Chicago Bulls: 2014 Bulls player reviews
May, 20, 2014
Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY SportsBulls general manager Gar Forman faces a summer full of big decisions.
Gar FormanSeason recap: Nobody knew that Derrick Rose would go down again with another season-ending knee injury, but Forman did a solid job of landing D.J. Augustin to fill a hole and provide offensive stability. He also made a wise choice in dealing Luol Deng given that as soon as Rose went down the Bulls' championship aspirations were over.
Season highlight: It has to be the Augustin signing. The diminutive point guard was claimed off waivers from the Toronto Raptors in mid December and went on to be described as a season saver by teammates and coaches, helping push the Bulls into the playoffs.
John Paxson were the ones who gave Tom Thibodeau his first professional head-coaching opportunity, but Thibodeau did not trust the roster the rest of the roster the front office put together after dealing Deng. The Bulls were out of gas in the postseason and lost to a better team in the Washington Wizards.
Final grade: B
Notes: The relationship between Forman and Thibodeau will be on full display for the world to see over the coming weeks. That's because Thibodeau's name has popped up as a candidate for a couple different jobs recently. The fact that neither Forman nor Thibodeau has said anything publicly regarding the coach's future in Chicago continues to frustrate a large portion of the fan base that likes the successful head coach.
Quotable: "You don't know what direction it could go. When I say we could have flexibility, that's dependent on some different ways that we could go. At this point, it's not definite that we would have a large amount of flexibility, but that's one of the roads we can take. There's so many moving parts that can happen. It will obviously be an active summer for us." -- Forman, after the season, on if he believed the Bulls could land a big free agent this summer.
What's next?: On top of the ongoing Thibodeau drama, Forman has to find a way to add another big-time scorer to help take the pressure off Rose. Fans are expecting the Bulls to make a hard push for New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony or make a trade for the Minnesota Timberwolves' Kevin Love. If the Bulls don't land either, Forman likely will try to push for European star Nikola Mirotic to come over and play for the Bulls. No matter what happens, all eyes will be on the veteran exec to make the right decision for the organization as it tries to win another title.
May, 19, 2014
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThis season might have been the best coaching job of Tom Thibodeau's Bulls career.
Season recap: This was Thibodeau's best season in his four-year tenure with the Bulls because he changed his entire season plan on the fly after Derrick Rose went down with another knee injury. Then he kept his team together after veteran leader Luol Deng was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Thibodeau's team ran out of gas again in the postseason, but he did what he had to do to get the maximum out of his team again.
Season lowlight: The regular season finale, a 91-86 overtime loss to the Charlotte Bobcats on April 16. In a game that didn't mean much in the grand scheme of playoff seedings, Thibodeau decided to play it like any other game. The difference is that this game went into overtime and Jimmy Butler went on to play 48 minutes in the loss. Joakim Noah played 42. For a team that had a short rotation to begin with, it was a questionable decision to many critics.
Final grade: A
Notes: Thibodeau's single best coaching job of the year may have been to get Noah to become more of a leader on and off the floor. The two have exchanged plenty of words over the years, but they respect one another and trust that the other works as hard as they can to win games.
Quotable: "I guess you kind of get used to it ... but you don't," Noah said in October of Thibodeau's intensity. "I don't know. I'm more used to it now than I guess a couple years ago. But he doesn't let anything go. He's going to coach you because he really cares. He really cares about winning and that's what he's all about."
What's next?: Nobody knows for sure. Thibodeau's name has been mentioned as a possible candidate for two different head coaching jobs in recent days. Until he and/or the Bulls come out to say that the veteran coach will be in Chicago for the long term, the speculation regarding his job status will hover over everything the Bulls do.
May, 16, 2014
Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY SportsThe Bulls like Tony Snell's work ethic and hope that will play a part in him taking a big step going into his second season.
Season recap: Snell showed flashes of being a solid player throughout the season, but he was too inconsistent and unsure to make a major impact as a rookie. Coaches and teammates routinely praised his work ethic and seem confident that he will turn into a better player next year.
Denver Nuggets. He played 37 minutes and hit three three-pointers.
Season lowlight: During a Feb. 23 showdown with the Miami Heat, Snell was just 2-for-10 from the field and looked lost sometimes on the floor in 38 minutes of play.
Final grade: C-
Notes: Snell's progression this summer is important to the Bulls especially given that they could have had Gorgui Dieng, Mason Plumlee and Tim Hardaway Jr. in last summer's draft. All three had better rookie years than Snell.
Quotable: "The best thing about him is how serious he is," Thibodeau said in November of Snell. "Even when he wasn't playing, his getting ready to play when he wasn't playing told me how serious he was. The questions he asked, on game days at home he just stayed in the arena. He's there all the time. Those type of guys -- when they get opportunities they're ready and they usually take advantage. He's done a great job, he's got to continue to work, which I know he will because of the type of person he is."
What's next?: Snell has a chance to crack the rotation next season. He proved to the coaching staff early on that he was a hard worker and will likely play for the Bulls' summer league team in July in Las Vegas. The Bulls need him to take the next step like Jimmy Butler did a season ago.
May, 15, 2014
AP Photo/Alex BrandonFor a second straight season Derrick Rose spent more time in street clothes than a Bulls uniform.
Season recap: After missing all of last season because of a torn ACL in his left knee, Rose made his long-awaited return and looked great in the preseason. Then the regular season came and he struggled to find his rhythm before tearing the meniscus in his right knee on Nov. 22 and missing the rest of the season.
New York Knicks in the final seconds of an 82-81 victory on Oct. 31.
Season lowlight: Rose went down on Nov. 22 against the Portland Trail Blazers. The postgame locker room scene was eerily reminiscent to what had happened in April 2012 when Rose tore the ACL in his left knee.
Final grade: Inc.
Notes: The Bulls learned from their massive PR blunder of a year ago by quickly ruling Rose out for the season after he had surgery a few days after his injury. It was a wise move and one they stuck to throughout the season.
Quotable: "You can be a fool if you want to. (I'm) dead serious. I know I'm going to be all right." -- Rose, during his post-injury media session, on what he would say to people who say he can't be counted on to be the main star on a team.
What's next?: Coach Tom Thibodeau acknowledged last week that Rose has starting taking more contact in practice. The next step will be whether he plays for Team USA this summer in the World Cup of Basketball in Spain. He is expected to be part of the Team USA's training camp late in July in Las Vegas. The issue for Rose -- and for the Bulls -- is whether he will be able to stay healthy throughout an entire NBA season.
May, 14, 2014
Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty ImagesJimmy Butler was a defensive wonder for the Bulls, but his jump shot still needs work.
Season recap: Butler dealt with a painful turf toe injury throughout the first month of the season. Once he got back on the floor, he played an iron man role for the Bulls, especially after his good friend Luol Deng got traded in early January. His defense was always solid, but he couldn't knock down jumpers consistently.
Orlando Magic on Jan. 15, scoring 21 points with seven rebounds and six assists. He hit a game-deciding three-pointer late in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Season lowlight: Butler played 53 minutes in a Game 2 overtime loss to the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. He was just 2-for-9 from the field and admitted in the days following that he was fatigued.
Final grade: C
Notes: Butler shot 39.7 percent from the field and just 28.3 percent from the three-point line. Butler will be looking for a big contract extension next summer, but to get one he'll have to develop a more consistent jump shot.
Quotable: "The guy is built different. He's a black cowboy. I think that's as unique as it gets. He's one of those guys you can't put him in a category, and I love that because when a guy who plays that hard and really represents what our team is all about, for him to make the biggest shot of the game in the biggest moment of our season. I couldn't be happier that it's him." -- Bulls center Joakim Noah after Butler hit a critical three-pointer late in Game 3 of their playoff series against the Wizards.
What's next?: Butler always puts in extra time in the gym, but he must put in more than ever this summer to get his jumper to a point where he can trust it on the floor next season.
May, 13, 2014
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty ImagesMike Dunleavy averaged 11.3 points in 31.5 minutes a game with the Bulls this season.
Season recap: After a rough first couple of weeks, Dunleavy was solid throughout the season. He played in every game for the Bulls and endeared himself to teammates and coaches by playing with toughness. He hit big shots and played with the type of calm that coach Tom Thibodeau appreciated.
Season highlight: Dunleavy went off for 35 points, including eight three-pointers, in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Washington Wizards.
Miami Heat on Oct. 29 and looked lost on defense. He followed that up on Oct. 31 by going 0-for-2 from the field in 15 minutes.
Final grade: B
Notes: Dunleavy never got too high or too low, a trait many of his teammates respected. He had a calm demeanor on and off the floor and just went out and played. He is under contract to the Bulls for one more year.
Quotable: "He's a consummate pro," Thibodeau said of Dunleavy after a game in March. "He plays hard every night, gives himself up for the team. Offensively, moves great without the ball, shares the ball, moves the ball quickly. Defensively, always sticking his nose in, rebounding, taking charges, and that's the price of winning. And that's why he's so valuable to our team. He came back after taking stitches [and] took another charge. To me, when you talk about toughness, that's toughness. You have to have mental toughness, physical toughness, he has it."
What's next?: Dunleavy seems to like Chicago, and the Bulls seem to like Dunleavy. He was brought in to play with Derrick Rose, so it will be interesting to see how the pair plays together when they are both on the floor. The only thing that could change things is if the Bulls have to move Dunleavy in order to clear out more cap space for a push toward acquiring Carmelo Anthony.
May, 12, 2014
Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty ImagesKirk Hinrich played in 73 games this season, his most in five years.
Season recap: Hinrich played in 73 games and was steady for a Bulls team that needed his veteran leadership. After dealing with so many different injuries over the past few seasons, the Bulls were thrilled that Hinrich was able to stay on the floor and produce -- especially after Derrick Rose went down.
Season lowlight: In Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, a game the Bulls had to have to even the series, Hinrich was just 3-for-12 from the field and turned the ball over four times. The Bulls ended up losing that game and ultimately lost the series.
Final grade: B-
Notes: The turning point in Hinrich's season came around Christmas. After sitting out several games because of injury, Tom Thibodeau decide he would start limiting Hinrich's minutes. Instead of playing 40 minutes on some nights, Hinrich started playing somewhere between 25-30. It changed the direction of his season.
Quotable: "I grew up a Bull in this league. I will always think of myself as a Chicago Bull no matter what happens. Just moving forward, I have a great relationship with a lot of my teammates here who are coming back. The organization, there's definitely a lot of history there." -- Hinrich said last week after his final media session.
What's next?: Hinrich could very well be back in Chicago next year if he decides to take a pay cut for around the veteran's minimum. He likes being in Chicago and the Bulls' front office enjoys having him around.
May, 9, 2014
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsNazr Mohammed averaged just seven minutes a game for the Bulls in his 15th NBA season.
Season recap: Mohammed played the same role he did last season -- as little used backup center. Tom Thibodeau used him sparingly throughout the year, but Mohammed stayed ready for whenever his name was called. He was respected by his coaches for his professionalism.
Season lowlight: Mohammed played just five minutes combined in the Bulls' playoff series against the Washington Wizards.
Final grade: C-
Notes: Mohammed always treated his peers and the media with respect. Having played in the league for 15 years, he always knew how to handle himself in different situations and was usually one of the first guys in the gym on the road warming up.
Quotable: "Fight. The thing is the ball was in the air, you've got to it. If you allow them to hit you first you're reacting to them. When the ball's in the air you've got to go after it, you've got to fight and we've got to do it as a team. That's the way we rebound. Every aspect of what we do is five men working together." -- Thibodeau describing the attitude he wants his big men to have while going after rebounds.
What's next?: Mohammed recently tweeted that he would like to play a couple more seasons in the NBA, but it seems like a safe bet his time in Chicago has ended. Thibodeau didn't use him much this season. The Bulls will likely go younger with a prospect in the draft.
May, 8, 2014
AP Photo/Michael ConroyCarlos Boozer found himself on the bench late in games last season under Tom Thibodeau.
2013-14 salary: $15,300,000 | Age: 32 | Season stats: 13.7 PPG, 8.3 RPG
Season recap: Boozer had his worst season as a Bull. He became mostly a two-quarter player under Tom Thibodeau -- playing the first and third quarters -- then sitting on the bench in crunch time. After his best season as a Bull last year, Boozer's numbers regressed and he became the first player to openly question some of Thibodeau's decisions.
Season highlight: Boozer had 27 points and nine rebounds as the Bulls destroyed the Miami Heat on Dec. 5.
"I think I should be out there," Boozer said. "But it's [Thibodeau's] choice. He makes the decisions out there, so I play. I don't coach. He coaches. So he decides that.
"But honestly, he's been doing that a lot since I've been here, not putting me in in the fourth quarter. Sometimes we win; more times than not, we don't. But that's his choice."
Boozer's words angered many within the organization, especially Thibodeau, and likely marked the beginning of the end of his tenure in Chicago.
Final grade: C-.
Notes: For the third year in a row, Boozer played in a majority of the Bulls' games. He averaged 28.2 minutes a game in 76 contests.
Quotes: Bulls GM Gar Forman addressed Boozer's future and the possibility of using the amnesty clause on the final year of his deal during last week's season ending media session.
"We know there’s been a lot written about that. We have valued Carlos. And I think Carlos has had a big part of our success the last four years. Obviously, we still have amnesty as an option that we haven’t used that a lot of teams have. That’s something as we go into July, we’ll have to evaluate. If it’s something that makes sense as far as getting our team stronger, we may go that way. But we also may not go that way. And you guys know us: We’re not going to make decisions until we have had a chance to really go through the process, study what the pluses are, what the minuses could be and then make whatever we think is the best decision for our team."
What's next? Boozer has likely played his last game as a Bull. He seems to know it and the Bulls seem to know it. The writing is on the wall. Whether the final year of his contract is amnestied or he is dealt in another deal, Boozer's days with the Bulls are numbered.
May, 7, 2014
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesTaj Gibson's offense is what really made the difference in his play for the Bulls in 2013-14.
2013-14 salary: $7,550,000 | Age: 28 | Season stats: 13.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG.
Season recap: Gibson enjoyed the best season of his professional career. He played his customary solid defense throughout, but it was his offense that was the difference. He was much more confident offensively and enjoyed going to work down on the blocks. Gibson repeatedly credited Bulls assistant coach Mike Wilhelm for spending extra hours with him in the gym and working on his game.
Season highlight: Gibson scored a career-high 32 points and grabbed seven rebounds in a Game 4 loss to the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. He was one of the only Bulls players who looked as if he were ready to play in the game.
Denver Nuggets. It was a call with which he did not agree.
"I was not talking to the ref," Gibson said at the time. "I was just talking to Nate [Robinson]. But the ref, he just bugged out. Me and Nate was talking the whole game back and forth, but it was fun. It was good to see him. We were just joking around."
Final grade: A.
Notes: Gibson sprained his ankle at the end of Game 5 of the Wizards' series and had to be helped off the floor. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau didn't sound too concerned the injury would linger much into the summer.
Quotes: "We wouldn't be in this position right now if it wasn't for Taj," Joakim Noah said of Gibson in April. "His improvement from when he first came into the league to now is crazy. He's just somebody who really cares about winning -- more than anyone I've ever been around. So, he really wants to win and that's his main priority, and I think he deserves (the Sixth Man award). There's nobody that comes even close to what he brings to this team."
What's next? If the Bulls decide to amnesty the final year of Carlos Boozer's contract, there's a very good chance Gibson will open next season as their starting power forward. Gibson proved he can handle more minutes and would likely thrive in the new role if this past season is any indication. He must continue to work on his game in the summer, especially on offense, and take the next step in his progression.
May, 6, 2014
AP Photo/John RaouxD.J. Augustin often brought the spark the Bulls needed after they signed him in December.
Season recap: Augustin was described many times as a "season-saver" by Chicago Bulls teammates and coaches after being picked up off waivers from the Toronto Raptors in December. He was the offensive spark plug the Bulls needed after losing Derrick Rose to another knee injury. Chicago leaned on Augustin offensively throughout the regular season, and he usually delivered down the stretch.
Season highlight: The diminutive point guard scored a career-high 33 points, 15 in the fourth quarter, in a victory over the Boston Celtics on March 30.
Washington Wizards, Augustin was a non-factor in the series. He did not hit shots and was bothered by the Wizards' size. Taking out his 10-for-22 performance in Game 2, Augustin was just 11-for-50 in the rest of the series.
Final grade: A-minus.
Notes: Augustin fit in well with his new teammates and thrived in a system where he was given confidence again. As Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said many times throughout the season, Augustin and the Bulls found each other at the right time.
Quotes: "He's been great," Noah said of Augustin in late March. "I'm really happy that he's part of this team. As soon as he came in he fit in right away. He's a laid-back guy, quiet guy, but he's a hell of a competitor. Plays well in the big moment. We wouldn't be in this position right now if it wasn't for him."
What's next? Augustin reiterated last week that he wants to stay in Chicago next season. The question will be whether he priced himself out of the Bulls' range. Chicago general manager Gar Forman acknowledged how much the organization likes Augustin -- but the Bulls aren't going to break the bank to sign him. If he wants big money, he'll probably have to look elsewhere.
May, 5, 2014
Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Bulls ran their offense through Joakim Noah, who also captured his first NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.
Season recap: Noah enjoyed the best season of his professional career. He was a force on both ends of the floor and won the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award. After Derrick Rose went down with another knee injury and Luol Deng got traded to Cleveland in January, Noah was the player who rallied the rest of his teammates together and helped get them out of a collective rut. He became a de facto point guard for the Bulls as the offense ran through him on the high post. Noah became the unquestioned leader of a team that surprised many during the regular season.
Season highlight: Noah was solid throughout February-April, but it was a particular stretch in the first week of March in which he racked up two triple-doubles in four days that had the NBA shaking its collective head in awe.
Washington Wizards. Noah did not play well against Wizards big men Nene and Marcin Gortat and was hampered by a knee injury that ultimately required surgery. Noah never stopped playing hard, but he looked like he was out of gas.
Final grade: A.
Notes: Noah's popularity, which has grown each year, hit a new high this season. The ovation he got on a consistent basis at the United Center was always loud. He grew out of the "energy player" tag and into one of the best players in the league. Aside from the knee surgery, he stayed healthy all year and produced. the question is will he be able to do it again next year?
Quoteable: "I'm proud of that," Noah said in January of the Bulls' mindset after playing their first game since Deng was traded. "I'm proud of that. This team, we've been dealing with a lot of adversity over the years. But people know when they come and play Chicago, no matter if there's four guys on the court, we're going to go out there and we're going to go hard. We're going to give it everything we have. And I think that's something that people are proud of when you say, 'Chicago Bulls.' Whatever it is, you know you're in for a fight. I'm proud to be a part of that. It's always going to be like that."
What's next?: Noah had a minor procedure on his left knee last Friday, according to the Bulls. He is expected to rehab for 8-12 weeks. He said last month that he planned to take time off this summer as he gets his body back in order. He will not play for Team France in the World Cup of Basketball this summer.