Chicago Bulls: Ranking the 5 Players with the Most to Prove in 2013-14

James Tillman IIIAnalyst IAugust 22, 2013

Chicago Bulls: Ranking the 5 Players with the Most to Prove in 2013-14

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    The Chicago Bulls concluded the 2012-13 season with a disappointing 4-1 series loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

    With Derrick Rose returning to the lineup, along with the addition of Mike Dunleavy, Chicago will field a slightly different team on the court next season.

    That being said, here is a quick look at which players have something to prove in 2013-14.

5. Joakim Noah

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    Joakim Noah enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career in 2012-13. He recorded career highs in minutes (36.8), points (11.9), rebounds (11.1), assists (4.0) and blocks (2.0).

    In addition to that Noah was selected to his first All-Star Game and finished fourth in Defensive Player of the Year voting (per basketball-reference.com).

    After having a stellar season, it almost sounds silly to say that a player of his caliber has something to prove, right?

    Well, on the flip side of the coin, Noah connected on just 48 percent of his field goal attempts, the lowest mark of his career, and he turned the ball over nearly three times per game.

    It should also be noted that he missed 16 games due to a plantar fasciitis injury that has caused him to miss a total of 70 contests over the past four seasons.

    In other words, Noah has to show that he can make better decisions with the basketball and stay injury-free so that he will be in good shape come playoff time.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

4. Mike Dunleavy

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    The Bulls ranked 29th in scoring last season at 93 points per contest and were tied for 20th in the league in three-point shooting at 35 percent.

    To help address the team's scoring woes, the Bulls signed 11-year veteran Mike Dunleavy, who averaged 10.5 points in 75 appearances for the Milwaukee Bucks in 2012-13.

    Even more importantly, he connected on 43 percent of his shot attempts from distance.

    In addition to that, Dunleavy also shot 45 percent from the field on spot-up three-pointers, 45 percent from beyond the arc coming off screens and a remarkable 48 percent from three-point range in transition. (per Mike Brada of SB Nation)

    Being that Dunleavy was Chicago's only free-agent acquisition, the pressure will be on for him to provide consistent outside shooting while making sure the team doesn't miss a beat when Luol Deng takes a breather.

     

     

     

     

     

     

3. Jimmy Butler

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    Coming into the 2012-13 season, Jimmy Butler was not what most people considered a household name.

    This was mostly due to the fact that he played just 8.5 minutes per game during his rookie campaign, which buried him deep into Tom Thibodeau's rotation.

    However, Butler made the most of his opportunities once the Bulls' injures began to factor into the equation.

    While his overall numbers of 8.6 points and four rebounds per game were respectable, his production as a starter was even more impressive.

    During the 20 games that Butler started during the season, his numbers improved to 14.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per outing. 

    To go along with that, Butler played well against the Heat in the second round of the playoffs—scoring over 15 points per contest while shooting 40 percent from distance.

    Not too bad for a second-year player that few fans knew about at the beginning of the year.

    The challenge for Butler is that he must continue to perform at a high level as a permanent starter to prove that last year's performance was a preview of greater things to come rather than an aberration.

     

2. Luol Deng

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    With Derrick Rose sidelined for the entire year, Chicago needed someone to step up and fill the void created by the absence of the team's franchise player and Deng did exactly that.

    Deng has always been known for the consistent effort he plays with defensively, but he also led the Bulls in scoring during the regular season with 16.5 points per contest in 75 appearances.

    In addition to that, Deng also led the league in minutes per game at 38.7 (per nba.com) and earned his second All-Star selection in the process.

    Unfortunately, Deng connected on just 32 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc (his lowest percentage since the 2006-07 season) and he shot just 43 percent from the field, which is the second lowest shooting percentage of his career. (per Matt McHale of bullsbythehorns.com)

    Being that this could potentially be his last year in the Windy City, Deng needs to have a solid season to prove that he can be a valuable piece for not only a Bulls team with title aspirations, but also for other potential suitors as well.

1. Derrick Rose

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    At the top of this list is none other than Derrick Rose.

    The last time Bulls fans saw Rose on the court was Game 1 during the first round of the 2012 playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers.

    Chicago led by as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter, but the Sixers made one final push, prompting Tom Thibodeau to bring Rose back into the game.

    Unfortunately, Rose tore his ACL with 1:20 remaining—essentially erasing any hopes the Bulls had of winning the title.

    The Bulls went on to win the contest 103-91, but fell to the Sixers in six games.

    Although the Bulls star has not played a game in 16 months, he did not hesitate to declare himself the best player in the NBA during an interview with CNN. 

    On the heels of such a bold statement, all eyes will be on Rose to see if he will return as one the dominant players on the court as he was in 2010-11, or if he will be a shell of his former self.