Chicago Bulls' Most Surprising Players of the Early Season

Mike B.Correspondent INovember 22, 2014

Chicago Bulls' Most Surprising Players of the Early Season

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    Everybody likes surprises.

    It’s early, but there are a handful of Chicago Bulls players who are turning heads this season with their play on the court.

    Tony Snell isn’t one of those guys, at least not yet. Following an up-and-down rookie campaign, the 6’7” New Mexico product was supposed to have a breakout sophomore year.

    However, he hasn’t received much playing time (11.1 minutes per game) and is averaging 2.9 points on 35 percent shooting.   

    Perhaps he can make a “Most Surprising Player” list at some other point in time.

    Let’s look at five players who actually have been surprises for the Bulls.

     

    All stats are from Basketball-Reference.com. and accurate as of Nov. 21, 2014.

Nikola Mirotic

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    Chicago acquired Nikola Mirotic on draft night 2011. But as he remained overseas, fans waited three years to actually see him on an NBA court.

    And now that he’s finally wearing a Bulls uni, we’ve witnessed that he’s more than just a shooter. The 6’10” power forward can pass, take the ball to the basket, run the floor and block shots as well.

    Mirotic is averaging only 4.1 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, which definitely aren’t rookie of the year-type numbers. However, he’s playing just 12.6 minutes a night.

    With great big men like Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson on the roster, it’s really tough to get a lot of minutes.

    When Mirotic does play, though, he proves that he has game. He helped the Bulls beat the Los Angeles Clippers on November 17 (105-89), recording 12 points, seven rebounds and two assists in 18 minutes.

    While he isn’t one of the Bulls’ most important players yet, this kid surely has a bright future in the Association.    

Aaron Brooks

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    When it comes to finding quality backup point guards for cheap, Bulls management certainly know what they’re doing.

    Over the last few years, we’ve seen guys like John Lucas III, Nate Robinson and D.J. Augustin flourish in Tom Thibodeau’s system. And now Aaron Brooks is the guy.

    Brooks was signed this past offseason to play behind Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich. Yet, he has been part of Thibs’ rotation, serving as a spark plug off the bench with 10.5 points per contest.

    He’s shooting 48.5 percent overall and 47.1 percent from long range, which are both career highs.

    Brooks was amazing during the Bulls’ 106-101 loss to the Boston Celtics on Nov. 8. Before fouling out, he poured in 26 points (19 during the fourth quarter) and handed out eight assists.

    Whether it’s as a scorer or facilitator, Brooks is easily one of Chicago’s most valuable role players.

Derrick Rose

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    Derrick Rose has played just five games this season due to injury. So why is he even on this list, then? Well, he has looked pretty good in those five games.

    The Chicago native is averaging 18 points and 5.4 assists. That’s not bad at all, especially for someone who missed the entire 2012-13 campaign and all but 10 games last season.

    Rose was spectacular during the Bulls’ 102-91 victory over the Detroit Pistons on November 10. He finished with 24 points and seven assists. It was his largest point total since April 15, 2012, which was also a contest against the Pistons.

    Despite missing so much time over the years, Rose still possesses speed and quickness, as well as a nasty crossover.

    Rose is currently out with a hamstring injury. Hopefully he can get healthy and lead this Bulls squad to title No. 7.

Pau Gasol

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    During the summer, a slew of Bulls fans hoped for a Carmelo Anthony signing. ‘Melo, of course, stayed with the New York Knicks, and Chicago then went the Plan B route, signing free-agent big man Pau Gasol.

    Today, there aren’t many fans who are upset about Anthony’s decision since Gasol has been the real deal thus far. He is putting up 18.6 points and 10.6 rebounds, replacing the amnestied Carlos Boozer perfectly.

    The biggest surprise, though, has been his ability to protect the rim. He is blocking 2.5 shots per game, good for third-best in the league.

    Gasol was huge during the Bulls’ 100-93 win over the Toronto Raptors on November 13. He exploded for 27 points, grabbed 11 boards, blocked three shots and hit 12 of his 19 field-goal attempts.

    LeBron James returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers was the best offseason signing. But Gasol-to-Chicago has to be No. 2.

Jimmy Butler

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    Did you predict Jimmy Butler would be the Bulls’ leading-scorer 13 games into the season? You’re a liar if you answered "yes" to that question.

    “Jimmy Buckets” is playing out of his mind, contributing a career-best 21.5 points and shooting 52.1 percent from the field.

    We always knew about his defense, but his play on the offensive end has been a major surprise.

    With Rose’s injury and the Luol Deng trade, Butler was supposed to be a go-to scorer a season ago. That didn’t happen, though, as he was bothered by turf toe. Now, he’s “The Man” in Chi-Town.

    Per Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago, Thibodeau spoke about Butler taking the next step:

    I think each year, he's gotten better, and I think this was the next step for him, Thibodeau said after the game. He's had his moments in the past. Last year was an up-and-down year because of all the injuries. But he's healthy, he was in great shape this summer, he got lighter, I think he understands the league really well. He's strong on both sides of the ball, and he's scoring a lot of different ways. He's getting to the line -- shoot -- probably six more times, eight more times.

    If Butler continues to play like this, he’ll certainly make his first All-Star appearance in February.