Chicago Bulls

Power Ranking Every Key Chicago Bulls Player Before Season's End

Andres MonteroContributor IMarch 19, 2014

Power Ranking Every Key Chicago Bulls Player Before Season's End

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    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    Before the 2013-14 regular season wraps up, let's take a look at how the Chicago Bulls' top players have performed thus far.

    You can't mention the Bulls without talking about Joakim Noah and his incredible run of double-doubles, near triple-doubles and emotionally charged war cries.

    Some players have improved over the last month, while some have stagnated—or worse—continued to struggle. Carlos Boozer is the prime example, as his offensive game is starting to match his already-poor defense.

    Recent play will be a major factor in placing, although overall performance is still considered.

10. Jimmer Fredette

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    Andrew Nelles/Associated Press

    Chicago seldom uses a 10th man, or ninth for that matter. But in the small amount of time that Jimmer Fredette has had on the court, he's been able to show what he's capable of.

    He's knocked down a couple of threes and has shown a good effort defensively, staying in front of his man and forcing a pass or reset.

    There are still quite a few things Fredette will have to pick up, but Tom Thibodeau is optimistic about his progress, telling Sports Illustrated "he's gotten more comfortable" with each practice.

    Minutes will most likely continue to be scarce, but Fredette can give the Bulls a big spark off the bench and provide some much-needed three-point shooting, as Chicago is among the worst in the league from three.

9. Nazr Mohammed

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    David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

    The Bulls' veteran backup doesn't get much time, but his defensive and rebounding efforts don't go unnoticed.

    He had his best game in a while against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, grabbing eight rebounds, including a possession where he followed up his own miss multiple times, leading to an and-1 opportunity.

    Nazr Mohammed has also been a solid defender in the paint, recording one block in three of his last four games.

    Mohammed isn't a game-changer, but he's a physical presence that will help the Bulls in the postseason, especially if they can make the second round, where they'll face either the Indiana Pacers or the Miami Heat.

8. Tony Snell

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    Ray Amati/Getty Images

    The Bulls' first-round selection is in a position that not many rookies have been in with Thibodeau, and he's making the most of it.

    Tony Snell's minutes are still inconsistent, but he's progressed very well thus far, particularly on defense. He's starting to understand the scheme better, getting to his rotations on time, breaking up passing lanes and sticking with his man.

    His offense has slightly improved as well. He's becoming slightly more efficient when attacking the basket, shooting 50.6 percent on shots inside the paint, per NBA.com.

    The downside, however, is that his three-point shot is still not where Chicago wants it to be. He's shooting 32.7 percent from downtown this season and 14.3 percent over the month of March.

    Chances are Snell's minutes will stay around where they are now, especially once the playoffs begin. Thibodeau loves having Jimmy Butler on the court as a lockdown defender, and while Snell has a lot of defensive upside, he's not ready to lock down the NBA's best just yet.

7. Kirk Hinrich

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    Associated Press

    Kirk Hinrich has had some of his best games this season over the last month. He's posted his best three-point shooting percentage of any month at 43.6 percent and has scored double digits in five of the last nine games.

    Hinrich's defensive versatility has also been a huge asset this season. It has allowed the Bulls to use two-guard lineups with D.J. Augustin as the off-guard since Hinrich can defend 2-guards as well as small forwards.

    The biggest downside is Hinrich's offense. While he's had a solid stretch recently, his shooting could be more efficient, as he's shooting 38.9 percent from the floor.

    Nevertheless, Hinrich fits perfectly in Thibodeau's system. He's a very smart defender who rarely has any major lapses and can somewhat contribute on the offensive end.

    While his shooting could be better, he makes up for it by giving maximum effort on both ends of the floor.

6. Mike Dunleavy

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Mike Dunleavy went through a cold stretch during March, failing to score double-digit points in five consecutive games.

    The sharpshooter was able to snap that streak against the Houston Rockets, where after a vicious elbow to his eye that required 10 stitches, he returned to score 21 points, all in the second half.

    Dunleavy has become a solid scorer for Chicago, averaging 11.1 points off the bench while shooting 38 percent from downtown. While it's a drop from the 42.8 percent he shot last season, he's still Chicago’s second-best three-point shooter.

    Aside from his work on the perimeter, Dunleavy has been able to work well as a slasher, scoring on 54.3 percent of his shots near the rim, per NBA.com.

    Dunleavy might not be the dynamic scorer the Bulls need, but he provides an option from behind the arc as well as some versatility, as he's able to put the ball on the floor.

5. Carlos Boozer

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    Boozer is currently on pace to post his worst scoring month of the season with 10.9 points per game. His rebounding numbers are also down, and he's also posting his worst defensive rating at 104 points allowed per 100 possessions.

    Some of the decreases could be attributed to his loss of minutes, but he has continued to get worse. Boozer's shooting percentage for March is down to 40.9 percent and has actually dropped now for three consecutive months.

    Defensively, Boozer's rotations are still consistently late, and he continues to commit unnecessary loose-ball fouls on offense and during rebounds. Boozer's jump shot hasn't been there this year either, but when he's aggressive and takes advantage of his matchup, he's nearly unstoppable due to his size and strength.

    Chicago has a decision to make on Boozer's contract this summer.

    Amnestying him would free up over $16 million in cap space, and with Taj Gibson playing better than the 12-year vet, it would make sense for the Bulls to move on. They could use the cap space to fill out the roster with some much-needed shooters and a few front-court backups.

    Unless Boozer can start turning his season around, his chances of remaining with the team will keep worsening.

4. D.J. Augustin

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    Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

    Some have called D.J. Augustin a season-saving acquisition, and there's no doubt that's true.

    He's perhaps the Bulls' most dynamic scorer, as he's able to shoot the three and attack the basket and finish better than most players on the roster.

    Augustin's three-point shot has remained consistent throughout the entire season as well at 39.4 percent. He's also had his most efficient month all year during March, shooting 49 percent from the floor.

    The explosive guard has given the Bulls the scorer they lost when Derrick Rose was injured for the season.

    While he may not be the finisher Rose was or attract the same amount of defensive attention, Augustin has stepped up and given Chicago's offense a huge boost.

3. Jimmy Butler

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    Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

    Over the last couple of weeks, Butler has figured out how to impact games offensively. On March 11, he had his first 20-point game in nearly two months.

    His shot is still really bad, but now he's attacking the basket and getting to the line. Over the last nine games, Butler has attempted 6.6 free throws per contest, making 76.3 percent of them, per NBA.com.

    One of Butler's biggest assets is his cutting ability. He always makes great backdoor cuts, and it definitely helps that Noah can pass like a point guard.

    The one area where Butler has truly excelled is his defense. He played incredibly well against LeBron James on March 9. At the end of regulation, Butler had held LeBron to just 2-of-10 shooting and had forced three turnovers, via ESPN Stats & Info.

    There is no telling whether or not Butler's shot will improve, but as long as he keeps attacking the basket, getting to the line and playing elite defense, he'll be doing his part.

2. Taj Gibson

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Taj Gibson continues to take minutes away from Boozer—and rightfully so.

    During February, Gibson averaged 16.9 points per game to Boozer's 12.5, and that has continued into March as Gibson is still scoring more than Boozer. The rebounding advantage goes to Gibson as well, as he's grabbed 10 more rebounds since the start of February.

    Gibson's clear advantage over Boozer is his defense, though.

    Not only can Gibson block shots, but his presence on the floor—particularly near the rim—also means a lot for the Bulls' interior defense. He also has the ability to guard the perimeter—like he did against Miami—which makes him invaluable to the Bulls' pick-and-roll defense, allowing the team to switch on screens.

    There's a chance Gibson will become Chicago's full-time starter next season, and given his breakout year, the Bulls stand to improve by making that decision.

1. Joakim Noah

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    Associated Press

    What can be said about Noah that hasn't already been said?

    Noah has carried and willed this team through adversity and helped put Chicago in a place where it can challenge for a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference.

    He's a threat to record a triple-double every single night, something that can't be said about any other center in the league.

    His vision at the top of the key is one of a kind for his position, and his ability to hit cutters with a bounce or chest pass is as good as any point guard's. It has led to an outstanding eight assists per game during March.

    The Bulls' leader has also improved his scoring, averaging 14 points per game on 53.4 percent shooting over the last nine games, per NBA.com. Noah is starting to attack the basket when defenders lay off, and more importantly, his jump shot is starting to become more consistent.

    Noah is having a career year and is even starting to garner some MVP buzz. He has without a doubt been the Bulls' best player over the past few months.

     

    Note: All stats gathered from Basketball-Reference.com and accurate as of March 18, 2014.

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