Pre-Training Camp Player Power Rankings for the Chicago Bulls
As the Chicago Bulls prepare for training camp, there are more than a few players who have garnered quite a bit of buzz.
The biggest story is Derrick Rose’s return. NBA fans last saw him in action in the 2012 playoffs, where he tore his ACL, ending the Bulls’ playoff run and forcing him to miss the entire 2012-13 season.
Jimmy Butler is right under Rose. After a breakout 2012-13 campaign, the Bulls are hoping Butler can be the 2-guard they’ve been looking for over the last four years.
Other players include Marquis Teague who is entering his sophomore season and figures to have an expanded role as Rose’s backup. Mike Dunleavy, Chicago’s big, free-agent signing, was brought in to give the Bulls some much-needed shooting depth and will look to fill a sixth-man role.
Aside from overall skill, these rankings will also take potential and expectations into consideration.
So, where does each player rank among the rest of his teammates heading into training camp?
1. Derrick Rose
It has been nearly 500 days since Rose last suited up for the Bulls. This amount of waiting time has only increased the anticipation for his return.
Rose won the 2011 MVP award with an average of 25 points per game and just under eight assists. However, Rose’s field-goal percentage was under 45 percent, a number most would prefer to be around the 50-percent mark.
With reports (via Chicago Tribune) of an improved jump shot and an expanded offensive repertoire, the thought of Rose being a better player than he was during his MVP season is more than enough to get Bulls fans anxious to see him again.
More importantly, though, Rose makes this Bulls team a title contender. With arguably the best roster since his arrival, the only aspirations are that of an NBA title.
2. Joakim Noah
After making his first All-Star team and finishing as a top-four finalist for the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award, Joakim Noah will head into the season looking to improve on a very successful 2012-13 campaign.
Aside from his stellar defense, one of the biggest and most notable improvements in Noah’s game was his passing. His knack for finding the open man from the top of the key often led to the Bulls running their offense through the big man.
Noah could benefit from working on his offense, however. Even though he can make the occasional 15-foot jumper, it’s still inconsistent. There were also times when he would post up and launch a horrific-looking hook shot.
If you can count on anyone to work hard and improve, it’s Joakim Noah.
3. Luol Deng
Luol Deng suffered a nearly life-threatening injury during the 2013 postseason, so many fans are anxious to see how he bounces back.
The bigger story, however, is that he is on a contract year. Rumors of a trade circled around earlier during the free-agency period until Bulls general manager Gar Forman put an end to it by saying they were open to an extension.
Deng could very well be auditioning for an extension during the season.
It won’t be his defense or his effort that the front office will be looking at, though. It will be if he can put forth an efficient season on the offensive end.
In 2012-13, Deng shot 42 percent from the floor, which was an improvement over the previous season, but still below his career average of 46 percent. His three-point shot significantly decreased, dropping four percentage points from the 36 percent he posted in 2011-12.
It also doesn’t help that Chicago is essentially grooming his possible replacement in Jimmy Butler.
Still, players like Deng are hard to come by. His perimeter defense is among the league’s best, and he can be quite the versatile offensive weapon when he’s on a roll.
It will be an interesting season for Lieutenant Deng.
4. Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler will be the starting 2-guard for the Bulls this season, a position that hasn’t been very good since Ben Gordon and John Salmons were in town.
The ceiling for Butler is incredibly high. He’s already considered one of the top perimeter defenders, and his offense is only going to improve.
After the All-Star break, Butler began to show off his skills. He shot 47 percent from downtown throughout the last 30 games, averaging nearly 11 points per game and just under five rebounds in 33 minutes.
It may not seem like a lot, but the Bulls didn’t run plays for Butler. Every scoring opportunity he got was in the flow of the offense or because of his hustle on the offensive glass.
Everyone’s expecting big things from Jimmy Buckets, and chances are those expectations will be fulfilled.
5. Mike Dunleavy
Brought in to be the Bulls three-point specialist, Dunleavy will not only help in that regard, but he will also give the Bulls a chance to try many different lineups.
His size allows him to play several positions, giving Chicago a chance to maintain some size if it decides to go small. If it goes with a bigger lineup, then Dunleavy will be able to stretch defenses and add some scoring.
With Rose back in the mix, his tendency to draw in extra defenders should give Dunleavy plenty of open looks each game. If he can shoot over 40 percent from three like he did last season, the Bulls offense will be a lot more dangerous than it has been over the past few years.
6. Carlos Boozer
There hasn’t been much news about the Bulls power forward, but Carlos Boozer should be playing with a slight sense of urgency.
Chicago is one of the few teams that have yet to use its amnesty provision. With Boozer slated to make $16.8 million in his final year, the Bulls could choose to use it prior to the 2014-15 season, taking Boozer’s contract off the books and allowing them to chase a big-name free agent.
Boozer will need the upcoming season to be his best as a Bull. If he can be more efficient offensively and improve his defensive rotations, he might be able to play through the remainder of his contract.
7. Taj Gibson
Taj Gibson’s extension kicks in this season, and he’ll have to prove that he was worth the investment.
There’s no denying Gibson’s work on the boards and on the defensive end, but his offense still needs to improve. On attempts three feet and farther from the rim, Gibson shot 37 percent, per basketball-reference. If you take just his mid-range jumpers (16 feet and out), he made only a third of those.
Gibson has to either develop a reliable jump shot or continue working on his post game—which looked solid this past season.
If there is no significant improvement on offense, the four-year vet could start taking some criticism for not living up to his contract.
8. Kirk Hinrich
Hinrich’s low position doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to anticipate. With Teague primed to be Rose’s primary backup, Hinrich will be seeing a lot of time at the shooting guard position.
He’ll more than likely be a part of a defensive lineup since his offense isn’t what it once was, but his ability to both run an offense and guard multiple positions on the other end give Hinrich a lot of value and allow the Bulls to play with smaller lineups.
He can make Rose more of an off-ball player, allowing him to use his quickness to shake off defenders and slash to the basket.
If Captain Kirk can shoot 39 percent from deep like he did last season, there should be no offensive stagnancy while he’s out on the floor.
9. Marquis Teague
On the heels of an impressive summer league run, Marquis Teague enters his second year with a ton of momentum.
In four summer league games, Teague averaged 18 points, almost five assists and shot 44 percent from the field. What impressed most, though, was his speed, his ability to attack the rim and draw contact and the way he ran the offense.
Even more impressive was his three-point shot; he shot 75 percent from downtown, including a game where he made all three of his attempts.
Teague could have a bigger role in 2013-14. If he can take that aggressive style of play and effort into the regular season, he could be in line for a breakout year similar to Butler’s.
10. Tony Snell
It’s still unknown whether Tony Snell will see any minutes, but he did a good job showcasing his skill during summer league play.
Snell had a pretty rough time throughout, shooting 36 percent in five summer league contests, but his final game against the Dallas Mavericks is what stood out most. Twenty points, seven rebounds and a 5-for-8 shooting night from three finally showed what the New Mexico product could do.
Aside from being a three-point shooter, Snell showed flashes of being a decent slasher and a good rebounder. He also has tremendous defensive potential due to his size and length.
Unfortunately for the rookie, head coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t known for playing his first-year players. Bulls fans might have to wait until next year to see what Snell can do.
11. Nazr Mohammed, 12. Erik Murphy
Similar to Hinrich, Mohammed’s placement doesn’t mean there isn’t much to look forward to.
The Chicago native has stated that he’s ready to be a full-time backup and prove he’s one of the best reserve centers in the league. After missing 63 games—mostly due to a coach’s decision—it will be interesting to see if Mohammed can play 15 to 20 minutes for a full 82 games.
The Bulls will certainly need that kind of production if they intend to keep Noah healthy for the entire 2013-14 season.
Like Snell, Murphy could end up riding the bench the whole season. He did show some good flashes during summer league, though.
Chicago drafted him because of his three-point shooting proficiency, and the 50-percent rate he displayed through five games showed he could fill a stretch 4 role. His rebounding was a noted weakness, but the 13 rebounds he posted in the final summer league contest show that he might be better than most thought.
He may not be able to put up those numbers once the competition multiplies tenfold in the regular season, however. Also his defense is still a question mark, something Thibodeau won’t like.
Murphy has potential, but this won’t be the year for him to show it.