Now that the season is over and the players are going home for the summer to do their homework, it's time to evaluate how they did. My grades for the Chicago Bulls will be fair but maybe not what you think.
Some people are easy graders, some are hard and others grade on a curve. I tend to be harder than most.
I'm also not going to forget the coach and front office. If you're going to grade the players, it's only fair to grade the people who put the team together and coached them.
Derrick Rose: He exceeded all expectations for him, winning the MVP during the regular season after coming out and saying, "Why can't I be the MVP" before the year.
He worked on his three-point shot last summer and improved immensely, though his shot, both from there and mid-range deserted him somewhat in the playoffs.
Rose needs to adapt better to double-teams and find the open man quicker. That was never more evident than in the series against Miami. He also needs to become a better ball-handler, despite being spectacular at times.
He dribbles too high and is sometimes careless with the ball. He gets it knocked away too often. Aside working on that, he also needs to work on his shot a bit more, along with the post-up game he plans on developing this summer.
Final Grade: A. He had a great season, but some weaknesses showed up in the playoffs. Part of it was due to the lack of a second scorer, but I mentioned what he needs to work on to get an A+.
Luol Deng: This is the guy that Coach Tom Thibodeau calls the "glue" of the team. Deng went from a disappointment under former coach Vinny Del Negro to a main cog in Thibodeau's system.
He made more three-point shots and was considered the Bulls best defender most of the year, but how good was he?
He took far more three-point shots, but his percentage actually went down, as did his shooting percentage and rebounds, while his assists went up minimally.
If you compare the past two seasons, the numbers are startlingly close, but he was perceived to be a much better player this year.
He still disappeared at times in games, but he was durable this year compared to being a bit fragile in the past. He also didn't step up enough to be a second option for Rose when the Bulls really needed him.
People tend to be hard on him because of his contract, but he is a solid player. He's just not a star.
So was he really a better player under Thibodeau, or did his coach praise him more than he deserved?
The verdict is that Deng is Thibodeau's Kirk HInrich. Listening to Vinny, I thought Hinrich was the Bull's best player. Same for Deng with Thibodeau if you didn't know better.
Final Grade: B
Joakim Noah: Noah was on the way to the All-Star team until he injured his thumb. He was scoring and rebounding, along with playing great help defense.
Even his "tornado" jump shot was finding the net more often than not before the injury.
It seemed like when he came back, he didn't have the same energy he has always been known for. It took him awhile to build up his endurance to play the way he likes to play.
He also abandoned the jump shot, along with not putting the ball on the floor and going to the hole as often as he did earlier, which he is actually pretty good at. He certainly wasn't doing that in the playoffs.
After the Bulls were eliminated, he vowed to work hard during the summer and come back better next year, and I believe him. He is a hard worker, and he hates to lose.
He needs to improve that jump shot, continue working on his moves around the basket and develop a little hook shot. He has occasionally used it in the past, but it needs to become a regular part of his arsenal.
If he can become a better offensive threat, and continue to play defense and rebound the way he does, he will be an All-Star next year.
Final Grade: B
Carlos Boozer: Boozer was brought in after the Bulls struck out with the big three last summer. He was supposed to give them what they were missing: An inside post-game.
It's still missing. The player the Bulls signed is not the same guy who played for Utah. Defensively he is, but not offensively.
With Utah, he was dominant around the basket. With the Bulls, he opted for high-arching floaters instead of attacking the rim the way he was supposed to. His game became soft.
He didn't start the season on time because of a suspect injury and never seemed to mesh with Noah. Both players spent a lot of time on the injured list and that could have contributed, but he looked lost at times.
If the Bulls got what they payed for and he outplayed Bosh, the Bulls would have moved on instead of Miami. Instead they got an injury-prone, out-of-shape player who can't move his feet to play defense, and reaches and draws fouls.
Without a dominant offensive game in the paint, he was a disappointment, and he's here for four more years.
Final Grade: D
Keith Bogans: The Chicago Bulls had the worst production from the shooting guard position in the league: They actually scored three points less per game than Utah did, and they were next to last.
Not very good, and neither was Bogans, but you can't blame him. He is what he is, and that's not very good and certainly not a starting shooting guard on any team, yet alone a championship contender.
He plays tough defense and is a hard-nosed defender. He really gave Dwyane Wade all he could handle in the playoffs, doing as good a job on him as anyone has.
But you can't get by with a player who other teams don't bother guarding because they know he is not a threat.
When he hit two threes in a game, the Bulls usually won, but that's all he did. Other than that, he was nonexistent offensively.
He was horrible at the start of the season with his shooting and improved as the year went on, but if he's the answer for the Bulls, I would like to know what the question is.
Final Grade: C-
Taj Gibson: He was one of the key members of the "bench mob," as the Bulls reserve players were called.
Gibson always played solid defense and hustled. He did well early in the year taking Boozer's place in the starting lineup while he was out, following up a solid rookie season.
At times he has a nice outside jumper, but he doesn't give you an inside game.
He's a good rebounder, including on the offensive boards, and unlike Boozer, takes it up hard when he's at the basket.
He could fill in for Boozer in the staring lineup if the Bulls find a taker for him, but that is not very likely. Instead, he might be included in a trade as the Bulls search for a shooting guard, as he has some value.
If he stays, he will keep on giving it his all. Hopefully he will work a little more on his offensive game, especially in the post, but he's a keeper if you don't use him in a trade.
Final Grade: B
Kyle Korver: The Bulls got Korver to space the floor, and he did do that. Unfortunately, he didn't hit his shot often enough and proved to be very streaky.
When the Bulls needed him the most, he wasn't there. He often tries to find an opening, but that's not his strength. He needs to be standing at the three-point line squared up and waiting for his shot.
Even then, he wasn't consistent and let the team down.
He tries hard, but he's just not a great player. If he can't hit his shot, he kills you defensively, and he was one of the main reasons the Bulls lost to the Heat.
Game 4 was the perfect example as Mike Miller finally came alive in the fourth quarter for Miami, while Korver missed a couple of open shots. If you turned things around, the Bulls would have been tied going into Game 5 and might have been able to hold on to the 12-point lead they blew in the last 3:14 of the game.
A few more three's from Korver wouldn't have hurt. Instead, his play hurt the team.
Final Grade: D
Omer Asik: The Turkish Delight' surprised everyone, playing excellent defense and rebounding well. He is very sound fundamentally.
He often formed a wall under the basket, either blocking shots or keeping teams from driving to the hoop.
His offensive game is a work in progress. While he can dunk the ball with the best of them, the rest of his game needs a lot of work. He's a decent passer and a quick learner.
If he goes to summer school at a big-man camp and learns to play better offensively in the post, he can be a huge asset for years to come.
He also could be included in a trade as there are not a lot of players like him in the league, so he has some value. The Bulls would like to keep him, but would give him up if somebody overwhelmed them.
Final Grade: B-
Ronnie Brewer: Another shut-down defender with a limited offensive game. He's good on the baseline, but his shot sometimes makes him look like a bricklayer.
He was supposed to probably be in the starting lineup at the start of the season, but he wasn't 100 percent early, and Bogans got the job.
He has nice size for a shooting guard, shot better in the playoffs and was one of the Bulls leading scorers in the fourth quarter in Games 2 through 5 against Miami, though that wasn't saying much.
But the position is called shooting guard, and if he can't improve his outside shooting, he's destined to be a reserve for the Bulls.
Final Grade: C-
C.J. Watson: He did a nice job backing up Rose, but Thibodeau seemed reluctant to use him much against Miami, preferring to leave Rose in for the entire second half of the last two games.
He has a decent shot, including from the three-point line, and runs the team well when he's not looking for his shot too much.
He plays decent defense and is a valuable backup for Rose when the minutes are there.
He might have been able to help the team more in the playoffs against Miami with him playing the point, and Rose at shooting guard to give him some space, but Thibodeau didn't opt to do that much.
Final Grade: C
Kurt Thomas: A pro's pro, Thomas performed whenever he was called upon. Unfortunately, the coach forgot he had a wily veteran on the team who could open things up for the Bulls.
As he showed in the fourth quarter of the final game against Miami, Thomas could still hit the 15-foot jumper, along with setting solid picks, and opening the lane for Derrick Rose.
He's also in the right place on defense and can get you a charge call, plays tough, and can grab a few boards. Too bad he was mainly grabbing bench when the Bulls could have used his skills.
He's not signed for next year, and at 38, he might want to call it quits, but he would be welcome back if he wanted to play another year. Hopefully he would get more opportunity to play because the Bulls sure could have used him in the series against the Heat.
Final Grade: B+
Rasual Butler: Everyone was clamoring for the Bulls to put him in, but it fell on deaf ears. Whether he could have provided the spark the Bulls needed is not known, but it wouldn't have hurt to have him in at the end of the final game because he can hit a three.
I would rather he was in instead of Gibson and Thomas, because with him and maybe Watson, the Bulls could have gotten a better shot than they ended up with as LeBron blocked Rose's futile last attempt.
Miami could not have guarded everybody, but it was a coaches decision. Taj and Kurt weren't a threat.
Final Grade: Incomplete
Brian Scalabrine: The fan-favorite, Scalabrine was like a human victory cigar. If he came in the game, it meant the Bulls had won.
Outside of early in the season, he didn't see much playing time, but he was like having another coach on the bench.
The players loved him, and he was the best cheerleader the Bulls had, though maybe not the prettiest. He was a more-talented Jack Haley, who used to babysit for Dennis Rodman when he played with the Bulls.
Final Grade: C- for performance and A+ for intangibles.
Tom Thibodeau: Thib's was Coach of the Year for a reason. He took the Bulls from a 41-win team to 62 victories and the best record in the league.
He was the Coach of the Year during the regular season. Not so much in the playoffs.
He turned the Bulls into a shut-down defensive team, playing great team defense even if all of the players weren't individually great defenders.
He also developed a nice pick-and-roll offense that worked well utilizing the talents of Derrick Rose. However, he was unable to get Carlos Boozer into the mix the way he jelled with Deron Williams in Utah, and he was the main free-agent acquisition.
He also played his players endless minutes, especially Rose and Deng at times when he should have taken them out of games. If Rose wasn't getting lift on his jump shot in the playoffs, it was because Thibodeau burned him out during the season.
He stood up the whole game and directed his team from the sideline, shouting out directions with his hoarse voice. The team was successful and they bought into his system, but it's going to start getting old if things aren't going as well in the future
He's going to need to learn to trust his players and let up a bit. He's also going to need to quit being so stubborn and learn to adjust.
What worked during the regular season doesn't mean it's going to work in the playoffs. He was out-coached by Frank Vogel of Indiana and didn't do much better against Atlanta. Fortunately the Bulls had better talent than those two teams, but they couldn't overcome Miami when he failed once again to make adjustments.
Where was Kurt Thomas, who could have opened the floor for Rose and given the team some outside shooting from the center position along with some veteran leadership other than the last game? He only played because Asik went down.
Why couldn't he find a way to get Rose some open looks, especially in the fourth quarter when Miami completely shut him down?
Why didn't he have five three-point shooters on the floor at the end of Game 5 when the Bulls needed to spread the floor and get a good look? And why didn't he even have a timeout left so he could draw up a play instead of the Bulls scrambling and taking a haphazard shot at the buzzer?
These are all questions that Thibobeau will have to answer in the future. Hopefully he has those answers.
Final Grade: Regular season: A Playoffs: C-
Gar/Pax: The joke during the season was not knowing who's running the team since Gar Forman officially took over the reins from John Paxson a couple of years ago. They even split some votes in the Executive of the Year voting with Paxson getting three and keeping Forman from winning the award outright instead of sharing it with Pat Riley of Miami.
The Bulls won 62 games and had the best regular season record, so you would have to say, "Job well done," unless you looked a little deeper.
The offseason was the "summer of LeBron," and the Bulls romanced him along with Wade and Chris Bosh, but ended up with none of them. Boozer ended up being the consolation prize and not a very good one at that.
Of course, you couldn't predict how poorly he played, other than knowing he would get injured some time during the season and have an aversion to playing defense.
The Bulls decided to go with a three-headed monster at shooting guard instead of zeroing in on one guy who could have put the Bulls over the hump during this surprising season.
If they had bigger designs than getting just serviceable players, they could have went after Ray Allen, who was a free agent at the time. He played for Thibodeau with Boston and knew his system.
He might not have wanted to leave the Celtics, but the Bulls could have tried to overwhelm him with an offer he couldn't refuse.
Another choice they seemed to ignore was Anthony Morrow, who ended up in New Jersey. He played two years at Golden State and put up some nice numbers in limited playing time, along with being able to shoot the three.
He signed with the Nets for three years and $12 million. The Bulls gave Korver $15 million for the same amount of years, and paid Brewer $12.5 million for three years. That was after offering J.J. Redick a three-year, $20 million offer sheet that Orlando matched.
Of the group and adding Bogans, Morrow had the best stats, including a plus-10.76 efficiency rating for those that like to hear numbers. Brewer was the next best in the group at plus-6.06.
Morrow is a career .447 three-point shooter, .465 from the field, and .885 from the charity stripe, and he averaged 13.2 points last year, more than Korver and Bogans combined. He's not a great defender, but works hard at it, and is a much better shooter than anyone the Bulls signed, including Korver.
Korver's comparable numbers were .411 from the three-point line and .431 from the field in his career. His efficiency rating was a weak plus-4.75 this year.
The Bulls definitely dropped the ball here. With either Allen or Morrow, the Bulls would probably be getting ready for the NBA Finals.
Thibodeau was the right hire for the coaching job.
So there were some good things Gar/Pax did, but they clearly could have done better.
Final Grade: B
It was a great season for the Bulls and definitely exceeded expectations. But with a few better performances across the board, this could have been a season for the ages.
Even though they had an exceptional year, there is never a guarantee you will get back there in the future. Too bad they fell a little short this time.