Tag Archives: Mike Dunleavy

BULLet Points: Pau Gasol’s triple double powers shorthanded Bulls

Jimmy Butler was a late scratch from Monday’s game against the Bucks, but the Bulls were able to overcome their missing star on the wing with smart ball movement and excellent shooting. While Butler’s re-injury is both disappointing and frustrating (another great moment for the Bulls’ training staff), the team is finally rounding into form.

  • Pau Gasol found a way to contribute to the win on a night where he couldn’t find his shot. The big Spaniard scored just 12 points on 4/14 shooting, but he blocked five shots, grabbed 17 rebounds and dished 13 assists to round out his second triple double since the All-Star break. Gasol did an excellent job finding cutters while working from the high post. Several times, too many Bucks defenders had their eyes on Pau and he made them pay for their mental mistakes.
  • Pau wasn’t the only generous Bull on the court. Derrick Rose and E’Twaun Moore had seven assists each, and the team overall assisted on a season-high 35 of their 39 field goals. The Bulls are currently 15th in the league in assist percentage, something to be expected with two ball dominant guards capable of creating for themselves. But with Butler unavailable, the Bulls utilized smart passing to cover up a talent deficit.
  • A lot of that smart passing led to wide open shots around the perimeter. Mike Dunleavy in particular cashed in on an uninspired defensive effort from the Bucks to close out at the three point line. Dunleavy scored 18 points on 7/9 shooting and 4/6 from three.
  • My favorite thing about Mike Dunleavy is the way he runs to his spot above the break in semi-transition. Sometimes he sprints there when the Bulls have numbers. But the best is when he sort of saunters up to the line after the lead ball handler has forced a switch on the fast break. The uncovered Dunleavy times his arrival to his spot perfectly, always catching and shooting the ball in perfect rhythm.
  • Derrick Rose carried the scoring load for the Bulls with Butler missing and Pau missing shots. Rose finished with 22 points on 9/18 shooting. Derrick knocked down a pair of three pointers and was effective attacking Milwaukee’s interior, especially when Greg Monroe was in the game. Rose was a team high +22 in his team-high 38 minutes.
  • Part of the reason Rose had to play so many minutes was because, in addition to the absence of Butler, Aaron Brooks left the game midway through with pain in his knee. Brooks has been mostly horrible this season, but the Bulls really missed having another option at point guard. Rose is not built to play that many minutes on a consistent basis, and if Brooks is going to miss time, this team is in trouble.
  • Having said that, E’Twaun Moore continues to impress in his increased role. The Boilermaker scored 16 points on 6/11 shooting. He dished the aforementioned seven dimes, and did not commit a single turnover in nearly 36 minutes on the court. Moore has stepped up for this team in a big way, and is in line to cash in during this crazy upcoming summer.
  • The Bucks are all kinds of weird and intriguing. Their size and versatility on the wing is frightening. Giannis Antetokounmpo acted as defacto point guard much of this game and wracked up 10 assists. Jabari Parker flashed some elite speed and athleticism for a power forward on several strong moves to the hoop. Khris Middleton is a dynamic offensive player, able to shoot, drive and dish. If this team ever finds a suitable point guard and center to compliment the core on the wing, everyone is in trouble.
  • Coming up: the Bulls head into San Antonio on Thursday for a matchup with Kawhi Leonard and the NBA’s second-best squad.
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BULLet Points: Bulls get full squad back, take out Rockets

I’m going to say something I haven’t said about a Bulls game in a very long time: That was a really fun game to watch. The Bulls snapped a four-game losing streak, topping the Rockets 108-100 in a fast-paced game that had 43 turnovers, but wow was it an incredible ride. If you missed it, go find it somewhere immediately. Or, you can read my BULLets. On second thought, just do both:

  • Jimmy. G. Buckets. IS BACK. The hype machine is real! After missing eleven games due to a leg injury, leaving the Bulls 3-8 in his absence, Jimmy Butler came back with a vengeance, scoring 24 points, grabbing 11 boards, dishing six assists, shooting 11-12 from the free throw line, and posting a team-leading +28 in just under 34 minutes, along with his patented passing-lane steal for a jam. Butler’s aggression and excitement to be back on the floor resulted in fouling out for the his first time in his NBA career, but it came with just two and a half minutes left in the contest, coupled with a huge ovation from an appreciative crowd.
  • The Bulls finally, for the first time this season, saw a starting lineup of Derrick Rose, Butler, Mike Dunleavy (the gawd), Taj Gibson, and Pau Gasol. What a welcome sight. Pau looked more focused than ever, posting 28-17-6, and dare I say it, actually didn’t look *as soft* tonight. The starting lineup was a combined +76, with Dunl3avy second behind Butler at +20. With Butler back and energy renewed, the Bulls played with fervor from tip off to finish. After averaging just 8.2 fast break points in their last five games, the Bulls went off for 24 – in part due to the Rockets’ poor defense, but mostly due to the fire and speed the Bulls backcourt brought to the table. ICYMI, rather than talking about it, I’ll just show you some of my favorite quick-paced plays from last night.. this is what we’ve been hoping to see all season under Hoiberg:

  • It did not go unnoticed that Jimmy also played lock-down defense on James Harden, one of the most prolific scorers in the league. Harden ended with 36 points, but according to ESPN Stats and Info, only six of those points were scored when Butler was guarding him, shooting just two for six in that time with three turnovers.
  • The Bulls will try to ride Butler’s return for the last quarter of the season and vie for a top playoff seed, as spots 5-10  are all separated by just 4.5 games. Butler means so much to this team; the vibe is simply on another level:

  • The jarring between Derrick Rose and Patrick Beverley was fun to watch, and we need more of that in the NBA. Apparently the refs didn’t know that Beverley and Rose grew up playing against each other in Chicago, and awarded them double technicals. Derrick on the sparring: “Pat (Beverley), he lived in my house in the summer. No cursing; fun out there; the league is not used to that, I guess.” Derrick was having fun out there, too, finishing with 17 points and nine assists.
  • Note-a-BULLs: Nikola Mirotic makes his return after being sidelined with appendicitis, notching seven points and adding two key three balls. Aaron Brooks didn’t play a single minute, possibly as a direct result of his ejection against the Magic on Wednesday. Tony Snell also did not play – coach’s decision.
  • As for the Rockets, well, you lose when you mess with Benny the Bull:

  • Dwight Howard played some stellar defense, so they have that going for them (sarcasm) – from our very own Coach Bik:

  • Coming up: The Bulls host the Milwaukee Bucks Monday night.

 

 

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.

 

BULLet Points: Heat go into video game-mode, smoke Bulls

In the not so distant past, a Bulls-Heat matchup, even in the regular season, would have been on an epic scale worthy of the Greeks, but now, it looks more like if Evander Holyfield and Roy Jones Jr. got into the ring together. So much that used to be great, but they are essentially just shells of their former selves. Especially with Jimmy Butler and Chris Bosh absent. The Bulls used this game as an opportunity to continue their slide, getting trounced 129-111 and dropping to 30-29 and out of the playoffs if the season ended today.

  • The Heat set a franchise shooting record last night (67.5%), riding the scoring of Hassan Whiteside, Joe Johnson, and even Luol Deng. I feel like I should start there because it could be viewed two different ways. The optimist in me wants to say that shooting that well is just hard to beat, and on the bright side, the Bulls put up 111 points of their own. But the pessimist wants to acknowledge the fact that not so long ago, the Bulls were known for their stifling defense, and 129 points would just never happen. Truth be told, it’s probably a mixture of both things.
  • Jimmy Butler’s absence is very, very hard to overcome. Butler has not played in nearly a month, and he is still probably about a week away. The Bulls have gone 4-7 in his absence, and on a team not built at all to survive the loss of such a key player with their lack of real depth, his continued absence will only mean more losses.
  • Derrick Rose is really like the flirty ex-girlfriend who just keeps us hanging on to the past when the best part of what we had was probably over before we were ready to admit it to ourselves. With his team-leading 17 points, Tuesday’s game was a great example of the glimpses of what Rose can do when he is still his best self. Moves like this remind us of the MVP player who dominated the NBA not that long ago:

  • The Bulls had a whopping seven players score in double digits against the Heat (which would normally nearly guarantee a win, but as I said earlier, allowing 67.5% from the field and 129 points pretty much negates whatever your offense does).
  • The mild resurgence of Mike Dunleavy has been interesting to follow. Since his return about a month ago, he has played consistently in about half of the minutes of those games, and has posted a +/- that has typically stayed well on the plus side of the ledger. Last night he was among the double digit scorers with 10 points, chiefly on a pair of three pointers.
  • Dwyane Wade was nearly overshadowed by the nights that Whiteside and Johnson had for the Heat, but he tallied 18 points himself to go with seven assists and two rebounds. Like Rose, Wade’s best days are behind him, but he can still put together an impressive night.
  • Coming up: the Bulls will stay in Florida to take on the Orlando Magic tonight.

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.