NBA Playoffs 2011: Chicago Bulls First-Round Mid-Term Grades for Key Players

Jeff HicksCorrespondent IApril 20, 2011

NBA Playoffs 2011: Chicago Bulls First-Round Mid-Term Grades for Key Players

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    The Chicago Bulls are halfway to a first-round series win in the NBA playoffs.

    Despite a relentless, persistent attack from the Indiana Pacers, the Bulls have managed to hit shots when the pressure is turned up.

    This series has to be a lot more difficult to predict than originally thought. Indiana has played very well on the road and their 37 wins are just a number. Their roster of "Who's that?" has been playing better than some teams with 45-50 wins that are in the postseason.

    The series could take a different turn with the shift to Conseco Fieldhouse. These grades could change for each key player by the time the series returns to Chicago...if it does.

    Grades are determined subjectively based around what one has done during the regular season and what is expected of them if Chicago is to continue playing basketball into the latter part of spring.

Derrick Rose: A/A+

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    Just as he did in the regular season, Derrick Rose has been the focal point of the Bulls' offensive attack. The only so-called answer Indiana has for Rose is thuggery.

    Scoring 35-plus points a game with inconsistent play from your teammates and getting the "W" has been Rose's M.O. for the larger part of the season.

    His turnovers will always be a concern, but they are watered down by how much time the ball is in his possession.

    It is great to see No. 1 playing at the same level of play that he has all year, but it is fair to say that no one wants to see how long he has to do so before he potentially burns out or gets injured.

Keith Bogans: B

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    The Bulls absolutely needed a stronger contribution from Keith Bogans heading into the series versus Indiana, and so far, he has showed up.

    The much maligned shooting guard has hit the three, cut bad decisions and has stepped up his "D" in a way that few might expect. His bulldog-like attitude on defense has made it easier for Ronnie Brewer to ease back into the Bulls' lineup after suffering a thumb injury in the regular season finale.

    Bogans will never be expected to win a game, but a nice uptick in his play for a prolonged run could be a potential boost Chicago could use in tougher times.

Luol Deng: B-

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    Deng's shot has not been there consistently, and Chicago has been hurting for a consistent threat to help out Derrick Rose. If someone needs to be looked at for scoring help inside and out, it is Luol Deng.

    At the same time, Deng has kept Indiana star Danny Granger in relative check defensively. It will be interesting to see if Granger gets more of a shooting flow on his home turf and whether or not Deng can take out the Pacers' top scoring option.

Carlos Boozer: D

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    Three words: biggest playoff disappointment.

    Carlos Boozer has always been a guy who gets his numbers, summed up by his 17 points and 16 rebounds in Game 2. Boozer has also always been a guy whose stats have a tendency to inflate his stock as a player.

    In a phrase, his defense has been brutal and a huge reason why Chicago has not taken care of a lesser opponent. Tyler Hansbrough, Josh McRoberts, Roy Hibbert and Jeff Foster have all made Boozer look horrible at some point in the first 96 minutes of the series.

    Complementing his poor defense has been his offensive decision making. Passing when posting up on a clearly inferior player, missing a handful of always necessary free throws and a hot-n-cold jumper have made Boozer a legit question mark, especially once more talented big men come into the equation if Chicago advances.

Joakim Noah: B/B-

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    Joakim Noah has appeared to be flat so far in the series.

    The issue of chemistry between Boozer and Noah continues to be an issue, as neither can develop their game to their liking, and only one of them can get in that groove. His rebounds have been there, but at times he gives way to a more aggressive Boozer.

    His unquestioned strength continues to be his leadership. Noah will never be out of a game because he is so in tune with the play of the game and the state of his teammates.

Kyle Korver: B+

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    Kyle Korver, in the words of Bulls television analyst Stacey King, is open before he even gets to the stadium on game night.

    Add clutch to that opinion.

    Two games, two momentum-gripping triples in the fourth quarter.

    The other side of the spectrum still shows off his lack of any defense, but when you win and have a key part in it, the negatives disappear. For now, it is not an issue.

Notes

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    - C.J. Watson should be the getting some love for almost seamlessly stepping in for Derrick Rose in Game 2. Rose got into foul trouble in the first quarter, forcing Watson into action. His plus offense and defense help keep the drop-off from starter to bench player low. He also deserves respect for leaving a good gig in Golden State, getting 25 minutes a game, to be Rose's energy saver without saying one peep.

     

    - Kurt Thomas is playing with a fire few senior big men play with. His presence in that locker room is priceless.

     

    - If Ronnie Brewer is healthy enough to get his full complement of minutes back, this series will be over. Paul George and Danny Granger appear to be the two major threats going forward, and Brewer's staunch defense is a recipe for their demise.

     

    - If Indiana continues the "Hack-a-Rose" approach, it could turn the series in Chicago's favor. With no support for Rose thus far, any increase from Deng, Boozer and Noah alone would ice the series as Indiana has had foul trouble with their post players.

     

    - If Darren Collison (ankle sprain) plays Thursday, it would be beneficial for Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau to devise a plan to make Collison move and be forced to make plays and shots on the run.