Initial Report Card Grades for Every Chicago Bulls Player
The Chicago Bulls are off to an unimpressive 1-2 start, which is certainly disappointing after they steamrolled through the preseason without losing.
Amid this unfortunate beginning, what is the initial report card grade for each Bulls player?
Chicago's most recent loss came in depressing fashion, as it blew a 20-point lead to the youthful Philadelphia 76ers.
It's apparent that numerous core members of the Bulls must step their game up convincingly. They are currently not playing near their potential, and the following grades reflect that.
Players Receiving an Incomplete
The following players receive an incomplete because they have yet to log a minute.
Teague is ready for a backup point guard role, but there just isn't room for him in the rotation. An injury to Derrick Rose or Kirk Hinrich will instantly thrust him into steady minutes, so he must be poised to provide his services as soon as the opportunity calls.
James is the fourth point guard on the depth chart, but his presence gives the Bulls the flexibility to potentially trade Teague. If this happens, James could then find himself filling in if Rose or Hinrich is sidelined. James can do this adequately, as he even started 23 games last year for the Dallas Mavericks.
Murphy is in a similar niche as what Vladimir Radmanovic and Brian Scalabrine possessed in previous seasons. He can serve as a stretch power forward who can knock down the three ball. However, it's unlikely that he'll earn regular minutes during 2013-14. If he does, it will mean that Chicago's frontcourt is decimated by injuries.
Tony Snell has only played seven total minutes in three games, and they all came during Chicago's opener against the Miami Heat. He was forced into action because both Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler were in foul trouble.
Unfortunately, Snell did not look fit for NBA competition. Granted, he was playing against LeBron James, but there's a reason why coach Tom Thibodeau hasn't felt the urge to call Snell's name more often. He's just not NBA-ready.
Snell has the upside to become a quality "three and D" player, but it likely won't happen until future campaigns. Currently, his game requires much maturity in terms of defensive positioning as well as confidence when it comes to his offensive flow.
When the Bulls battled the New York Knicks recently, it was easy to wonder why Chicago selected Snell (20th pick) over Tim Hardaway Jr. (24th pick). Hardaway Jr. scored 10 points in the contest and is already making strides for the Knicks.
At this point, it sure seems like Hardaway Jr. would've been a more ideal fit, particularly from an offensive standpoint.
It's obviously still early, and Snell has much time to reveal his worth. With that said, he was a "mystery" pick, and little has been solved thus far.
At 36 years old, we know what to forecast from Nazr Mohammed.
He can chip in serviceable spot minutes but not much else. His feet are too slow to warrant extended time. Thibodeau recognizes this, and he's actually cutting back his playing time in 2013-14.
During 2012-13, Mohammed averaged 11.0 minutes per game, but in their first three outings this season, Mohammed has played just 5.7 MPG.
Thibodeau is utilizing Taj Gibson some at the center spot, and Mohammed's role is thus very minimal. He hasn't done anything noteworthy in his mere 17 total minutes of action.
If Joakim Noah or Gibson suffers an injury, the Bulls could be in trouble since Mohammed is not suited for a substantial role.
Mike Dunleavy was inked to fulfill a clear void in Chicago's arsenal: three-point shooting.
Through three games, Bulls fans are desiring more from Dunleavy. He is shooting a lowly 33.3 percent from the field, including 33.3 percent (3-of-9) from distance.
He is a career 44.3 percent shooter, including a 42.8 percent mark last year from long range.
Dunleavy performed decent in the Bulls' most recent appearance, netting seven points, four rebounds and two assists in just 16 minutes.
However, he was held scoreless during their bout against the New York Knicks. While he notched 10 points against the Heat, these all came in the fourth quarter once the game was essentially out of reach.
Dunleavy inherits a critical role in Chicago's offensive attack, and struggles with consistency are a problem.
He's a veteran who should find a groove in the coming weeks, but the Bulls shouldn't overly rely on him. While he may be a functional reserve, the Bulls could really use a more potent perimeter weapon who can create his own shot.
Kirk Hinrich is doing what's expected of him, supplying his usual gritty defense and effective game management on offense.
In 22.0 MPG, he's averaging 8.0 points per game (40 percent from the field) and 3.3 assists per game. Believe it or not, his PER (7.0) is higher than Rose's (1.7).
The Bulls have even occasionally used Hinrich alongside Rose, which attests to Hinrich's versatility.
It's a positive sign that Hinrich appears fully healthy entering 2013-14. Injury woes have plagued him in recent seasons.
Hinrich is a veteran competitor who brings the intangibles to the table. Bulls fans can only hope that Captain Kirk's body survives the grind of a full 82 games.
Taj Gibson has carried momentum from a beastly preseason into their initial regular-season contests.
In close to 25 MPG, he's averaging 9.7 PPG and 6.3 rebounds per game. He has showcased a more efficient mid-range jumper, as well as more savvy finishes near the rim.
This had led to an increased field-goal percentage (59.1 percent). Last year, this mark rested at 48.5 percent.
Gibson is a defensive monster who can guard multiple positions, but his development offensively is what should really have Bulls fans excited.
If he can become a reliable weapon in the low post and cashing mid-range jumpers, then the Bulls add a major ingredient to their offensive potential. This dynamic is already taking shape in the season's early stages.
It's looking like Gibson could have the best run of his career during 2013-14.
Luol Deng laid a dud in their opener at Miami (four points in 29 minutes), but he has since pieced together two acceptable performances (17 points and six assists vs. New York; 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists vs. Philadelphia).
Unfortunately, his efficiency has been suspect. He is shooting 40.9 percent from the field, including an atrocious 8.3 percent (1-of-12) from distance.
The Bulls at least need him to be respectable from deep so opponents can't sag in the lane on Rose's penetrations. At the moment, Deng is clearly not commanding this type of attention.
Deng still has value because he defends effectively and remains capable of stellar offensive showings.
But, since he's a free agent next summer, it's easy to wonder if the Bulls should explore trading him, particularly if they could package him in a deal that lands them a proven offensive creator.
Expect this to be a buzzing topic if the Bulls' offensive limitations persist.
Carlos Boozer has received his fair share of criticism during his tenure with the Bulls, but he currently deserves much praise.
He's pouring in 22.3 PPG and 8.0 RPG, and his field-goal percentage sits at an eye-popping 65.9 percent.
These digits should slowly come down in the coming weeks, but the Bulls are learning something right now: Boozer should be more involved.
When he's playing at such a high level, there's no reason why he should only hoist seven shots in a game, like he did against the Knicks (Rose, for the record, launched 23, only making seven).
What's more, the Bulls offense also labored through the fourth quarter against Philly, and Boozer spent the majority of those minutes on the bench or uninvolved.
Boozer can be an offensive force, but the Bulls must maximize his worth. His initial contributions should prompt the Bulls' strategy to feature more touches for the "Booze Cruise."
Thankfully, Joakim Noah is now active (he only played in one preseason game because of a groin injury), but he has not found his rhythm offensively.
He is shooting a dismal 31.8 percent. He has even uncharacteristically missed a handful of attempts near the rim, particularly against the Heat.
Noah's offense is surely not his biggest asset, but he still needs to be able to demonstrate competency in the lane.
He's at least still generating stellar assist production (3.3 APG) from the center position.
Unsurprisingly, Noah is continuing to compile rebounds (11.7 RPG) and exhibit tenacity on the defensive end. It's encouraging to see that his health is not straining him in this capacity.
Once he establishes more fluidity offensively, he should return to being the All-Star center that he was a season ago.
Jimmy Butler displayed an eye-opening 30 minutes against Miami, accumulating 20 points (6-of-12 from the field, 2-of-4 from three-point range), three rebounds, three assists and five steals.
Specifically, he suffocated Dwyane Wade on the defensive end, as Wade labored through an ugly outing (13 points on 5-of-13 shooting, which included a late, irrelevant three).
In their last two games, Butler hasn't been nearly as assertive. While his elite perimeter defense is a constant, his offensive involvement fluctuates. This was particularly apparent against the 76ers, when he shot 4-of-6 in 39 minutes.
The Bulls should seek to utilize his athleticism more by giving him more opportunities. They have done this on occasion by posting him up on smaller guards, but these type of chances are simply not happening enough.
Much of the blame here shouldn't be directed at Butler, but there does come a point in which Butler should demand the ball more. He's capable of being a threat, but his passivity can get in the way.
Besides this, Jimmy "Buckets" has been exceptional in the Bulls' three games, namely because of his defensive presence. Yet, he's only scratching the surface of his potential because there's much room for him to blossom offensively.
That's the best word to describe Rose's first three outings. There is clearly much rust to scrape off.
His numbers are as follows: 14.3 PPG (28.8 percent from the field, 26.7 percent from three-point land), 4.3 APG and 5.7 turnovers per game.
He also hasn't swiped a steal in three games, and he was dominated by rookie Michael Carter-Williams against Philly.
Rose should have some breakthrough games in the near future where things begin to click, but there are still concerns about his place in Chicago's offense. He appears to be carrying too much weight, much like he did in previous years.
He has been forcing penetrations where there's no clear lane, his shot has looked consistently flat, and he simply does not appear close to the player who was the MVP in 2010-11.
As ugly as he has been, it's too early to sound an alarm. Furthermore, his lacking production is honestly quite perplexing after an impressive preseason.
He should return to his old self soon, but here's the question: How efficient can he be in this offense?
With limited offensive weapons around him, teams can once again key on Rose, and this will regularly cause frustrations.
If Rose's struggles linger into the coming months, then it could only be a matter of time before the Bulls begin dangling their trade bait (Deng, Nikola Mirotic, their future Charlotte Bobcats pick) to provide Rose with a secondary stud.
The fact that Rose's athleticism has returned merits a passing grade, but the reality is that Rose better turn the corner quickly or his grade could rightfully dip to an F.