Grading Chicago Bulls' Key Players at 2014 NBA All-Star Break
Heading into the All-Star break, it’s necessary to grade the Chicago Bulls roster. We’ll only focus on the team’s top 10 players, meaning diehard fans of Mike James and Tornike Shengelia should be utterly disappointed. Sorry to let you guys down.
And Derrick Rose will not be featured either. The 2011 MVP is still the face of the franchise, but he has played just 10 games this season due to a torn meniscus.
The Bulls are currently 26-25, not quite the record fans were hoping for at this point. This was supposed to be a title-contending-type campaign, as experts believed they had a chance to knock off either the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Barring anymore salary-dump trades, this squad is certainly capable of reaching the playoffs, though. The roster still includes talented guys like Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler, who help make the Bulls one of the top defensive teams in the business.
All stats are from basketball-reference.com and accurate as of Feb. 13, 2014.
Erik Murphy has sort of played the Brian Scalabrine role this season. Or in other words, he has been glued to the end of Chicago’s bench. That’s what happens, though, when you’re buried on the depth chart behind Carlos Boozer and Sixth Man of the Year candidate Taj Gibson.
Appearing in 19 of the Bulls’ 51 contests, Murphy has logged a total of 47 minutes. The rookie out of Florida has contributed four points, five rebounds and three blocks while hitting two of his nine field-goal attempts.
It’s possible Murphy could emerge as one of the Bulls’ best bench players down the road. A phenomenal shooter (45.3 percent from downtown as a college senior), he has what it takes to be a stretch 4 in this league.
Murphy isn’t the only Bulls big man who hasn’t played a boatload of minutes this season. You can add veteran Nazr Mohammed to the list as well.
Although he actually gets into the game each and every night, Mohammed averages only 7.7 minutes, nearly three fewer than last year.
Playing a season-high 22 minutes, the Chicago native recorded nine points and five boards vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves on Jan. 27. He also grabbed 11 rebounds in the Nov. 24 blowout loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
During last year’s postseason, Mohammed served as the Bulls’ enforcer. Perhaps he can play that role this year as well.
Although his stats aren’t mind-blowing (5.7 points, 2 rebounds, one assist, 38.6 field-goal percentage), Tony Snell has a bright future as a pro.
Snell looked great during a pair of contests vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers. On Nov. 30, he scored a career-high 18 points, and knocked down three of his five long-range attempts. Then on Dec. 21, he poured in 17 and shot 5-of-8 from beyond the arc.
He has appeared in 45 games and is averaging 19.4 minutes per game. Everyone knows that he would be receiving Erik Murphy-type treatment if it wasn’t for injuries and the Deng trade. Coach Tom Thibodeau has a history of not playing rookies, with Jimmy Butler and Marquis Teague being prime examples.
Look for Snell to have a great second half of the season, as he remains in Thibs’ rotation.
This is the second Bulls stint for Kirk Hinrich, and definitely his last. He’ll either be traded at the deadline or not re-signed during the offseason. It’s as simple as that.
Hinrich is having a not-so-glamorous campaign, averaging 8.3 points and 4.4 assists while shooting 36.4 percent from the field. In addition, he has hit only 29.2 percent of his three-point attempts.
While he isn’t considered one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, 29 percent is an awful statistic.
If Chicago keeps Hinrich in Chicago for the rest of the season, hopefully his shooting will improve. The Bulls, who rank 27th in three-point percentage, need all the help they can get.
On a positive note, he still a solid defender.
When the trade deadline passes, it won’t be shocking to see Mike Dunleavy wearing another team’s uniform.
He’s a veteran who can shoot the lights out, which means many contenders would love to acquire his services.
Dunleavy is currently shooting 37.8 percent from three-point land, down from last season’s 42.8 percent. However, he has been a quality contributor for the Bulls thus far, averaging 11 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists.
Starting just three games in each of the past two seasons, he has been a starter 30 times already this year.
If the Bulls hold on to Dunleavy, hopefully his shooting can help power the team to another playoff berth.
The injury bug has forced Jimmy Butler to miss 13 games this season.
When healthy, he has done what he always does best: play suffocating, lockdown D. The 6’7” swingman is undoubtedly Chicago’s top perimeter defender now that Deng is playing elsewhere.
Unfortunately, his shooting has been horrific (37.2 percent from the field, including 27.4 from beyond the arc). Those are not the type of numbers you want from your starting shooting guard.
Butler’s is serving as a decent scorer, though, with 12.3 points per game. He looked rather impressive in the Dec. 30 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, contributing 26 points and shooting 6-of-10 from the field. In addition, he hit two of his three long-range attempts and shot 12-of-14 from the charity stripe.
With Rose and Deng not around, Butler should be scoring more. Look for his numbers to improve during the second half of the season.
Losing a great point guard in Rose, the Bulls eventually found a nice replacement with the addition of D.J. Augustin. He’s not D-Rose 2.0 by any stretch of the imagination, but this kid can play.
As a Bull (31 games), Augustin is averaging 13.8 points, two rebounds and 1.2 steals per contest. And he leads the club in assist average (5.7), three-point percentage (42.4) as well as free-throw percentage (87.6).
Augustin has reached the 20-point mark five times, including 28 vs. his former team, the Charlotte Bobcats. The 2008 lottery pick knocked down six three-pointers in that Jan. 25 victory.
During the second half of the season, the Bulls will need his scoring and playmaking in order to reach the playoffs.
Augustin deserves an A, and so does Bulls management for picking him up.
Last summer, Taj Gibson bulked up quite a bit and worked on his offense. His effort has truly paid off this year. The USC product has put together the finest season of his career, averaging 12.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.
Gibson has turned in several All-Star-type performances. On Nov. 2 against the New Orleans Pelicans, he contributed 26 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks in the losing effort. He has also scored 26 on two other occasions this season.
Despite having a career year, Gibson could be traded at the deadline. The Bulls are trying to clear cap space for a top-notch free agent this summer like LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony (both players can opt out of their current contracts following the season).
If Gibson stays put in the Windy City, expect his stellar play to continue for the reminder of the year.
Carlos Boozer was criticized for his lack of defense and inconsistency during his first three seasons in Chicago. Nothing has changed this year.
His scoring average (14.8 points) is the lowest since his rookie season back in 2002-03. Plus, he’s shooting 45.2 percent from the field, the worst of his career.
But at times this season, Boozer has looked like the All-Star he used to be. For example, he lit the Miami Heat up for 31 points on opening night, and later scored 27 vs. that same squad on Dec. 5. And oh yeah, don’t forget about his 26-point, 16-rebound effort against the Utah Jazz.
On the other hand, Boozer has scored in single digits on eight occasions, including a trio of four-point performances. You never really know what kind of game you’re going to get from Boozer on a nightly basis.
Where would the Bulls be without Joakim Noah? Instead of having a decent record right now, they would probably be at the bottom of the league alongside lottery-bound squads like the Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz.
Noah isn’t going to give you 20 points a night like DeMarcus Cousins, but he’s perhaps the most complete center in the game today.
He’s currently averaging 11.8 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.1 steals per contest. But the most impressive stat is his 4.3 assists, which is fantastic for a big man. Basically, he’s a “point center.”
Noah was named an All-Star reserve for the second consecutive season, which really didn’t surprise anyone.
If he can continue to stay healthy, Chicago’s emotional leader can power his club to their sixth straight postseason appearance.