Category Archives: Special Features

Longer features about a specific topic.

You can still hate LeBron James

Well folks, it happened: LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers crawled back from a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 deficit against the seemingly insurmountable Golden State Warriors to claim a championship for the city of Cleveland. And as is tradition in 2016, Twitter became a luscious garden of Hot Takes, as the tears of a million Jordans provided the necessary nourishment for takes—ranging from scorching hot to borderline absolute zero—to bloom beautifully for all the Internet to enjoy.

But as Twitter harvested this fresh crop of Takes, something bizarre and disarming occurred: the world reached a sudden consensus that the time to hate LeBron James had passed. As an experienced user of the Internet, I’ve come to be wary of any perceived Internet consensus. It’s important that there are people out there who think things like “a hot dog is a sandwich” or “Young Thug is not a religious figure”—these disagreements bring balance to the Internet force and allow us to identify idiots on the web.

So on Sunday night, as the timeline collectively asked no one in particular “How can anyone dislike this guy?”, it became clear that something was afoot. Two primary narratives emerged: the first from people who have always liked LeBron, painting the ever shrinking bandwagon of LeBron haters as “Michael Jordan fanboys…clutching their 1992 Air Jordan tennis shoes while quietly whimpering.” The second was from people who have long disliked LeBron but can no longer hold onto that disdain because of “the way he delivered” throughout this epic series. Both narratives are oddly detached from the way that we consume sports.

Let’s establish a baseline of facts so that I seem reasonably intelligent: LeBron James is one of the top five basketball players ever to play in the NBA and the best all-around player in the NBA right now. He has a remarkable set of physical gifts and can do things that nobody—Jordan, Magic, Bird, you name it—could do. He absolutely dominated the last three games of the Finals, and the notion that anyone else deserved MVP is nothing short of preposterous.

But all of these facts were facts two weeks ago, two months ago, and two years ago. To say that LeBron played amazing basketball in these Finals understates the historic evisceration he handed the defending champs. I hate LeBron James, but I’m not a moron. So why, suddenly, did LeBron become beyond reproach from good old fashioned hate?

As a 10-year-old Pistons fan in the summer of 2003, I hated LeBron from the instant he was drafted by the Cavaliers. I delighted in telling all of my friends that Darko Milicic would win a title before the self-titled King, and I delighted even more so in being proven right less than a year later. I was a little shithead.

During the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals I was forced to confront the fact that LeBron was rather good at basketball, good enough on his own to decimate my beloved Pistons. But that didn’t mean that I stopped hating his guts. As his first tenure in Cleveland twisted and turned, with the Cavs never assembling an adequate supporting cast for LeBron to deliver a title to his hometown, I cheered on his continual failures because they validated my hatred. And when LeBron went on national television and committed the most perplexing public relations faux pas of the 21st century, I roared with excitement as the LeBron hate train left the station.

I own a “LeBron went south but his mom rides West” shirt that I wear at every conceivable opportunity. (I should probably wash it.) I laughed at his 2011 Finals collapse, reveled in hot takes about whether or not he had a clutch gene, and, ultimately, avoided ESPN for days after his first two titles, still clinging to the only argument I needed, Shawn. And as he came back to Cleveland looking to avenge his Decision, nothing made me giddier than seeing Steph Curry become the cool little behemoth standing in the King’s way.

Given this history, why would any of the events of the last two weeks cause me to change my mind about LeBron James? I never hated him because he wasn’t good at basketball, because he wasn’t as good as Jordan, because he wasn’t clutch, because he was an unrepentant crybaby on and off the court, because he subtweeted his teammates and coaches, or because he comically lacked a degree of self-awareness that anyone in the public eye should have. On the contrary: all of those irrational criticisms were true—became true, even—because I hated him.

Sports hate is not rational. We yell and scream at and about people who are literally the best in the world at what they do because it gets our juices flowing. More often than not, we cherry pick moments and narratives on and off the field to create heroes and villains among a crop of people who are pretty similar to each other in a vacuum. (The reminders over the past few days that LeBron is by all accounts a model father and spearheads significant charitable endeavors buttress this notion; it’s not like the guy just now became a decent human being.) That’s how we explain away nitpicking the performance and behavior of multimillionaire superstars in bizarrely different ways—“can you just IMAGINE if LeBron had thrown HIS mouth guard at a fan?!?!”—and it’s what allows us to harvest our bounty of hot takes in the first place.

But there’s something special about that sports hate. No, I’m not just going to suddenly shut up and enjoy the greatness of an athlete that I’ve always despised. And no, I’m not going to just give in, essentially waving the white flag because the guy is just too damn good. I’m a hater through and through, and the number one object of this perverse fandom is punk ass LeBron James.

I know I’m not alone. Whether it’s Tom Brady, Alex Rodriguez, or Sidney Crosby, the world loves to hate athletes who have proven themselves great time and time again, and even when we occasionally pause to ask ourselves how and why that hate flows, we remember that Brady is a deflator, A-Rod is a steroid abuser, and Crosby is soft.

So on behalf of LeBron James haters everywhere, I will begrudgingly step forward and take this L. But when the 2016-17 season gets going, I’ll be right here, ready to kick the LeBron hate train into high gear as I always do, hoping for him to once again fail and whine about it so I can laugh in his stupid face. And despite what the tides of Twitter may tell you, dear reader, you’re more than welcome to join me on the hate train—which is suddenly far less crowded than it was two weeks ago—for what is sure to be another exciting season of literally hoping a complete stranger sucks at his job in a way that will disappoint millions of people. All aboard!

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2016 Mock Draft

The Philadelphia 76ers finally won the NBA lottery, yielding them the number one pick in an exciting draft. As such, our resident lottery/draft expert Jeff Berest is back with his series of mock drafts. Enjoy!

1. Philadelphia 76ers – Ben Simmons, PF, LSU

Yes! ‘The Process’ worked – hooray! It took three long painstaking seasons but the Sixers finally won the lottery, more importantly winning the opportunity to draft [potential superstar] Ben Simmons.

Now, many people may believe there should be a true debate as to if the Sixers should go Simmons or Brandon Ingram, but there should be absolutely no discussion of the sort. The name the Sixers submit to the commissioner on June 23rd will read “Simmons, Ben”, and I am certain of this. Forget the Sixers drafting for need and selecting a shooter like Brandon Ingram, that is literally the only thing he does better than Simmons. Bryan Colangelo (aka not Sam Hinkie) will take Simmons and have his glut of frontcourt players and figure the rest out later. We haven’t seen a type of skillset like Simmons’ to come out of the draft since LeBron James. LEBRON JAMES! That right there should settle any internal debate you may have about the pick. A player who is 6’10″ and who can handle the ball and facilitate the offense like Simmons, on top of being able to create for himself and finish beautifully at the rim is just too good to pass up.

Before the season Simmons was the de facto #1 pick, but because of an ugly campaign with LSU, this debate with Ingram was created. I don’t care about his perceived immaturity or lack of competitive spirit. The kid made a terrible decision to go to LSU and was surrounded by truly amateur talent, yet he still dominated and averaged almost 20 and 10. Simmons is the building block the Sixers have been searching for over the past three years, and if Joel Embiid can get back on the court that’ll make two building blocks and this Sixers rebuild will be officially over. I’m also sure Brandon Ingram will be a very good player in this league, but in my mind, Simmons undoubtedly has not only a higher ceiling, but a better chance of becoming the next elite NBA player.

2. Los Angeles Lakers – Brandon Ingram, SF, Duke

Lucky for the Lakers they didn’t embarrassingly have to cede their 1st round pick to the Sixers on national television after a season in which they won only 17 games. The Lakers were also fortunate that they weren’t jumped by the Celtics or any other team, because that would’ve taken them out of the Brandon Ingram sweepstakes. The 2016 NBA Draft is the most top heavy class I can remember in recent years. After Simmons and Ingram there is a very VERY steep drop off in talent, so landing in the top 2 was a major coup for the Lakers – Thanks, Byron Scott!

Ingram is an elite scorer, who stands at a lean 6’10″ and has deep range. He is a matchup nightmare on the wing and possesses the length to be a bothersome defender. He typically gets a comparison to Durant because of that thin frame and ability to shoot from deep, but he has a long way to go before he becomes KD. That isn’t to say he doesn’t have the potential to become “KD-lite”. Ideally, you’d like to see Ingram handle the ball better, and it will be interesting to see in the NBA if he chooses to just be mostly a jump shooter or if he rounds out his game and relies on his ability to get to basket as well.

The Lakers would now have a formidable group of young talent to build from in Ingram, D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle.

3. Boston Celtics – Dragan Bender, PF, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Danny Ainge will probably be looking to deal this pick but if he cannot do so, I think he will be forced to take Bender. Outside of Bender his options are all guards, like Jamal Murray, Kris Dunn, and Buddy Hield. But where will the minutes be for say, Murray, who would have to play in a rotation with Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, and Evan Turner. Bender is somewhat of an unknown but I believe there’s a consensus that he may have the highest ceiling and potential of any player outside of Simmons and Ingram. It might take a few years to unlock that potential but that may be worth it for the Celts. Jamal Murray isn’t pushing Boston over the precipice and launching them into the Conference Finals anytime soon. The Celtics have the time to nurture Bender and maybe get lucky with him. It also helps that that down the line they also have more unprotected Brooklyn picks to play with.

Bender isn’t going to be a replicant of Kristaps Porzingis and have immediate success (most likely). But he is awfully talented on the offensive side of the ball and the Celtics need to add to their frontcourt that is dependent on guys like Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger. Ainge would definitely like to move this pick and add NBA talent that can help now (maybe a Jahlil Okafor swap??), but Bender is an interesting gamble worth taking.

4. Phoenix Suns – Jamal Murray, SG, Kentucky

The Suns could really use another wing player or big to pair with Alex Len, but they’re in this 2nd tier which is very guard heavy. If the Suns still want to configure their roster around three combo guards well they are truly in luck, because Jamal Murray is there for the picking. To me, Murray is the best available at this point – and one thing this could do for Phoenix is make Eric Bledsoe or Brandon Knight expendable. Which would be good if they could shed one of those big contracts and then work with a backcourt that included Murray.

If you take and Murray and combine that with assets from a Knight/Bledsoe trade that’s probably not a bad haul for the 4th pick. The Suns also have some flexibility because they have the 13th pick, so drafting for need isn’t the way to go here. I wouldn’t be shocked if a guy like Denzel Valentine vaulted up the board here and the Suns nabbed him, but it’d be hard to pass on a shooter like Murray who can also handle the ball like a PG. If the Suns can maneuver their current roster a bit, Murray makes more sense. But even if they don’t they’re adding a quality talent regardless.

5. Minnesota Timberwolves – Kris Dunn, PG, Providence

I think Ricky Rubio is a fine player, regardless of his shortcomings offensively. But as a really big fan of Kris Dunn, he could be the one to vault this Minnesota team. Rubio is a great facilitator and a good perimeter defender, but that’s about it. He isn’t very athletic and outside of his passing ability nothing really wows you. Kris Dunn is relentless at attacking the rim and watching him it’s easy to see glimpses of a player like John Wall or Derrick Rose. His jumpshot isn’t great either and he isn’t the passer Rubio is, but his wow factor at times is off the charts. If I’m Minnesota, I would really have to measure what my allegiance to Rubio is going forward. He’s got a decently high cap number and a history of injuries, and there are many who believe that he has simply peaked and this is the best version of him we’re going to see.

Now I’m not saying Dunn is going to be the caliber of player John Wall is, but he has a slight chance to be that. So if I’m Minnesota I take him here, instead of going with maybe a safer pick in Buddy Hield. They have Wiggins, LaVine, and Muhammad who can fill it up, I’m not sure Hield makes them that much better. I’d take a flyer on Dunn, and see if you can move Rubio. I can’t see Dunn’s floor being worse than what Rubio already brings you, but his upside is way higher.

6. New Orleans Pelicans – Buddy Hield, SG, Oklahoma

I personally have a hard time saying that Buddy Hield actually has the potential to be a great player in the NBA. Outside of his incredible range, which should translate, I have doubts about his ability to beat NBA defenders off the dribble and create for himself like he did at Oklahoma. He can definitely be a solid piece, but don’t expect what he did at Oklahoma to carry over to the NBA. There’s probably not much that separates him from Murray except for that Buddy is already 22 years old.

The Pelicans #1 priority is to get back into the playoffs and put as much talent around Anthony Davis as possible. So I doubt the Pellies would get frisky and take a Jaylen Brown or Skal Labissiere here and see if they can develop. Buddy is probably the player most likely at this point in the draft to help them right away. Eric Gordon has moved on and a backcourt of a (healthy-ish) Jrue Holiday and Buddy Hield is not a bad duo, and gives NOLA another good scoring option. Buddy probably won’t be a good defender at the NBA level, but neither is anyone else on this Pelicans team, so he should fit right in. I wouldn’t be surprised if Valentine were to go here either.

7. Denver Nuggets – Denzel Valentine, SF, Michigan State

If you look at the Nuggets roster it really has a lot more overall talent than some of the other teams that finished in the bottom 10 this year. They have some pieces to build around like Emmanuel Mudiay and Nikola Jokic, not to mention guys who’ve been there like Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried. The Nuggets haven’t been relevant in the Western Conference in quite some time and they really don’t have any immediate needs to fill; they simply should take the best player available who will be able to help them right, and that’s Denzel Valentine.

Valentine may not have the elite athleticism a player like Jaylen Brown may have, but his instincts and basketball IQ are off the charts. At 6’8″ he has the ability to handle the ball and create for himself and his teammates. He’s never going to be a guy who averages 20 PPG or does anything extremely well, but he is a necessary glue guy who can do a lot of everything and his leadership skills have been praised by all scouts and coaches. Normally you don’t take this type of player in the top 10, but because of the weak depth in this year’s class there’s no way you could fault the Nuggets for taking Denzel.

8. Sacramento Kings – Jaylen Brown, SG, California

The Kings are…well…the Kings. Last year they completely mishandled the draft and reached for Willie Cauley-Stein, who isn’t awful but doesn’t really fit with DeMarcus Cousins. I’m having a hard time seeing them take a guy like Labissiere or Jakob Poetl here as well. Henry Ellenson is a better fit with DeMarcus Cousins – and this is just a gut feeling, but I can’t see the Kings taking Ellenson. Jaylen Brown could potentially be much higher on some teams draft boards because of his elite athleticism and his potential to maybe turn into a star if he develops a jumpshot and starts to round out his game.

Outside of Rudy Gay, the Kings are generally weak on the wings and if they feel like Dave Joerger can work with Brown and turn him into a player it’s very much worth the risk at #8. Ellenson is more ready to contribute next year, but his ceiling isn’t necessarily as high as Jaylen Brown’s. And considering the future picks owed to Chicago and Philadelphia, the Kings might be better off swinging for the fences.

9. Toronto Raptors – Skal Labissiere, PF, Kentucky

Toronto is still reaping the benefits of the Andrea Bargnani trade and are picking in the top 10 even though they are currently in the Eastern Conference Finals. Before the season started a lot of experts had Skal Labissiere as the #2 prospect overall next to Ben Simmons. He proved at Kentucky that he is much further away from being a finished product than initially thought. Although, recently at the combine and individual workouts he has been lauded for his shooting touch and two-way game. Skal can be an asset on defense as a rim-protector but has the athleticism and range to also play PF and in the NBA.

This tends to happen in many professional sports drafts where guys like Labissiere who are originally thought of as top prospects might slide during the year because of average performances. Then, in the evaluation process, the stock begins to rise again after his talent level reemerges when you’re comparing to others. Of course he won’t be going #2, but during his struggles at Kentucky some even though he could go late 1st round. But now that scouts and NBA teams can see his potential he will surely begin to push back up draft boards.

Toronto could really use a forward to pair with Jonas Valanciunas in the frontcourt and although Ellenson is a more polished product, Toronto is the type of team to usually take the pick with more potential. It will undoubtedly take at least a year for Skal to develop and figure out the NBA game, but his upside as a two-way player is undeniable.

10. Milwaukee Bucks – Henry Ellenson, PF, Marquette

The Bucks may not have an immediate need for a PF like Henry Ellenson, but it just works out too perfectly that the boy from Wisconsin who also went to Marquette gets taken by the Bucks. The Bucks could really use a PG after the MCW experiment failed, but maybe Giannis really is their PG of the future, who knows? I think Jakob Poetl is probably the pick the Bucks should make because they are dying for a true center and rim protector. But Ellenson would be very hard to pass up.

The Bucks defense is an Achilles heel and Ellenson certainly won’t fix that. But he’s just another versatile player that the Bucks can integrate into their rotation. He has ability to shoot from range and has a polished post game. The Bucks may have a hard time finding minutes for Greg Monroe, Jabari Parker, John Henson and others, so some corresponding moves could possibly be made, and that’s where the Bucks could add another PG or center.

11. Orlando Magic – Jakob Poetl, C, Utah

The Orlando Magic have done an admirable job gathering some quality talent and assets over the past few years, but one thing that it hasn’t translated into is playoff appearances. And plainly, that is because they get their teeth kicked-in every night on the defensive side of the ball. Nikola Vucevic, although a terrific scorer, is a sieve on defense. Aaron Gordon is their only real quality defender.

Jakob Poetl may not be a position of need because you’ll have to find a way to work him and Vucevic together, but they’ve gone as far as they can with Nik as a rim protector and anchor of the defense. Poetl is a great defender and is actually a nice post player with good touch. The Magic could possibly take a wing player or maybe a PG to push Elfrid Payton, but by nabbing Poetl Orlando can finally stop being an embarrassment on defense night after night.

12. Utah Jazz – Wade Baldwin IV, PG, Vanderbilt

The Jazz are another lottery team that has a lot of talent and can definitely make a push to the playoffs next season, although many expected them to contend this season. Dante Exum was out for the season so there are still question marks on whether he is a productive NBA player. Rodney Hood turned out to be a gem in the late 1st round, and combines with Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert to form a great core. Whether Exum is the PG of the future or not, Wade Baldwin is an interesting fit here. Last year the Jazz took Trey Lyles, so I don’t think they take another big man here and crowd the frontcourt more. Baldwin is a great shooter and is built in the mold of a George Hill type, as maybe not a conventional PG but a combo guard who can still facilitate the offense when needed.

Between Baldwin and Exum (either way) you have your starting PG, as well as a combo guard off the bench who you can play small with as well. It’ll be up to the Jazz to develop Baldwin, but he’s not a bad pick here at the 12 spot. Baldwin is also extremely long for his size and should be able to defend not only the PG position well, but SGs also.

13. Phoenix Suns – Marquese Chriss, PF, Washington

After taking Jamal Murray at 4, the Suns now go a little bold and take a shot on Marquese Chriss, a late bloomer who really caught everybody’s eye at Washington this season. He has the makings of a prototypical NBA stretch-4 and that is something the Suns should be interested in. He has the ability to shoot out to the three point line, has a solid post game, and is a very good athlete with bounce who can defend the paint as well. Chriss is still very raw, but with good coaching and some patience could develop into a very solid contributor for Phoenix.

14. Chicago Bulls – Timothy Luwawu, SF, France

The Bulls are dying for another wing player to pair with Jimmy Butler and Luwawu might be that guy. Luwawu has a perfect skillset for an NBA wing and can play both the 2 and 3 at 6’7″. One of his knocks was his three point shooting, but in France this year he raised his % to almost 40. He has the basketball instincts and IQ that should allow him to play in the NBA right away. He is also an above average passer for his position and his defense is one of his best attributes which should translate. He needs to improve his handle and make sure his shooting this season was not an anomaly, but at 14 this is the range where the risk is worth it for the Bulls.

15. Denver Nuggets – Deyonta Davis, PF, Michigan State

16. Boston Celtics – Taurean Prince, SF, Baylor

17. Memphis Grizzlies – Furkan Korkmaz, SG, Turkey

18. Detroit Pistons – Domantas Sabonis, PF, Gonzaga

19. Denver Nuggets – Demetrius Jackson, PG, Notre Dame

20. Indiana Pacers – Tyler Ulis, PG, Kentucky

21. Atlanta Hawks – Malachi Richardson, SG, Syracuse

22. Charlotte Hornets – Malik Beasley, SG, Florida State

23. Boston Celtics – Cheick Diallo, PF, Kansas

24. Philadelphia 76ers – Dejounte Murray, PG, Washington

25. Los Angeles Clippers – DeAndre Bembry, SF, St. Josephs

26. Philadelphia 76ers – Patrick McCaw, SG, UNLV

27. Toronto Raptors – Malcolm Brogdon, SG, Virginia

28. Phoenix Suns – Ante Zizic, C, Croatia

29. San Antonio Spurs – Isala Cordinier, SG, France

30. Golden State Warriors – Damian Jones, C, Vanderbilt

Bulls Third Quarter Breakdown

The Bulls are currently 30-30, a perfectly average record. Unfortunately, they haven’t played quite as good as that record suggests, as a recent run of wretched play has dragged Chicago’s net rating down to -1.5, good for 18th in the NBA.  They now sit a half game out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference, on the outside looking in for the first time in months. As we sit at the third quarter mark of the season, the DRaT crew decided to once again take stock of the franchise. (You can find the Quarter Season Breakdown here and the Midseason Breakdown here).

Fortunately for the Bulls (depending on your perspective), they should have plenty of juice to make a push as the team gets healthy. Jimmy Butler is set to return this weekend from a scary knee injury and should instantly boost the team on both offense and defense. Nikola Mirotic is still making his way back from a nightmare appendectomy, but all signs point to a return this month.

While the Bulls have been one of the league’s worst teams of late, there’s also been a few bright spots. Derrick Rose continues to look excellent, easily getting into the paint and converting a solid percentage around the rim. He’s also maintained strong efficiency on his newest weapon, the bank jump shot. While Rose’s inability to stay completely healthy can be quite frustrating, he’s on place to play in nearly 70 games this season. That’s awesome.

Jacob Bikshorn is going to tell you about Doug McDermott‘s surge; Jared Wyllys has the impact of Jimmy Butler’s absence; Drew Hackman digs into the return of DRaT favorite Mike Dunleavy; Jason Schwartz analyzes the emergence of E’Twaun Moore. Enjoy!

-Jake Weiner, (D)Roses and Thorns Editor

doug career night

Hot Doug — Jacob Bikshorn

Since we last checked in, things have not been going well. Injuries, lackadaisical defense and an improved Eastern Conference have the Chicago Bulls on the outside looking in to the playoff picture. But if you carefully sift through the rubble of this season, you will discover one glimmering ray of hope.

The Bulls front office pushed all their chips to the middle of the table on draft night in 2014, and over the last twenty games, it’s starting to look like that bet might pay off. After a disappointing rookie season and a discouraging start to his sophomore campaign, I was ready to throw in the towel on Doug McDermott. But the developments over the last twenty games have me believing that Doug can grow into a potent offensive weapon.

The absence of Jimmy Butler has forced everyone to shoulder a bigger offensive load, and Doug has answered the call. McDermott has scored double figures in each of the last seven games and nine of the last 10. Prior to the All-Star break, McDermott had a 16.1% usage rate. In the eight games since, McDermott has raised his usage to 20.1%.

An increase in usage is often accompanied by a decrease in efficiency, but thankfully that has not been the case with McDermott. For the season, McDermott’s true shooting percentage is 55.1%. In his last 10 games, Doug’s true shooting has jumped to 59.4%, a number that puts him in the upper echelon of NBA wings.

McDermott has actually seen his three point shooting slip just a bit during this prolonged stretch of effectiveness. He’s shooting over 41% for the season, but just 38% in his last ten games. So how has Doug managed to increase in true shooting percentage?

Before the month of February, only 28.5% of McDermott’s field goal attempts were dunks, layups, hook shots or bank shots. In that same time frame, Doug only shot 51% on these type of shots. But, per NBA Savant, 33.8% of Doug’s field goal attempts have fallen into these shot categories and the former Creighton star is scoring on 63% of these attempts.

I would be lying if I said that I watched much of Doug McDermott in college, but there’s no way he gained his reputation as a prolific scorer by standing in the corners for four years. Forcing McDermott to be nothing more than a floor spacer is an improper use of his skill set and severely limits the impact he can have on the game.

Doug already has a well established reputation of being a knock down shooter. Now, he’s using that reputation to open up other parts of his game. McDermott has become a smart and dangerous cutter and has greatly improved his finishing skills in the paint. This play in particular highlights the full Doug package. He notices his defender overplays the three point threat, makes a smart cut, catches the ball on the move and finishes a reverse and-1.

McDermott still has a long way to go in other aspects of the game. He is still a total defensive liability and is on pace to record the lowest block and steal total ever for a rotation player. But offensively, Doug is developing into a dynamic player able to hurt a defense multiple ways.

butler dribble

The Importance of Jimmy Butler — Jared Wyllys

I don’t think many of us had grand visions for the Bulls’ success this year, but missing the playoffs in a league where so many teams get in would be unexpected. Much can change in the next six weeks or so, but even if they ultimately sneak into the playoffs, it’s difficult to envision any kind of real success at that level.

A lot of this is just the natural consequence of a new coach with the same flawed roster of last year, but so much of the team’s philosophy seems to have shifted. Once known for its defense, they are routinely giving up over 100 points, and even allowing teams to shoot franchise records (nearly 70%!) from the field.

They haven’t been helped, though, by the recent absence of Jimmy Butler. In the grind of midseason, to lose Butler is very hard to recover from. They have gone 4-8 without him, but fortunately, Jimmy is expected to return for Saturday’s game.

Seeing them without Butler probably exposes one of the major flaws of this team as currently constructed: They lack depth. Gone, truly, are the days when the Bulls’ “bench mob” could come in and handle a game in lieu of the starters. We see perhaps flashes of what used to be there, but it’s ultimately gone. The Bulls now depend on Jimmy to be Jimmy for the most part. Butler leads the team in scoring and is just behind Derrick Rose in assists per game. He leads the team in steals per game. Even with his extended absence, Butler is tops in total scoring by over 100 points, and in total steals, it’s not even close. He and Pau Gasol lead the team in VORP, and Butler’s PER is second only to Gasol.

Jimmy Butler is just crucial to this team having any kind of success. He’s the team’s clear best player on both ends of the court, and they’ve been a legitimately awful squad in his absence. Let’s hope Jimmy’s return gets the Bulls back on track.

dunleavy

The Return of Dunl3avy — Drew Hackman

#THERETURN. It’s a moment Bulls fans have been waiting for all season long. (Nevermind the fact that #TheReturn has been overshadowed by injuries to Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah, Nikola Mirotic, sporadic Derrick Rose soreness, and a mediocre team…) IT’S #THERETURN OF MIKE DUNL3AVY! The man, the myth, the legend, the 35 year-old veteran who came to Chicago to win a championship and who found himself out for half of his second season with the Bulls recovering from back surgery. Now, he returns in the middle of a team fighting for the eighth playoff spot. Since Mike’s return, they have gone 3-8, have allowed 100 or more points in all of those contests, and have been sliding out of relevance. Fortunately, for him, and for Bulls fans, the correlation here does not translate to any meaningful relationship due to its coupling with decimating injuries to several of the top Bulls players.

Mike’s minutes have been understandably reduced, averaging just 21.6 MPG compared to an average of 30.3 over the last two seasons. With only 11 games under his belt this season, and in just about 200 minutes, we’re looking at a small sample size. Nonetheless, according to Basketball-Reference.com, Dunleavy is performing better than his career averages in a few important categories. Most notably, Mike is shooting 47.1% from three point range, compared to 37.7% career – lights out – and, he’s attempting a higher rate, at 5.1 per 36 minutes over his 4.5 career. He only gets to the line a couple times per game, but has hit 85%, over his 80% lifetime. In digging into some of the advanced stats, Mike’s PER is slightly up this year from last, along with ORB%, and USG%. His stats in other areas have suffered as a result of the lack of surrounding talent, but the numbers are encouraging for a player whose job is to provide spacing and a three point threat.

The things that Dunleavy brings to this Bulls team – grit, savvy veteran play, off-the-ball movement, and length on defense – are qualities that Bulls fans can enjoy night in and night out. And since his numbers are looking better this year than last in some key areas, the Dunleavy X-Factor will start to peak when Butler returns to the starting lineup on Saturday. It couldn’t come at a better time, as the Bulls make one final push for a good playoff spot and try to show the league that they’ll still be a relevant force come April 16th.

Etwaun

The Emergence of E’Twaun Moore — Jason Schwartz

With the Bulls free-falling out of the Eastern Conference playoffs and countless injuries to the first team, it has been hard to find positives in this mostly miserable season. However, over the past month, journeyman guard E’Twaun Moore has been just that, a ray of light trapped in a dark and gloomy cave.

Moore had himself his best month in his NBA career this past February, when he averaged 13 points per game on 48 percent shooting. Moore’s career average is just five points per game on 42 percent shooting. But he has found some confidence given the increased minutes he’s received. These minutes are due of course to injuries to the likes of Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose, and Nikola Mirotic over the last month, but the reserve guard has taken his opportunity and ran with it. Moore is much smarter with the ball than Aaron Brooks, and is much more competent on the defensive side of the ball than his diminutive counterpart.

The Purdue alum will never be a star in this league, but the Bulls have needed consistent backcourt depth for quite some time now. With Brooks struggling with his shot and his other usual short-comings, Moore has been able to wrestle away some vital minutes from the veteran. He is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and GarPax would do well to bring him back at a bargain price. Finding a backup point guard that can take care of the ball and score on occasion is very important for a contending team (even if the Bulls aren’t exactly that at this point).

If nothing else, Moore is a good example of how Hoiball is supposed to be run. Moore pushes the pace when he sees the opportunity, and doesn’t pass up open looks, even if early in the shot clock. His ability to understand what Hoiberg wants is his best quality. In a rarity for the Bulls, they actually seem to run some semblance of an offense when he is in the game. As opposed to the chuck-it-up Brooks, or the drive at all cost Rose, Moore focuses on ball movement and finding empty space on the floor to attack.

Whether he sees significant playing time going forward once the Bulls get healthy remains to be seen, but they have to be thankful for the second round pick who kept them in playoff contention when so many others on the squad lacked energy and intensity.

 

Bulls Midseason Breakdown

The Bulls are 24-17, putting us at exactly the midpoint of Chicago’s 2015-16. The (D)Roses and Thorns crew is back once again to go through some of the biggest storylines surrounding the remainder of the season.

In our Quarter Season Breakdown, we took a look at the early returns on Fred Hoiberg‘s new offense, Chicago’s different lineup combinations, the ongoing struggles of Joakim Noah, and the necessity of a freed Bobby Portis.

The offense has actually improved greatly in the second quarter of the season. While Derrick Rose still isn’t distributing the ball to the best of his abilities, his scoring output has been fantastic. In that time, Rose has averaged 18.7 points on 45.9% shooting, massive improvements from his horrid start to the season. Furthermore, Jimmy Butler has continued to blossom into an elite two-way player, pouring in both a 40 point half and 53 point masterpiece while also increasing his assist rate.

Unfortunately, the defense has fallen off after a fantastic start. With Joakim Noah likely done for the season, Fred Hoiberg has no reliable frontcourt combinations when the Bulls need a stop. Taj Gibson is the only plus defender left, and pairing him with Pau Gasol does not fully combat the elder Spaniard’s poor efforts and mobility. Neither Niko Mirotic or Bobby Portis is an impactful defender at this time, meaning the Bulls have no choice but to try and beat opponents with offense now.

As a whole, the Bulls are on pace for 48 wins after a healthily dramatic first half of the season. Joakim’s injury hurts badly, and Mike Dunleavy‘s continued absence has left the Bulls without a reliable small forward. Still, encouraging signs from Derrick Rose and Bobby Portis have left us with some optimism yet. The Bulls probably won’t win the NBA Finals this year, but there’s plenty that makes this team worth watching.

Without further ado, let’s break it down, midseason style.

–Jake Weiner, (D)Roses and Thorns Editor

butler rose fred

Fred Hoiberg’s Report Card: Incomplete — Drew Hackman

If this year feels like a melting pot of players, coaches, styles, and personalities, that’s because it is. And so far, instead of a homogeneous complementary blend of talent, catalyzed by the offensive mind of Fred Hoiberg, it has been a close your eyes and pick a flavor of the night. We were expecting drag screens, fast breaks, a spaced half court, three pointers galore, easy paint points, and a chemistry and ball-sharing of new-age basketball never before seen during the Thibodeau era. It hasn’t quite been that.

The Bulls have shown flashes of picking up Hoiberg’s offense, glimpses of how great they can be, but they’ve also shown an utter lack of focus, communication, and rhythm, sometimes even in the same night, indicative of the discomfort and pains of going through a transition from a coach with the tough-minded, traditional style both in personality and in play of Tom Thibodeau, to the more relaxed and free-flowing Fred.

The Bulls are 24-17 under Hoiberg, which by most metrics would be a pretty respectable mark. It’s too early to tell whether Hoiberg is the right fit for this team, or what kind of coach he is at the NBA level. He comes into a city on the heels of four straight postseason runs with high expectations, this season no different, a fan base clamoring for a shake-up in the methodology and approach, and something new. He was said to bring a new and exciting offense to this team, with the players that could make it work. But what we’ve seen so far is ups and downs, a lot of post-play courtesy of Pau Gasol, and some frustrated players wishing he was more forceful. There have been signs of it (the halftime reaming the Bulls got against the pitiful Sixers), but nothing has taken hold.

This city expects greatness, a championship, heart hustle and muscle, and above all, effort. This team is not doing that right now, but a rookie coach can only do so much. The players need to step up and take ownership. Management needs to give the coach the tools; and the Bulls do not have the tools. Not with Pau Gasol unable to run the floor and Niko Mirotic shooting under 40%, and only two or three guys that can run an effective fast break. This season is not and will not be a failure for Hoiberg – the jury is still out, as are the results of the season. If and when the Bulls lose in the second round of the playoffs, or at best in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Cavs, the Bulls will hopefully re-tool and acquire some talent that fits into this offense. Then we can finally give a more accurate assessment of Hoiberg as an NBA coach.

Getting up for good teams and playing down to their competition has been the motus operandi of this team for at least two years running – a rookie coach can’t change that overnight. The players have to decide to show up with intensity. No amount of yelling or shaming from a coach will fix that.

This season may not matter if you take the long view – we’re hurtling towards either a Warriors-Cavs or Spurs-Cavs Finals. Hoiberg can only do so much with the personnel he has right now. This year is long from over, and there’s plenty of growth and excitement forthcoming, but it’s next year and the year after that have me truly wondering what Fred Hoiberg is capable of, once the front office decides to make some moves.

snell

The Confounding Tony Snell — Jacob Bikshorn

Tony Snell is perplexing. Not perplexing like my inability to understand where magnets come from and how they work. That’s more like being in awe of a natural force. That is not how I would categorize my Tony Snell confusion. What perplexes me about the third year forward is the great disconnect between what I see with my eyes on the basketball court compared to the numbers I read in his statistical profile.

Tony Snell does not grab the attention of the casual viewer. He’s started in 24 of the 39 games he’s appeared in, but is only averaging 22 minutes per game. He averages a modest six points, 3.5 rebounds and 0.9 assists per game. He is making a career best 37.4% of his threes, but is only attempting 2.9 of them per game. Snell has been horrendous from two point range, connecting on only 36% of his shots inside the arc. He’s only attempted 22 free throws all year. On the defensive end, Tony holds up well in isolation, but is not a particularly great team or help defender off the ball.

Looking beyond the box score is where things become strange. According to NBA.com/stats, the Bulls have a net rating of +5.6 when Tony Snell is in the game, the highest of any Bull. When Snell is off the court, the Bulls net rating falls to -3.4, the lowest on the team. Tony Snell, who appears to do very little to impact basketball games, somehow has the greatest impact on the team’s success.

What is causing this bizarre statistical trend? I have a couple of hypotheses, but none of them can be well supported by any objective measurement at my fingertips. The first hypothesis is that the other small forwards on the team are so bad, that Snell’s robust mediocrity is, by default, a massive boost. Doug McDermott has shot the ball well this season, but he still has a long way to go as a defender and rebounder; his presence on the floor is typically a predictor of poor results. For the second year in a row, Nikola Mirotic has been miscast as a small forward. Any advantages Niko provides on offense are erased when he’s forced to play alongside two other big men. While Snell has not done anything overwhelmingly positive, he at least does his best not to take anything off the table, something that can’t be said of Doug and Niko.

My other theory has to do with the short leash Fred Hoiberg has Snell on. There are certain games where Tony is just feeling it. When that first three finds the bottom of the net, it’s usually a sign of good things to come. On nights like that, Hoiberg extends Snell’s minutes and trusts him to add space to an offense that is constantly lacking it. But on other nights, when Snell clanks his first few attempts off the rim, Hoiberg is quick to send Tony to the bench. Guys like Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol are counted on for big minutes every night. Even on off nights when the shots aren’t falling, these three remain on the court. In theory, if Snell only gets to play on nights when he’s playing well, his on/off numbers would be heavily skewed.

I don’t have any great answer for the Tony Snell question. But I am excited to spend the second half of the season trying to figure it out.

BPtime

Bobby Portis Deserves More Minutes — Jason Schwartz

It’s time to address the issue of reserve power forwards for the Bulls. The two that reside there (Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis) are heading in opposite directions production-wise while Fred Hoiberg continues to give the majority of the minutes to the less productive of the two.

In the past few games, Hoiberg has gone with a starting lineup of Rose, Butler, Snell, Gibson, and Gasol, demoting previous starter Nikola Mirotic to sixth man duties. However, there is no great reason going forward why Mirotic should be getting more minutes than the rookie, as the difference in production is glaring.

While Mirotic showed a lot of promise in an exciting rookie campaign, some of the glaring deficiencies in his game have made him unplayable at times this season. Niko is not a consistent defender and has regressed offensively as well.

Enter Bobby Portis, the fresh-faced rookie who found a place at the end of Fred Hoiberg’s bench to start the season, playing in no more than 10 minutes in any game until December 19th against the Knicks, when he promptly put up 20 points and 11 boards. Portis would presumably improve the defense and rebounding as the first man off of the bench as well as help out the offense. Portis is shooting the ball at a 46.2% clip, compared to Mirotic’s paltry 38.1% from the field. The real improvement, however, is the improvement in athleticism from the rookie on both sides of the floor.

Anyone who was unfortunate enough to watch the game against the Warriors on Wednesday was greeted to Mirotic constantly getting blown by on the defensive side of the ball while bricking his only four shot attempts of the night. This may have been the reason he only played 14 minutes against the stacked Warriors squad. And in those short minutes, he managed to record an astounding +/- rating of -16. This Bulls team needs more athleticism going forward, that is no secret, so there is no harm in giving the rookie a shot to make his mark so the front office can see what they have for the future. The numbers back up this philosophy, especially with Joakim Noah’s injury effectively ruining Chicago’s long championship odds.

In Bulls wins, Bobby Portis is averaging more points and nearly twice as many minutes as he does in losses (17.5 mpg and 9.9 mpg respectively). On the other hand, Niko is averaging 6 less minutes per game and less points per game in Bulls wins. While Portis has provided a chunk of these stats in garbage time, it seems clear there is a correlation between more Bobby and better results.

P-PAU!

Will the Bulls Make a Deadline Move? — Jared Wyllys

Recently, our own Jacob Bikshorn did an excellent job of outlining some of the trade possibilities as the deadline approaches. At the time of Jacob’s post, Joakim Noah looked like a real possibility for one of the players to be moved, but of course, his season has essentially ended, so he is off of the block for now. So where does that leave us? The Bulls are not known for being particularly active at the trade deadline, but the time looks right to be shopping players like Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson and possibly even Nikola Mirotic.

Prior to Christmas, the Bulls had been pretty actively shopping Noah and Taj Gibson, and while they might still be looking to move Gibson, Noah is set to be a free agent this summer, so his future is much more unclear.

Outside of the Noah related rumors, the Bulls trading market has been very quiet, which could mean that without Noah as a trade possibility, they may not look to make a move at all, though that’s not the approach that I would hope for them to take.

As it stands now, the Bulls would have the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, but it is a very tight field, and that spot shuffles regularly. And after being thoroughly trounced by the Warriors on Wednesday night, the Bulls don’t have a very easy stretch of games to finish the month of January, so this can change significantly.

As for the trade deadline next month, though I expect that the Bulls can remain competitive enough to finish with at least a seed in the top four, I think they are in a position where they need to be thinking beyond just this season. Realistically, we are looking at a team that would struggle to get out of the first or second round anyway, so I would prefer to see them build for the years to come. Jimmy Butler and Bobby Portis look like essential pieces, and beyond those two, my hope is that the front office is willing to move on from a lot of the current roster.

Bulls Quarter Season Breakdown

We may be a hair more than a quarter through the Bulls season, but the (D)Roses and Thorns crew thought it to be an ideal time to check in on some of the biggest storylines and issues surrounding the team. At 14-8, the Bulls have notched a solid record, but below the surface plenty of problems lurk. Without further ado, let’s take a deep dive.

–Jake Weiner

butler rose fred

Hoiball in Name Only? — Jacob Bikshorn

When coach Fred Hoiberg was hired to revamp the vanilla offense, I envisioned the Bulls playing a style reminiscent of the Warriors or the 2014 Spurs. Coach Nick from BBallBreakdown had me salivating at the possibilities. The Bulls boast two starting guards fully capable of running the pick and roll and enough shooters on the roster to facilitate an open style of offense.

A quarter of the season is behind us, and it’s time to wonder if the much ballyhooed offensive revolution will take place this year. The Bulls are currently only scoring 98 points per 100 possessions, the 27th lowest efficiency in the league! Only Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and Kobe’s Lakers are lower. How is it possible that the Bulls, who ranked 10th in offensive efficiency a season ago, can be so bad with the exact same cast of characters?

Through twenty games, the offense has been stagnant, unimaginative, and very, very guardable. The offense ranks 15th in frequency of shots taken by a player who has held the ball six seconds or longer and has dribbled the ball seven or more times. They are 26th and 30th, respectively, in eFG%. The offense that was supposed to be predicated on fast action and unpredictability is disappointingly middle of the pack in the shots it should desperately try to avoid.

Unfortunately, there is a single culprit most responsible for these embarrassing trends and his name is Derrick Rose. The Bulls starting point guard, who sports a team high usage rate of 24.9%, has been one of the least efficient players in the NBA this season. His propensity to pound the rock before making any decisions is not doing anything to help.

As of Friday, Rose is attempting 3.6 shots per game where he has dribbled seven or more times before the shot, the 15th highest average in the league. Of the 46 players to average two or more of these shots per game, Rose is dead last in eFG%. Rose shoots the ball 4.2 times per game after holding it for six seconds or longer, again the 15th highest average in the league. He’s 52/53 in eFG% on those shots (minimum two attempts).

The argument could be made that the majority of these shots are drives to the basket that produce foul shots, a category not factored into eFG%. But Rose on the season has a free throw rate of just .168, the lowest rate of his career. Rose is one of just five players to use up 23% of his teams’ possessions and have a FTr below .170.

Rose should continue to play aggressively and attack the basket often. He just needs to do it in the natural flow of the offense. If and when Rose figures this out, he’ll be able to attack defenses before they can react and recover to the action that precedes the drive. But until then, this offense isn’t getting any better.

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Strengh of Schedule — Jared Wyllys

Through the first quarter of the season, the Bulls have been a perplexing mix of mediocre on the floor and somehow managing to win 14 games and sit just one game behind Cleveland in the Eastern Conference. Before Monday’s matchup with Philadelphia, the Bulls have a strength of schedule rating that is below just a handful of teams (New Orleans, Memphis, Sacramento, Brooklyn, and they are tied with Charlotte), and their RPI is third in the NBA (take a look here).

Coming up in the next quarter of the season, the Bulls will see the Warriors once, on January 20th and they have eight games against teams who currently have more wins than they do. While this upcoming stretch of 20 or 21 games might seem like it will be relatively easy, games against the likes of Oklahoma City, Dallas, Indiana, Detroit, and Boston spell the possibility for the Bulls to lose a lot of ground in the standings.

Whatever the case, the Bulls are a team that is finding its identity, largely due to a new coach in Fred Hoiberg who is operating with players who have spent years under Tom Thibodeau’s leadership, so transitioning can be quite difficult. I suspect that it will be a season or two before we see what a Hoiberg Bulls team will really look like. In the rest of this season, it is hard not to expect them to falter at least somewhat.

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Reading the Lineup Combo Tea Leaves — Drew Hackman

It’s no secret that the Bulls haven’t had success offensively this season, at 27th in offensive efficiency. Mainstream thought is that Hoiberg has been searching desperately for something that works, but is there truth to this?

Hoiberg has utilized just 120 different 5-man lineups, the third-lowest number of lineup combinations in the league, with the average at 170. So what’s the hold up – why hasn’t he tried more? A few answers to this:

  1. The Bulls have been relatively healthy. With Mike Dunleavy out through this point in the season, and with a healthy roster, Hoiberg hasn’t had to insert as many strange combinations as other teams.
  2. Pau Gasol has been promised minutes (rumor has it), and Jimmy Butler almost *has* to play 40 minutes per game to keep the Bulls in contention in most games, eliminating a large number of potential combinations.
  3. There’s no correlation between a team’s win percentage and the number of lineups they throw out there – whether the Bulls have been winning or losing games would seem to have no impact to speak of on how many different combinations the coaching staff will choose to use. They will implement whichever lineups they think work best based on matchups and cohesion:

NBA Lineup Correlation

When the lineup data is filtered for greater than or equal to five games played and averaging more than three minutes per game (we’ll call this High Use Lineups or HUL), the data gets a little more telling. The Bulls are tied for the sixth-highest number of lineup combinations, at ten, under the HUL model. Although there still seems to be no correlation between win percentage and number of HULs, the HUL model would indicate that the Hoiberg staff is trying to find something that sticks, which tells a different story than the initial look at the unfiltered data might indicate.

HUL Lineup Combos

So which lineups have given the Bulls the most success, and which have hurt them? How do the dynamics change when you add or subtract a key player, and what can we expect to see from the Bulls going forward? Let’s take a look, using the HUL model:

  • The best 5-man lineup – Hinrich/Butler/McDermott/Gibson/Noah, averaging +1.8 ppg. Substitute Moore in for Butler, and this yields the worst lineup, averaging -2.2 ppg. It may be no coincidence that Moore hasn’t seen much playing time lately.
  • Another successful lineup relative to the mean has been Rose/Butler/McDermott/Mirotic/Gasol, at +0.7ppg – by most standards, this is not a significant margin, but this is the second best 5-man lineup the Bulls have tried (yikes).
  • When looking at 3- and 2-man combinations, Gibson/Mirotic/Snell, Gibson/Gasol/Brooks, Brooks/Gasol, Brooks/Butler, and Gibson/Mirotic have the honors at +4.3, +3.4, +3.0, +2.8, +2.6, respectively. Part of the reason Butler will not show up in more of these high-end lists is due to his high usage rate, forced to play with most lineups, even those that perform poorly.

Over the last nine games, the Bulls have had a healthy dose of Butler/Gasol/Gibson/Rose/Snell, and the same lineup substituting Mirotic for Gibson. Combined, these two lineups are -0.7; we may not see as much of this in the future. Instead, I expect to see more of what we saw Saturday night against the Pelicans and Monday vs. Philly: more Noah, more Brooks, more McDermott.

Noah Duncan

The Mysterious Case of Joakim Noah — Jason Schwartz

Coming into this season, Bulls fans hoped an offseason of rest would rejuvenate Joakim Noah to get him back towards his Defensive Player of the Year, fourth in MVP voting ways. After watching Noah hobble through the playoffs last year, this Bulls team knew it needed more coming into this season from its heart and soul. At the quarter-pole of this season, fans and management alike are still searching for that man.

Unfortunately, for much of the year Noah has looked anything but rejuvenated as father time doesn’t appear to be on his side. Noah has not started a game and is averaging a career-low 3.8 points per game. While his numbers are horrid, Noah still remains a very influential Bulls player.

Noah is the most vocal leader on this team, and it is often his hustle that sparks and re-energizes them. To illustrate the importance of an effective Noah, one need not look further than his performance in wins vs. losses. Going into Monday, in wins, Noah is averaging 23 minutes per game, 45% shooting, and 10 rebounds per game. Compare that to 19 MPG, 20% shooting, and 6 RPG in losses and it is evident that this Bulls team needs Noah to be on the court and effective to be at its best.

The problem has been who to play Joakim Noah with in the front-court. When he plays with Pau Gasol, you have two big guys who clog up the lane which creates poor spacing. When Noah matches up with Gibson, the Bulls are stuck with two defensive minded big men who both struggle to score. A recent lineup shakeup now has Noah matched up with Niko Mirotic off the bench, a promising development.

Noah is set to become a free agent at the end of this year and is currently making over $13 million a year. While he certainly won’t make that kind of money in free agency the Bulls have a decision to make. Noah makes the Bulls’ motor run, but is a 31-year-old center with a history of injuries and a lack of offensive ability worth bringing back?

BPtime

Three Reasons to #FreeBobbyPortis –Tyler Geocaris

The Bullies have been frustrating in the first quarter of this season, it doesn’t take an expert analyst to tell you that. Coming into the season with such high expectations, I did not think they would produce such a lackluster effort on a nightly basis. As the season goes by, it’s starting to become quite difficult to watch them without breaking something in the room. After the games where the Bulls just decide not to show up, I always find myself screaming at Freddy Hoiberg through the TV, “WHY WON’T YOU PLAY MY BOY BOBBY PORTIS!”

Before I wrote this, I looked up Bobby’s stats this season. Going into Monday’s game, Fred has played Portis a whopping 22 MINUTES……THE ENTIRE SEASON! Personally, I find this stat quite mind boggling simply because there were moments where we could have actually used Crazy Eyes out there for brief stints. Below are my three reasons why the Bulls need to start giving Portis some tick:

Instant Spark

As you could see in the preseason, much of Portis’s success came from hustling and being a maniac. He was all over the court, grabbing rebounds, diving on the floor, keeping possessions alive, and most of all just giving the team much needed energy. There have been too many instances where the Bulls have started a game flat or have had in their in-game lulls. These are perfect times to play BP!

Spread the Floor

Portis is by no means a marksman, but he has shown to at least be a respectable shooter in this league thus far. Since the defense is forced to respect his shot, driving opportunities will naturally occur for Rose and Butler, and even create space for Gasol to post up. With the disappointing start of Mirotic, Portis is even more deserving of some PT at the power forward spot. And not to mention, he is a very good free throw shooter.

Looking Ahead

This offseason, the Bulls could possibly lose two of their main big men due to free agency. With Jo in his contract year and Pau having the ability to exercise his player option, the currently log jammed Chicago frontcourt could become suddenly wide open. In the event we lose one or both of these veterans, the Bulls need to get an idea of what type of player they are going to get out of Portis, and the only way to do that is to get him out on the court. If Bobby can show flashes his rookie season, the Bulls can then pass on overpaying Noah and won’t feel bad if Pau decides to walk away from the team. This obviously creates more flexibility for the Bulls moving forward giving Gar Forman and John Paxson a lot more cap space to work with.

Now I’m not asking for Bobby to get significant playing time, I would just like to see him at least crack the rotation. It can only have a positive effect on the organization, in both the long and short term. But in order to reap these benefits, Fred must simply #FreeBobbyPortis.