Chicago Bulls Players Winning Minutes with Their Preseason Performance

For some Chicago Bulls players, preseason is basically a warm-up for the regular season. For others, it’s a chance to impress the coaching staff and earn playing time.

Jimmy Butler, who’s currently out with a sprained thumb, won’t have to worry about playing time once he returns. The fourth-year swingman will see the court a lot this year due to being one of the game’s top perimeter defenders. A season ago, he played 38.7 minutes per game, tying Carmelo Anthony for the league’s highest average.

Stars Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol will surely get their share of minutes. You can add role players Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich to the list as well. Their track records speak for themselves.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau will need nine or 10 players for his regular-season rotation. Who could earn the final spots based on their preseason performances?

 

Aaron Brooks

After a fantastic summer league, Tony Snell was expected to play a valuable role this year behind Butler at shooting guard. But so far, it appears he’s the odd man out.

Snell’s minutes have been taken by newcomer Aaron Brooks, who’s backing up Rose at the point. This allows Hinrich to slide over to the shooting guard spot.

Brooks has put together a couple of solid performances, although he isn’t shooting the ball well (33.3 percent overall).

Against the Detroit Pistons, he came up with 18 points, three assists and three steals while shooting 3-of-6 from downtown. And in 15 minutes versus the Charlotte Hornets, Brooks contributed 13 points, three assists and a pair of three-pointers.

If you’ve followed the Bulls over the past few years, you’re aware that scoring backup point guards have flourished in Thibodeau’s system. Nate Robinson and D.J. Augustin—now with the Denver Nuggets and Pistons, respectively—are perfect examples. Brooks could very well be the next guy.

CSNChicago.com’s Mark Schanowski believes Thibodeau trusts his new reserve floor general:

It’s pretty obvious Thibodeau is high on Brooks, who has always been able to score in his six NBA seasons, including averaging 19.6 points per game for the Rockets in 2009-10. Brooks gives the Bulls another quick point guard who can break down defenses off the dribble. That will allow the offense to maintain the same kind of pace when Rose is out of the game. Brooks has been too quick at times in jacking up 3-point shots during the preseason, but given the Bulls’ offensive challenges at times, it appears Thibodeau is willing to live with his shoot-first mentality.

Brooks will likely be a part of the rotation throughout the regular season. He can provide instant offense and serves as an insurance policy in case Rose goes down with another injury.

 

Nikola Mirotic

Known for his shooting ability, Nikola Mirotic has made a few nice defensive plays during the preseason. He has recorded at least two steals in four of his seven contests. Plus, he impressively blocked three shots against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Mirotic’s 11 steals lead the Bulls, and he’s tied with Butler for third on the team in blocks with six.

Following the Bucks game, Sam Smith of NBA.com compared Mirotic to Bobby Jones: ”Mirotic, who was hesitant and uncertain with his shot, was quick defensively, also with three blocks and adding a pair of steals. Advertised as the next Bob McAdoo, this game he was more like the next Bobby Jones.”

For all you young NBA fans out there, Bob McAdoo was the original “stretch 4,” and Bobby Jones served as a defensive specialist back in the day.

While Mirotic has a long way to go until he’s considered a great defender, Thibodeau must be pleased with his effort on that end of the floor. Playing D is the best way to make Thibs’ rotation. Everybody knows that.

The highlight of Mirotic’s preseason, though, was his debut against the Washington Wizards. Looking like a young Dirk Nowitzki, the 6’10” big man scored 17 points and hit five of his nine field-goal attempts (3-of-5 from beyond the arc).

His 12 points and four steals versus the Denver Nuggets weren’t too shabby either. 

Mirotic has shown the ability to run the floor, shoot, put the ball on the floor and play defense. Barring injury, he won’t be a major part of the rotation this year, but he’ll receive spot minutes depending on the matchup.

 

Doug McDermott

We go from one highly touted rookie to another.

Doug McDermott will definitely get minutes this season. The Bulls didn’t trade away two first-round picks for his services to have him become a Brian Scalabrine-like cheerleader.

An elite shooter during his time at Creighton, McDermott hasn’t seen his shot fall consistently in the preseason. He’s shooting just 37.5 percent overall and 33.3 percent from deep.

Fortunately, he is more than just a shooter. Starting in place of an injured Mike Dunleavy, McDermott showcased his all-around skills against Milwaukee, recording seven points, eight rebounds, three assists and a block.   

It’s a good thing he isn’t a one-trick pony. Even if you’re Ray Allen or Steph Curry, there will be days when your shot won’t find the bottom of the net.

His jumper looked great versus Denver, though, as he shot 5-of-8 from the field and finished with a preseason-high 16 points.

Averaging 8.3 points and 4.4 rebounds a night, McDermott has been one of the Bulls’ top reserves so far. Perhaps he’ll replace Dunleavy as a starter within the first few months of the regular season.

 

All stats are from Basketball-Reference.com.  

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Chicago Bulls’ Biggest Red Flags Entering This Season

The Chicago Bulls have had a very promising preseason, but there have also been quite a few issues throughout the exhibition games.

Derrick Rose‘s return has been exciting for the Bulls, and the new, revamped roster has looked really good at times. However, some of the same problems from years past are still present.

Chicago’s offense has seriously struggled in some games, and the second unit has had some similar troubles with its small backcourt. It’s led to some very slow starts for the Bulls, leaving them to fight and crawl their way back into games.

But one of the biggest issues going into the opener is their health.

Jimmy Butler is dealing with ligament sprains in his thumb, and while not believed to be of high concern, it’s taking away from on-court time with the rest of the starters. Joakim Noah is coming off knee surgery and hasn’t looked as spry and explosive as before.

This Bulls team has undoubtedly improved, but there are still a few issues to work out.

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Derrick Rose Showing He Can Speed Chicago Bulls Back into Contention

COLUMBUS — It was but a blur, what happened back on May 26, 2011, a 12-point lead erased by the Miami Heat‘s 18-3 sprint to the buzzer, LeBron James celebrating an Eastern Conference championship on the recently crowned MVP’s home floor.

“At the end, it’s all me,” Derrick Rose lamented late that night. “Turnovers, missed shots, fouls.”

But, hey, at least he had his health. 

One knee shredded. Then, after a heralded returnand 10 games of 35.4 percent shootingthe other. 

Life has come at Derrick Rose fast.

Monday night, he came back at James’ new team even faster. 

“The fastest guy on the court by far,” Bulls center Joakim Noah said, smiling. 

That was the most meaningful takeaway from the preseason clash of expected Eastern Conference titans, an encounter that felt a bit like an extended trailer, a week prior to the premiere of the major motion picture.

Maybe the only meaningful takeaway: Rose is winning his matchup.

Not the one with Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, though he did outscore his USA teammate, 30-28, in 14 fewer minutes of the Cavs’ 107-98 win, and did turn him into a turnstile on assorted occasions. 

Rose is winning the matchup…against himself.

Against his body, his luck, his doubts, or anything else that may hold him back from becoming something close to what he was. 

And if he wins that matchup, then this rivalry can be something close to what many NBA fans hope it will be, one in which each side will have considerable reason to respect and fear and loathe the other.

If Rose is absent or even ordinary, then a slew of squadsWashington Wizards, Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, maybe even the Charlotte Hornets or Atlanta Hawkshave reasonable shots to claim a top-two spot in the East, even with Chicago bolstering the rest of the supporting cast around a team Noah led to a third seed in 2013-14. 

As James said during his postgame interview after the exhibition on the Ohio State University campus, “There’s too many teams in the Eastern Conference to just talk about the two of us.” 

But if Rose plays like he did Monday, all conference conversations, at least for this season, will stop and start here, with these two squads. Then all the other matchups will matter. Pau Gasol working against Anderson Varejao on one end. Kevin Love working against Joakim Noah on the other. James working against Jimmy Butler when Butler returns from a wrist injury, and against Thibodeau’s scheme, which has been one of the more compelling coach-player intellectual exercises in recent years, dating back to Thibodeau’s days as the Celtics‘ de facto defensive coordinator.  

“Thibs is going to play you how Thibs is going to play everybody,” said James, who recorded 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists in his final appearance of the preseason. “It doesn’t change. I’ve been against Thibs defenses for a long time. In Boston. And then coming to Chicago. He plays you the same way. Very aggressive. Kind of filters you into the paint. Don’t give you no 3′s. Wants you to take contested 2′s. Always keeps a body on you. We have the personnel for it, but it’s how we place the personnel out on the floor to help us succeed. I’ll be able to give some insight on them. It obviously won’t be (Monday) and it might not even be the second game of the season. But long-term so we can be ready for their defense.”

James will try to get his team to replicate his recent playoff success against the Bulls (8-2 while with Miami) rather than his regular-season struggles (5-8 while with the Heat), even if he actually has shot better against Thibodeau’s Bulls in the regular season (52.1 percent) than in the playoffs (44.2 percent).

The question is: What postseason round will the Cavaliers-Bulls matchup come?

That depends on Rose.

Solely on Rose. 

So there’s no way to overstate what was witnessed Monday, especially in the second and third quarters, when he scored 23 points on 13 shots in just over 11 minutes, routinely accelerating past and then splitting two, three, four or five defendersbefore finishing with a floater or a layup on either side of the rim.

Irving, Dion Waiters, Matthew Dellavadova, didn’t matter. At times, the Cavaliers looked like they were trying to trap a lizard while wearing slippers on a slick floor. At others, Rose’s jabstep had them backpedaling as abruptly and awkwardly as politicians after taking unpopular positions, giving him the space to sink four three-pointers, one-quarter of his total from the truncated 2013-14 season.

“Just playing,” Rose said, without the slightest excitement. “Staying consistent with my workouts, no matter how I’m playing. Still trying to find my rhythm. Let the game come to me, and just play team basketball. Really, they were just giving me shots that I normally would take. The team is feeling more comfortable with me being on the floor, I’m feeling comfortable with just picking my spots.”

And, at the end, James paid him the ultimate compliment, by picking him up on defense, as he’s previously done down the stretch of tight playoff games.

“I’m not surprised at all,” James said of Rose’s performance, noting that he had watched the latter practice for Team USA in Las Vegas, and seen some of his games in the preseason. “As a league, as a fan, it’s great to have him back, and him playing at a high level.” 

As a Bull?

Well, Thibodeau isn’t known for his ebullience: If he won the lottery, he might drone on about the need for an experienced accountant to carefully consider all of the tax implications. So this particular postgame press conference was about as giddy as he gets, with glowing adjectives added for emphasis. 

“I thought he played really well,” Thibodeau said. “He had a lot of explosiveness. Back-to-back, he got into a good rhythm. He was attacking. You know, it was good. Real good.”

Thibodeau acknowledged that Rose has “been up and down,” but he observed that recent practices have been better, and that Rose’s Team USA experiencewith five games in six days in one stretchgave both of them confidence that the guard could handle a greater workload. 

How will Rose’s re-emergence affect others?

“Oh, you’re talking about an MVP caliber player,” Thibodeau said. “So it makes the game easy for everybody. He’s getting easy baskets in transition, he’s attacking on the pick-and-roll, he’s in the paint, making plays. So it’s a positive.” 

Enough that it left Noah positively glowing. 

“I like his mentality,” he said. “He’s aggressive. I think we’re gonna be… I think we’re gonna be really good.” 

Monday night, the blur in red gave no cause to think otherwise. 

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Chicago Bulls vs. Cleveland Cavaliers 10/20/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Chicago Bulls, 107-98, in preseason action on Monday night. Kyrie Irving led the Cavaliers with 28 points and seven assists.

LeBron James added 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists in 32 minutes. Bulls guard Derrick Rose led all scorers with 30 points on 12-of-18 shooting.

Watch the video for full highlights.

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Cleveland Cavaliers beat Chicago Bulls, despite chemistry

Monday night the Chicago Bulls took on the Cleveland Cavaliers in what was a really entertaining game. It appeared to be a promising game for the Bulls, considering that Derrick Rose played with such a great amount of energy. He was very explosive up and down the court. His shooting touch has improved since the summer Olympic games. It was a good look for him at the Schottenstein Center on the campus of Ohio State University. Maybe Bulls fans felt overly confident due to LeBron’s modesty in a pre-game interview where he stated, “They’re (Bulls) much better than us right now, just off chemistry”. Whatever the case the end result, despite Rose’s 30 points, was a win for the Cavs, 107-98.  Kyrie Irving led the Cavs with 28 points and 7 assists. The Bulls did not have the guard who has made a real difference in their chemistry, Jimmy Butler. He sat out due to a left thumb injury. The last preseason game is Wednesday against Minnesota Timberwolves. The post Cavs beat Bulls, despite chem…

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Season Predictions and Analysis for the 2014-15 Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls will welcome back Derrick Rose this season, with high hopes of challenging for an NBA title. Can Pau Gasol help the Bulls take the next step?

Howard Beck and Ric Bucher join Adam Lefkoe to break down the upcoming season in Chicago in the video above.

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Charlotte Hornets vs. Chicago Bulls 10/19/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Charlotte Hornets took on the Chicago Bulls in a preseason matchup on Sunday.

With Derrick Rose finally healthy, the Bulls are looking to prove the wide-open Eastern Conference runs through them.

The Hornets will be looking to return to the postseason and make a run with their young talent.

Watch the video for full highlights.

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Chicago Bulls Will Get More Dangerous With Time

Frustration with the slows starts the Chicago Bulls have suffered through is mounting.  Best advice?  Take a breath and calm down.  Here is why.
Derrick Rose Just Got Back
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not easy to switch from one philosophy to another for any pro sports team.  Over the past two years the Bulls have had to alter their style of play in order to make due without the presence of point guard Derrick Rose.  It requires an entirely different mind set with different rules.  Now that he is back from his second knee surgery, it inevitably was going to take time for him to reintegrate with the team and for the team to reintegrate with him.  That can often lead to all sorts of unusual issues, slow starts being one of them.
They fell behind early to Denver on October 13th before recovering for a 20-point win and then had to overcome a 20-point deficit to stun Atlanta at the buzzer on the 16th.  Even though it’s just preseason and both games were wins, it has many people nervous about what t

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Predicting the Biggest Changes We’ll See from the Chicago Bulls This Season

After a summer full of clever roster moves, the Chicago Bulls will undergo a few changes this season.

The team picked up free agents Pau Gasol and Aaron Brooks, as well as highly touted rookies Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic. This quartet—along with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and others—clearly make the Bulls a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference.

Rose, who has missed a bunch of games due to knee injuries, is healthy and could return to his 2011 MVP form. Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Noah is primed for another amazing campaign, and Gasol serves as Chicago’s best low-post threat in years.

This is head coach Tom Thibodeau’s fifth season with the Bulls. Ever since his arrival, the team has played top-notch, stifling defense on a daily basis. And that won’t change this year. What are some changes we’ll see from Thibodeau’s troops in 2014-15?

 

Place More Emphasis on Three-Point Shooting 

Last season, outside shooting was basically nonexistent for the Bulls. They attempted just 17.8 threes per game, which ranked 28th in the league. And they hit only 34.8 percent of those attempts (ranked 24th).    

Things will be different this time around, though. With Rose and Gasol drawing double-teams, shooters like Mike Dunleavy, McDermott and Mirotic will get a bunch of open looks all year long.

McDermott could emerge as the Bulls’ best three-point shooter, even in his first year. The Creighton University product hit 44.4 percent of his attempts in the summer league and is shooting 35.3 percent in the preseason, which is respectable for a rookie.

He’ll have a field day from beyond the arc as Rose drives and kicks it to him, or when he receives a pinpoint pass from Noah or Gasol.

Rose can also be an outside threat, although you wouldn’t have noticed watching him during the FIBA World Cup. He hit only one of his 19 attempts.

However, he is shooting 40 percent from downtown this preseason. The three-time All-Star went 3-of-4 vs. the Milwaukee Bucks.   

Expect the Bulls to go from one of the league’s worst three-point shooting teams last season to somewhere in the middle of the pack this year.

 

10-Man Rotation

The words “10-Man Rotation” and “Tom Thibodeau” look really weird in the same sentence. As everybody knows, Thibs has been known for giving his starters a boatload of minutes instead of using the bench.

For example, Jimmy Butler played a franchise-record 60 minutes against the Orlando Magic last January. Yes, you read that right. It would be understandable if it was Game 7 of the NBA Finals. But it was a regular-season contest against a lowly, rebuilding team.

Per Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago, Thibodeau prefers a nine-man rotation:

“Usually most teams are around nine,” he said. “And then as the playoffs get closer, you’re going to pare that down some more. We’ll see. My first two years we played nine, sometimes 10. Ten is hard, most likely nine.”

While Thibodeau said going 10-deep is difficult, he didn’t say it was impossible. Look for him to utilize his much-improved bench this season. There’s way too much talent not to.

So which 10 players will crack the rotation? Well, we know Rose, Noah, Gasol, Butler, Taj Gibson, Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich are locks. Expect Brooks to also make the cut, replacing D.J. Augustin as a scoring backup point guard.

McDermott and Mirotic will be everyday players as well. Thibodeau isn’t a fan of playing one rookie, let alone two. Yet, when you have two rookies who can shoot the lights out like these guys, you have to play them both.

That means Tony Snell, E’Twaun Moore, Nazr Mohammed and Cameron Bairstow are left in the cold, unless a key player suffers an injury (knock on wood).

 

Doug McDermott Will Start at Small Forward       

Not only is McDermott a rotational player, but he’ll also be a rookie starter. Dunleavy, of course, will begin the year as Chicago’s starting small forward. But McDermott will supplant the veteran at some point this season.

He’s just too good to sit on the bench, and Thibodeau will eventually realize that.

One of college basketball’s greatest scorers ever, McDermott averaged 26.7 points during his senior year. And as Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley points out, he can score in a variety of ways:

He has an underrated knack for creating his own shots, which will be a valuable tool when he isn’t logging minutes beside Rose, Gasol or Noah. McDermott is capable of taking defenders off the dribble, comfortable banging with them on the low block and crafty getting himself to the free-throw line, where he was an 87.0 percent shooter his final two seasons at Creighton.

Putting the ball in the hoop isn’t the only thing McDermott can do. He rebounds, moves well without the ball and is an underrated passer. And although he isn’t a lockdown defender by any means, he does show effort on that end of the floor.

McDermott has started twice this preseason with Dunleavy sitting out due to knee soreness.

Per Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Thibodeau hasn’t ruled out starting him on a more permanent basis:

I don’t want to overlook what Mike’s done either. Mike has shot the ball extremely well, so I think he helps that first unit function well, so I’m not locked into it, but I don’t want to … Mike’s team defense is outstanding. I don’t want to overlook that. You have to think about you’re guarding a starter now, so that does make a difference.  

McDermott will ultimately win his coach over and replace Dunleavy in the starting lineup by Christmas.

Bulls fans, get used to hearing this before games: “A 6’8″ forward from Creighton…No. 3…Doug McDermott!”

 

All stats are from Basketball-Reference.com.

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Early Lessons from Doug McDermott’s Preseason with Chicago Bulls

Doug McDermott lit up TV screens at Creighton University as one of the best shooters in NCAA history. And while he owes his new career as a pro with the Chicago Bulls to that singular scoring ability, he’s also got a lot to learn if he expects major rotation minutes.

Especially in Tom Thibodeau’s demanding system. When asked about McDermott’s progress before the Bulls’ 85-84 preseason victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday (the second of two exhibition games McDermott has started), Thibodeau said per Mark Strotman of CSN Chicago, “The most important thing is that the team functions well when he’s on the floor.”

Thibodeau, like many NBA coaches, is more concerned with a total skill set than with one specialty. “Dougie McBuckets” will have to stay tight on defensive strings and exercise correct spacing within Thibodeau’s offensive playbook. He’ll have to shoot when he’s supposed to shoot and pass when he’s supposed to pass. He has to be aware

Whether he can become an efficient chess piece in the complex stratagem of the NBA is what will determine McDermott’s success. Thibodeau is confident that he can. “He has a great approach,” the coach said. “He strives for improvement each and every day. He’ll continue to get better.”

McDermott’s head does seem to be in the right place. He hasn’t found his shooting touch much—he’s just 40 percent from the field in the preseason—but he has been able to get his open shots and release the ball quickly. Perhaps most importantly, he’s been able to gain the respect of defenses and stretch the floor, opening up the lane for Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol.

He’s also been committed to contributing in other areas. He collected nine rebounds against Atlanta, and eight against both the Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pistons“The rebounding is good. You’re not going to shoot the ball great every night in this league, and when you don’t, you’ve got to do other things, and that’s what he showed he can do,” Thibodeau said.

Whether McDermott can stand up to his coach’s defensive standards is another question. He hasn’t been exactly a sieve thus far, but he hasn’t been good enough to earn significant minutes, either. McDermott’s concepts and intentions seem to be fine, but he’s definitely still adjusting to the intensity of the NBA trenches.

As Blog a Bull’s Kevin Ferrigan puts it, “McDermott has a pretty tough time navigating screens at this stage of his career… The speed of the game is new for McDermott, so he might just not be used to big men who move as quickly as NBA big men.”

McDermott doesn’t have the foot speed or power to likely ever be a terrific defender on the wings, but in time he can learn the body tricks that teammates like Kirk Hinrich use to consistently frustrate the opposition—Hinrich is infamously difficult to screen. It’s that kind of mettle the rookie must build in order to be a rotation player, and earn the respect of teammates like Aaron Brooks, who has taken to a sort of hazing by calling McDermott “Ray.”

Beyond the myriad gritty details of NBA performance, though, McDermott’s renowned scoring still has a ways to go before it translates to the next level. Although he’s been able to get his open jumpers off the ball—and it should only be a matter of time before they start falling at a greater rate—McBuckets has not yet shown the capacity to create shots for himself.

McDermott hasn’t exactly been looking for those opportunities, either. He seems more eager to fit into his team’s mission statement than to chisel out his own imprint on games. Self-creation (which he did at a wunderkind level at Creighton) was one of the more doubtful aspects of McDermott’s game as he was being vetted for the draft, as he lacks the elite athleticism typically associated with the NBA’s best.

McDermott has not been a dynamic isolation player, but he also hasn’t had much of a chance to prove himself as one yet, either. He hasn’t had a chance to prove himself as much of anything, in fact. But through McBuckets’ small sample size we have seen that he’s a natural addition to his team.

Willing, docile, hard-working and eager to adopt his coach’s obsessive attention to detail, McDermott will be an integral Bull—perhaps even a starter—by season’s end.

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