Even with the rise of Jimmy Butler, Pau Gasol’s revival and Derrick Rose’s incremental return to form, there have been some underwhelming performers for the Chicago Bulls over the initial span of the 2014-15 season.
In the early going, head coach Tom Thibodeau seemed to give various players their fair shot at earning a stake in the rotation. Staggered injuries along the way have given some guys an extended audition, and that has provided a firmer foundation upon which an evaluation can be made.
When identifying the team’s disappointing players, their skill set, projected role and effectiveness in executing within their expected capacity are the base criteria. The complete body of work is the focus here. Intermittent bad or ineffective games were not a reason to label a player as substandard.
The season started with abundant potential, and while the team hasn’t disappointed as a whole, these are a couple of the isolated cases.
It may seem a bit unfair to criticize a rookie who plays under an old-school coach such as Thibodeau, but Doug McDermott is different. The draft-day modus operandi for general manager Gar Forman has always been to stand pat, regardless of draft position, and choose the best player.
That all changed in the 2014 NBA draft when Chicago traded their 16th and 19th picks to the Denver Nuggets for the sharp-shooting Creighton Bluejay. His long-range accuracy was a skill that gave him a chance to come in and immediately contribute.
McDermott got a healthy amount of playing time during the preseason and has seen at least 10 or more minutes in 11 of the 17 games in which he’s played.
Despite this steady exposure, the shooting specialist has fallen flat. He is shooting a tepid 42.3 percent from the field, including a cringeworthy 23.1 percent from behind the three-point line. Staying focused on his plus-10-minute games, McDermott failed to make a shot in four of those contests.
One hopes that this subpar showing is a result of first-year jitters. Hopefully, McDermott can improve as he continues to get more games under his belt. One thing is for sure, the gamble that management took to acquire his services has not paid off, so far.
During the 2013-14 campaign, Tony Snell was the exception to Thibodeau’s rule about regularly playing rookies. This inclusion was due more to a strain on personnel resources, but the former New Mexico standout got floor time to the tune of 16 minutes a game over 77 matchups.
Snell never seemed proficient at any one thing; however, he did exhibit potential to be a solid offensive asset and another adept perimeter defender for Thibodeau’s smothering system.
The second-year wing made a lot of noise during the Samsung NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, averaging 20 points and four rebounds per game. While the argument can be made that this was against players barely good enough to try out for an opportunity to be invited to training camp, he exhibited unwavering confidence in his skill set and seemed poised to crack the lineup as a dependable contributor.
Snell’s supposed growth did not carry over into the regular season, and the professional sophomore has found himself near the end of the bench with most of his minutes being relegated to garbage time.
This has been a huge letdown. With the acquisitions the team made via free agency, it seemed like the Bulls not only snagged some guys with much-needed abilities, but they also had another late first-round gem ready to pounce on unsuspecting opponents.
Alas, Snell has fizzled and remains mired on the fringes of Thibodeau’s rotation.
The Bright Side
One could call it ill-advised to say that two very young players who have yet to tap into their potential are disappointing, but both of these guys had a halo of promise and absence of extenuating circumstances when the season started.
Targeting Rose for not immediately playing at an All-Star level after being away from the professional game for two years due to major knee injuries would be the epitome of impatient delusion wrapped in unrealistic expectations.
Joakim Noah is averaging under 10 points per game for the first time since his second season, but he is still impacting success in other ways. The 2014 Defensive Player of the Year is pulling down 9.9 rebounds a game, while dishing out 4.6 assists and blocking 1.5 shots. That’s on top of him still adjusting to his summer knee surgery that has limited his playing time.
A slow start for these two All-Stars was to be expected, so it would be ignorant to label them as disappointments. All things considered, everyone else is performing up to par. The injury bug has been rearing its disruptive head, so all this club really needs is to get an extended stretch of games with the first and second units intact.
So, McDermott and Snell aren’t ushering the future of the franchise into the present, and that’s OK. These two have a lot of basketball years ahead of them. If they stay dedicated to learning all they can under the tutelage of Thibodeau and the more experienced players, they will eventually prove their mettle.
All statistics via Basketball-Reference.com and are current as of December 5, 2014.