs.

    It is safe to say that Hamilton’s cold streak has hurt him in terms of minutes played. He is only seeing the floor an average of 18.7 minutes a game.

    The All-Star break will do him some good. Perhaps he returns rested and ready.

Hot: Marco Belinelli

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    Marco Belinelli’s confidence received a shot in the arm with some consistent playing time. After suffering through a January slump, Belinelli is enjoying a good February.

    The eight points Belinelli average in January were not far off from his 9.6 PPG for the entire season. The problem was his shooting, which was a meager 37.7 percent in January. This month his shooting percentage is at 47.7 percent and he is averaging 12.4 PPG as a result. This includes a season-high 24 points he scored against the Indiana Pacers.

    The most impressive thing about that performance was that he played on a twisted ankle (h/t Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago). Perhaps he senses change in the air.

    If Belinelli continues to play well, will he replace Hamilton in the starting lineup?   

Cold: Luol Deng

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    Luol Deng has gone cold from the field over the past few games. His 15.5 PPG and 9.2 RPG in February are among the team leaders for the month.

    Here is where his problem lies: 4-of-13, 6-of-14, 4-of-13 and 4-of-18.

    Those are Deng’s field-goal totals over the last four games. The Bulls are 1-3 in that stretch.

    When Deng shoots well, the Bulls usually win. Of the games he’s played, his shooting percentage is 47 percent in 27 wins. Conversely, he has only averaged 37 percent in 19 losses.

    Although he will play in the NBA All-Star Game Sunday, the time off in between games should help Deng regain his shooting touch.

Hot: Nate Robinson

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    Nate Robinson is playing some of his best basketball while starting in place of the injured Kirk Hinrich. As a result, Robinson was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week during that stretch.

    In averaging 17.2 PPG and 8.3 APG in February, Robinson is doing his part to help the Bulls win games. The rash of injuries the Bulls have had this month is a direct reason for the team’s 2-4 record, not Robinson’s play. If anything, Robinson has kept the Bulls in games.

    Robinson’s production is the best the Bulls have received from the point-guard spot all season long.

    Hinrich’s injury could not have happened at a worst time, but the team now knows what they have in Robinson. If he can continue at this pace, consideration for the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award should be the next step in what has been a great season thus far.