At the moment, the Chicago Bulls stand at 10-16, in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. With just under a third of the season in the books, let’s take a look at how the Bulls have graded out so far. And no, Derrick Rose will not be graded in this article because if I did, the tears flowing from my eyes would fry my laptop. Moving on to the grades…
Point Guard: Kirk Hinrich
Hinrich has been pretty terrible offensively for the Bulls, plain and simple. The Bulls’ offensive system relies on shooting and point production from the point guard, from Rose to C.J. Watson’s days, to Nate Robinson last year. Hinrich is shooting 34% from the field, and a cringe-inducing 29% from 3. He’s averaging 9.6 points per game, and has an Offensive Rating of just 95 on the year.
Yes, he has been hampered by some injuries. And he continues to play hard (though not great) on defense. But for a guy known as a tough defender who can shoot from outside, Hinrich has provided little of both.
Shooting Guard: Jimmy Butler
Butler, as I wrote in my last article, has been out for much of the season with foot and ankle injuries. In the time he has played, he has been more aggressive offensively attacking the rim and shooting the 3. Unfortunately, he has played in just over half the team’s game, robbing the Bulls of an athletic wing defender and finisher at the rim.
Small Forward: Luol Deng
Deng, to his credit, despite battling through even MORE injuries, not getting a contract extension and likely playing out the string of his Bulls career, has been a warrior and carried the load for the Bulls when in the lineup. He has averaged a career-high 19.6 points per game, shooting 46% from the field. His 3-point shooting has been down in the dumps, at just 28%. However, he is near a career high in rebounds at 7, and is averaging a career-high 4.1 assists per game, playing the role of scorer, facilitator, and late-game closer.
All of this, while he, as usual, guards the LeBron Jameses and Kevin Durants of the league on a nightly basis. Much credit to Deng for fighting on through a trying season.
Power Forward: Carlos Boozer
Ah, good ol’ Boozy. Where to start. Career-low field-goal percentage, lowest points per game since his rookie year (14.9), and continued slow help defense. And yelling. Lots and lots of yelling.
Boozer’s athleticism is completely gone, relegating him to an endless string of mid-range jumpers and fadeaways. To his credit, he is the one Bulls starter who has stayed healthy and appeared in all 26 games. He still plays hard and still appears, from what can be seen on the surface, to be a great teammate.
He just isn’t at all the main scoring option the Bulls hoped he could be whenever Rose would be off the floor (basically always recently).
Center: Joakim Noah
You know what you’re going to get from Noah. Great energy, endless passion, fantastic passing and solid rebounding. Noah was slow to start the year, dealing with a groin injury that kept him out almost all of the preseason. Noah’s numbers, 10.6 points and 9.9 rebounds per game, are a tad under what he did in his All-Star season last year, which makes sense considering he has played a tad fewer minutes. He continues to hold down the paint in Tom Thibodeau’s help-heavy defense, and although the Bulls’ defense hasn’t always been as stout as usual this year, Noah continues to play well.
The bench has been subpar compared to previous editions of the Bulls’ bench mob.
It’s actually kind of tough to grade the bench, as many of the bench players have been thrust into starting roles.
Taj Gibson has been consistently good, finishing many close games on the floor in place of Boozer.
Mike Dunleavy has assumed a greater role in the offense with the Bulls desperate for shooting and spacing, and has played pretty well after a bad start.
Tony Snell has been promising and might be the shooting guard of the future.
Marquis Teague has been terrible.
Nazr Mohammed has been exactly what you would expect, old and slow but wise and effective-ish.
Erik Murphy has only played in garbage time.
Mike James (recently waived) and D.J. Augustin have taken turns supplanting Marquis Teague and have both shown enough in limited action to be considered solid rotation players for the rest of the year.
Hats off to Tom Thibodeau. To get his team to play hard in another lost season without Derrick Rose is quite a feat. There have been more lapses in the effort, energy, and grit the Bulls have shown in recent years, but it’s still way less than what you would expect. Any other team, coached by another head man, would have completely fallen apart at the seams, probably bottoming out to scary depths.
I really, really hope Thibodeau is retained. I don’t give credence to rumors about Thibodeau leaving or being fired, although the tension between him and the front office is always concerning. After Gregg Popovich, there is no other coach in the league I would want leading my team. I feel for him because of the unprecedented circumstances he has faced.