Tag Archives: Tom Thibodeau

The T’Wolves: Their future may be bright, but their present leaves something to be desired

Future Western Conference power, dark horse playoff contender, the most exciting team in the NBA (minus the Dubs), these are just a few of the phrases that were tossed around in various season previews for the Minnesota Timberwolves to hype the team of tomorrow. There was promise everywhere as the team had an embarrassment of young talent to show off. The list included: Karl Anthony-Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng, Ricky Rubio, and Kris Dunn. None of these players were over 26 and only Rubio had been in The Association for more than 3 years. This was going to be the year the rebuilding Wolves finally had the depth and chemistry to make a legit run at the playoffs and beyond. Add to the mix the hottest free agent coach, Tom Thibodeau, joining the mix with his defensive genius and all of the pieces were there. It really is no surprise that several experts had the Wolves ending the season in the top 5 in the Western Conference.

Well, we’re currently 43 games into the regular season and that same Minnesota squad littered with talent is sitting in 12th in the Western Conference with a 15-28 record. So where did all that hype go? Well it still appears to be there, it’s just going to take a little longer than the fans in Minny would have hoped. Let’s begin with the positives, there still appears to be A LOT of talent on the Wolves. They have three players averaging near or more than 20 points per game: Karl Anthony-Towns (22.3), Andrew Wiggins (21.7), and Zach LaVine (19.8). And the best part? They are all 21 years old. That’s insane that their three top scorers are all so young and inexperienced and they still have that much room for growth.

To go off of that, Karl Anthony-Towns has established himself already as one of the premier big men in the league. The University of Kentucky product is following up his impressive Rookie of the Year campaign with an even bigger year. He is averaging a slash line of 22/12/3. Those are eye popping numbers for a second year player, especially those three assists per game which shows he’s seeing the court well and understanding the game at a much easier pace. Along with Joel Embiid, Towns has one of the brightest futures for any big guy in the leagues and will surely be in the MVP conversation down the road.

Now let’s take a look at why we’re all pumping the breaks on those preseason expectations and why they sit in 12th in the Western Conference standings. When Thibodeau took over, experts were expecting the defense to improve immediately making them into this young contending squad. However, that has not come to fruition at this point in year one of Thibs behind the bench for the Wolves. They are giving up 104.3 PPG, slightly better than the league average but nothing to write home about. Additionally, they are fourth worst in the league in opponents field goal percentage at 46.9%. This means that they are allowing their opponents easy looks at an alarming rate, which should not be the case under defensive guru Thibs. So what’s the issue? Is it youth, chemistry, effort? Probably a combination of all three but I think there is another issue in play here, tiredness.

Thibs is back to his old ways, running his best players into the ground. This was always a huge criticism of his time during the Bulls would be burning the tires on his most valuable players even when his team was up by a lot. That has not changed with his move to Minnesota as his three best players this year (Towns, Wiggins, and LaVine) are all in the top nine in the NBA in minutes played per game with LaVine leading the way at 37.3 MPG. These guys aren’t used to playing this many minutes and can easily lead to defensive lapses throughout the course of a 48 minute game. Additionally, it’s also not a great plan to run these young athletic players into the ground within their first few years in the league, especially for a team that isn’t going anywhere fast this season.

All in all, this is still a team to fear going forward. At some point, all of this young talent is going to mature and they will get their defensive feet under them with an expert in the subject at the helm. I think experts and fans alike just jumped the gun at how good these guys could be this early. However, if at this point next year the Wolves are still on the outside looking in at the playoff race, then maybe we have to look at the team chemistry and coaching as not a fit for these incredible youngsters. Here’s to hoping they figure it out and can survive the dreaded Thibs minutes.    

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The Bulls draft night was a success because they didn’t trade Jimmy Butler

After that bombshell of a trade dropped on Wednesday, many fans and followers around the league wondered what the Bulls organization would do as an encore performance in the NBA Draft on Thursday night.

And if you followed along on Twitter throughout the night, it seemed to get very close to a 1-2 punch of losing Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler on consecutive days to officially start the tear down. Depending on who you listen to, it was either GarPax listening to offers but taking none too seriously, or Tom Thibodeau getting revenge on his former employers by making it seem like they were shopping their now franchise player.

Alas, none of this came to pass, as all that was left was two reasonable picks made by the front office. We’re breaking them down for you here.

Denzel Valentine

The Bulls drafted Denzel Valentine out of Michigan St. with the 14th overall selection in the first round on Thursday night. Valentine stands at 6’5” and 220 lbs, with a large 6’10” wingspan. He is a 22-year-old out of Lansing, Michigan and progressed tremendously each year in college under the tutelage of the legendary Tom Izzo.

For those Big Ten fans out there, they remember Valentine as the do-it-all senior leader who drove the Spartans to a 29-6 record and a #2 seed in the tournament, even after missing a couple weeks in the middle of the season.

In his Senior campaign, his best by far in East Lansing, Valentine averaged 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game, shooting a staggering 44.4% from deep on 7.5 attempts per game. These numbers are indicative of what Valentine can do on the court, namely, everything. This will be a nice change of pace from a front office who have drafted some one-dimensional players in the first round over the past few years, like Doug McDermott.

What makes Valentine tick is his court vision, passing ability, and general high basketball IQ. These are all attributes that successful NBA wings tend to have. On top of that, as illustrated by his 44% from deep, Valentine is a plus-shooter from the outside. However, with Nikola Mirotic and McDermott already in the fold, his court vision and passing ability will probably be called upon more.

Valentine also possesses quality ball-handling abilities as he was the de facto point guard for the Spartans last year. This will help replace Rose in that facet of the game and his overall versatility on offense will be a sight for sore eyes for many Bulls fans who have seen too many one tool players recently.

However, as with every prospect, there are certainly some weaknesses in the Bulls shiny new first round toy. For starters, let’s point out what Gar Forman said after trading Derrick Rose. Forman exclaimed that the Bulls were looking to get younger and more athletic following along with the recent trend in the league. His first chance to do that didn’t exactly follow along those guidelines.

Valentine is 22 years old, or to put it another way, four years older than #2 overall pick Brandon Ingram. While Valentine is obviously still younger than almost every Bull, GarPax have recently selected some of the oldest players possible in McDermott and Valentine.

As for the athletic portion of Forman’s proclamation, Valentine doesn’t exactly check off that box either. He ran an underwhelming 3.46 3/4 court sprint at the draft combine. To give you an idea of that statistic, it is equivalent to what the 7’1” center Zhou Qi out of China ran in his combine effort. That’s not who you want to be compared to in terms of speed if you are hoping to be a successful wing in the Association.

Another issue with Valentine is his below-average defensive abilities. While he does posses a strong ability on the boards, especially as a wing, the rest of his defensive game is not up to the same standards. Given Valentine’s relative lack of quickness, he often struggles to stay in front of quicker guards, meaning it will be tough for him to stick at the 2 position on the court. This also means it will be tough to keep both him and McDermott on the court at the same time as there may be too little quickness and defensive ability to compensate for.

One final small issue is one that Bulls fans do not want to hear. Potentially troublesome knees. Valentine has never had a serious knee injury but did miss a couple weeks last season after needing arthroscopic surgery in one of his knees. Bulls medical staff don’t see it as a pressing issue but it will definitely be something to keep an eye on.

Overall, this was a solid selection from the duo of Forman and Paxson. A relatively low-risk pick with a well-known prospect. Valentine will help spread the floor and become a solid playmaker that can play just as well off the ball as on, which may be his most important attribute given he will be sharing a court with Butler.

Paul Zipser

With the 48th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft the Bulls selected 6’8” Paul Zipser. I know that anytime someone hears a tall, lanky, German guy was selected, they immediately want to compare him to Dirk–but that’s not the case here. However, Zipser is a very nice compliment to the Bulls first round selection, Valentine.

The German native is considered one of the most NBA-ready foreign prospects given his age (22) and experience with the German national team and Euroleague. Zipser is expected to join the Bulls this season. Many of his strengths align with needs of most NBA teams: most notably, shooting and defense.

Zipser is regarded as a small forward with the possibility of playing power forward in a small ball lineup. Zipser has a nice shot, shooting 49.5% from the field this past year in what is regarded as the second best league in the world in Germany. He also contains a surprising quickness for a forward. Combined with his length, these assets make him an above-average defender for multiple positions.

Overall, I like this pick. Going with an experienced overseas prospect who can shoot and play well off of the ball as well as defend is what you are looking for in a role player. And any serviceable rotation player you can pick up in the second round is a added bonus to a solid draft night for this front office.

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.

With Thibodeau Axed, Who Will Be The Second Domino?

After weeks of waiting for the inevitable, the Bulls have parted ways with coach Tom Thibodeau, releasing an official statement like some jackass from high school posting on Facebook about a summer internship.

In Thibodeau’s five years in Chicago, the team made the playoffs each season, often outperforming expectations as the team was constantly plagued with cruel and unusual injury luck. But success in the NBA is not defined by just making the playoffs, a feat more than half the league achieves each season. Rather, the true marker of success is rising to the challenge of the postseason and emerging with a new banner to hang, something that the Bulls under Thibs never came that close to achieving.

Thibodeau, perhaps the greatest defensive mind in the NBA, had a myriad of shortcomings that have been well documented on this fine website and others across the interwebs. I am not going to delve into some of the maddening habits and decisions of Tom Thibodeau because by now I’m sure you’re well aware of them.

What I am curious about is, with Thibs now out the door, what other moves will the Bulls make this summer to improve upon a roster that  will able to compete for the Eastern Conference crown immediately. This is not a situation that calls for complete detonation and a multi-year rebuild. But at the same time, swapping out the coach and bringing the whole gang back together is not the answer either. A second domino is going to fall, and is likely going to fall soon.

Jimmy Butler, the man who wisely scoffed at the extension offer he received last summer, is unlikely to leave town. The Bulls, hopefully, will learn from their mistake during the Omer Asik RFA fiasco and aggressively look to sign Butler before he has a chance to sign an offer sheet that could put the Bulls in an uncomfortable cap situation. Butler, who took massive strides on the offensive end this season after struggling to find any rhythm in 2014, is worth every bit of a maximum contract extension and not even the penny pinching Bulls will be dumb enough to question it.

Mike Dunleavy, the other starter set to hit the market, is an interesting wild card. He reportedly took a smaller contract to come play for a winner in Chicago after spending his entire career on teams that failed to crack .500. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dunleavy, a Midwest native, looks to come back to a situation where he clearly feels comfortable.

So what exactly is the next domino to fall in this summer of change? In my opinion, it will be a member of the extremely talented and slightly overcrowded frontcourt who will leave town before the season begins.

That frontcourt, comprised of Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Pau Gasol, and Nikola Mirotic, should have been a matchup nightmare for the other 29 teams in the NBA. The ability to always pair players who can cover each others weaknesses should have been a resource no other NBA team could match. And Mirotic, who I was cautiously optimistic about coming into the 2015 campaign, blew away everyone’s expectations on his way to a second place finish in the Rookie of the Year race.

But Tom Thibodeau was never able to fully harness the power that he had at his fingertips. His determination to make a two center lineup work the entire season was maddening, and relegated Gibson and Mirotic to roles that were both too small and improper.

Gar Forman and John Paxson will now need to decide whether the shortcomings of the Bulls big men was due to poor decision-making from the coach, or if there simply is not enough court time to go around to get the best out of these four players. Like all difficult questions, the answer falls somewhere in the middle, which is why I believe a trade will be made in addition to the release of Thibs.

Lets quickly throw aside the possibility of Mirotic getting traded. Niko signed a three year deal before the start of last season that averages $5 million a year. In the industry, they call this a bargain.

I would also like to place Gasol in the “very unlikely to be moved” category. Pau, who had a renaissance last year that caught the attention of the ghost of Michelangelo, is the post-oriented big man the Bulls have desperately been after since the Jordan years. While it’s unlikely Gasol will repeat the success he had this season going forward, he too is on a very team-friendly contract over the next two seasons and Forman and Paxson are probably still high-fiving each other over the move.

thibs and gar

That leaves Noah and Gibson as second domino candidates heading into NBA hot stove season. Both defense first players, Taj and Jo have enough overlap in skill set that the front office, looking to bring in an offensive minded head coach, will likely feel comfortable making a trade.

Noah, the 2013-14 Defensive Player of the Year, had a pretty miserable 2014-15. After undergoing a mysterious knee operation last offseason, Noah never seemed to find his form on offense. He posted career lows in field goal percentage and free throw percentage. His scoring dipped to its lowest since the Vinny Del Negro era, and his defense was nowhere near as good as the previous year. Noah has one more year left on his contract and is owed about $13 million.

Gibson dealt with an onslaught of injuries throughout the season that robbed him of his incredible above the rim athleticism. His back to the basket game became a black hole of turnovers and missed passing opportunities. In Zach Lowe’s excellent piece on the state of the post game, he touched on certain guys who defenses attack in the post because they know they won’t make the right pass. Taj Gibson is the poster child of this type of player.  Taj has two more years on his deal, averaging about $8.5 million a season.

taj and jo

Of the two, Taj is certainly more likely to fetch a larger return on the trade market. Coming off the bench his entire career, Gibson has largely been spared the grueling workload of  guys like Noah, Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler. Teams across the league have for many years wondered what type of impact Gibson could have in a starting lineup where he could see more minutes alongside more talented players. And with the salary cap set to explode and Gibson under contract for an additional season, his current price tag is extremely team friendly, no matter which team you look at.

But if it were up to me, it would be Noah who I send packing this summer. While Noah’s value on the trade market is potentially at an all-time low, there are definitely still teams who will be willing to take a one year flyer on a guy who was forced to play out of position the entire season. Noah’s ability to be the eyes and ears of an entire defense is wasted when he’s being asked to chase stretch forwards along the perimeter, which is exactly what happened this past season with Gasol at center. A smarter team that does not have an entrenched starting center could and should be able to understand that Noah’s ability to change the game on defense did not suddenly disappear over the course of a year.

Another reason to trade Noah is that I find it very unlikely that the Bulls sign him to his next contract. Much like they did with Luol Deng, the Bulls know exactly what the state of Noah’s body is and are probably smart enough to know that he will not hold up well into his mid-thirties. Better to get something for him now, even if it’s not much, than let him walk away for nothing next summer.

Finally, this is a team that is looking to shake up the culture. It doesn’t take a college English professor to read between the lines of Jerry Reinsdorf’s statement on the firing of Tom Thibodeau. Noah has always been a staunch supporter of Thibs, buying in 100% to his message and his philosophy. Forman and Paxson may not want to roll the dice with an unhappy Joakim next season and could look to ditch him before he makes any stink about a new coach.

The Eastern Conference today is in complete disarray. The Cavaliers are going to the Finals despite losing their third best player to injury and having their second best player limping through the playoffs. The Bulls are flush with talent, and with the right tweaks this offseason, this team should be able to compete for a championship in 2016.

Emergency Roundtable: ROSE FOR THREEEEEEE

Jake Weiner: I didn’t expect this. I really didn’t. Even with Kevin Love out for the playoffs and JR Smith slated to miss the first two games, I couldn’t see the Bulls taking Cleveland past six. After seeing the Bulls go up 1-0 in both 2011 and 2013, I even assumed we’d do it again before falling to King James. The winner of Game 3 in a 1-1 series goes on to win about 80% of the time. The Cavs destroyed the Bulls in Game 2 and with JR Smith back from suspension, it was time for LeBron to break our hearts once again. Derrick Rose, not insignificantly playing in his ninth playoff game of the season, had a different narrative in mind.

Game 3 was by far the closest game of the series, somehow the only one with lead changes. Winning a playoff game with that tight a margin is about so much more than the final play. Kyrie Irving aggravated his sore foot early on and failed to record an assist; Jimmy Butler played the greatest defensive game of his young career against James; a hamstring injury to Pau Gasol forced Tom Thibodeau into using his lethal smaller lineups (read: NIKO); the referees turned in a preseason performance that heavily skewed toward the road team.

But for at least one day, none of that comes even close to mattering. Derrick Fucking Rose hit Chicago’s first game winning shot in the playoffs since The Great One singlehandedly won Game 6 in 1998. All the setbacks, all the intense rehabilitation, all the nagging doubts…vindicated. Rose got back to the mountaintop last night and did something his team has never done before: win a second playoff game against LeBron. No matter what happens from Game 4 on, we’ll always have The Bank Shot.

Steven Kerstein: Being the piece-of-shit gambler that I am, I usually don’t get into games unless a) my White Sox are involved or b) there is money on the line.  Having said this, last night’s performance (obviously) had me jumping out of my seat.  To put it simply,  Game 3 played out like a cliche sports movie..  Sometimes, we all need a little of the Disney-like Shenanigans in our lives.

While Derrick’s shot will be how we remember Game 3 decades from now,  there were a few themes (less obvious) that set up the final moment.  The Bulls were +15 in rebounding (54-39), +7 from the line (25-18) and only committed seven turnovers to Cleveland’s 11.  If the Bulls can stick to maintaining the edge in these three areas, they should be in good shape.   Before I sign off so you can focus your attention to the better writers, I’ll leave you with one final statistic.   Derrick only attempted two three-pointers in the first 47:58 of game play. Rose was not settling for the most part and getting to the line.  While I’m usually not a proponent of him jacking up copious amounts of triples, I’m sure glad he made time for number three.

Jacob Bikshorn: Up until the moment I saw the ball pass through the hoop and the clock hit all zeros, I figured Game 3 was going to be another heartbreaking postseason loss at the hands of LeBron and Friends, Version 2.0. A first half marred by blown layups and jumpers that popped in and out seemed like an early kiss of death. To leave points on the table against King James is, under normal circumstances, an unforgivable sin. But the ball did pass through the hoop after a brief pit stop at the backboard. Derrick Rose, whose last true playoff run was cut short by LeBron and Friends, Version 1.0, guaranteed that this current clash with LeBron will finally make it at least six games.

Rose’s shot was incredible. The roar that erupted from my living room full of mildly intoxicated dudes could be heard from the street, where our shouts mingled with the countless others around the city. It was like an incredible weight had been lifted off of all of us. The first games against Milwaukee where Rose looked so explosive were reassuring, but those performances didn’t carry the weight of last night.

Last night’s game was not “The Old Rose,” “Vintage Rose,” or “MVP Rose.” But it was the type of performance that this Bulls team, loaded with more offensive talent than any of the Thibodeau era, needs to overcome the superstars in Cleveland. Derrick finished the game with 30 points on 10/26 shooting. While going 38% from the field leaves something to be desired, Rose’s shot chart tells a better story, with the painted area overcrowded with attempts. Rose, who averaged over five three point shots a game during the regular season, limited himself to just three attempts Friday night. And while he only made one, what a one it was.

Drew Hackman: The importance of Game 3 and why I had a healthy mix of jumping, screaming, fist-pumping, and skipping around like a little kid after Derrick hit that shot:

  • Derrick had missed his last few isos in previous possessions, including a missed free throw, which were chances he had to extend the lead.
  • The Bulls haven’t had a playoff winning buzzer beater since the Jordan era (1997 Finals).
  • Derrick needed this.
  • We (Bulls fans) needed this.
  • LeBron’s teams against the Bulls in recent history have lost Game 1 and then swept the remainder. This curbed that trend.
  • So much for “bad” Derrick on one day of rest.
  • Jimmy did a great job slowing down LeBron.
  • Kyrie aggravated his ankle – another reason the Bulls needed to capitalize with a W.
  • JR Smith made his presence known after the suspension was lifted, going 4/8 from three point range. It was important that the Bulls didn’t allow the Cavs to think he’s a difference maker.
  • The Bulls did a great job on the boards, despite Tristan Thompson’s unrelenting activity.
  • The Bulls have a chance to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series tomorrow afternoon at the United Center.

Jeff Berest: So even though LeBron and Kyrie combined shooting just 11/38, the game was pretty much back and forth the entire way. Don’t think the Bulls can count on two of the top ten players in the world putting up another clunker like this one. I’m not saying the Bulls are outclassed by the Cavs, but if they are going to take two of the next four games they got to stay on their A game. Because LeBron will not go softly into the night. Although I would kind of like to see this all blow up in Cleveland’s face; trading Wiggins for Love and then not making it past the second round.

Pau leaving in the middle of the game with an injury was subtly a turning point and may have actually been a blessing in disguise (yikes). The Bulls probably didn’t miss his horrendous and well-documented rim protection. Thibs finally released Nikola Mirotic from bench purgatory, and he was able to be a +19 in 22 minutes. Even though I’m not a Bulls fan, I feel my frustration boiling over when Mirotic isn’t on the floor. It makes no sense at all. He’s such a matchup problem, especially now that the Cavs are without Kevin Love. Thibs has made a conscious effort to not play Mirotic in the playoffs, even though he was one of Bulls best players during the regular season. Like WTF?

The game winner from Derrick Rose was…(insert hyperbolic adjective here). You really have to feel great for him, and the tribulations he’s been through leading up to this point is what makes this such a great moment. He definitely called bank on that shot too. (Editor’s note: He did not, unfortunately). I had zero stake in the game and who won, but I even got up off the couch to cheer for D-Rose after the shot.