Grading Every Position Heading into Chicago Bulls Training Camp
Heading into training camp, it makes sense to grade all five positions of the Chicago Bulls.
Chicago's roster is stocked full of talented players, from megastar Derrick Rose to solid big man reserve Nazr Mohammed. Each member of the starting five has made at least one All-Star appearance with the exception of Jimmy Butler. However, it may not be long until "Jimmy Buckets" participates in the midseason classic as well.
The Bulls lost a pair of quality free agents in Nate Robinson, who signed with the Denver Nuggets and Marco Belinelli (San Antonio Spurs). Yet, newcomers like Mike Dunleavy and Tony Snell should prove to be great additions.
Like every team, Chicago has positions which are deeper than others. Just what grade did each position receive?
Unless you've been living under a massive rock, you're aware that Derrick Rose missed all of last season recovering from ACL surgery.
Fortunately, he'll return to the lineup for the 2013-14 season., and Bulls fans can't wait to see the franchise point guard back in uniform.
NFL running back Adrian Peterson proved last year that there is life after an ACL injury. Look for D-Rose to have a Peterson-type of season, proving he's even better than he was before the injury. When healthy, he's easily one of the league's top five players and possibly the best point guard on the planet. Sorry, Chris Paul and Deron Williams fans out there.
Don't be surprised if Rose either wins his second MVP or challenges LeBron James and Kevin Durant for the prestigious award. Welcome back, D-Rose.
Marquis Teague is expected to be the primary backup at point guard. The Indianapolis native looked like an All-Star during this year's NBA Summer League. Will his sensational play carry over into the regular season?
Teague barely played as a rookie last season, but he'll certainly be a rotational player in 2013-14. He'll do an excellent job and show why the Bulls made him a first-round pick in 2012.
The Jimmy Butler story is a phenomenal one. As a rookie two seasons ago, he wasn't exactly well-known as he rode Chicago's bench. Nowadays, he's the starting shooting guard on a championship contender.
Butler, whose role expanded last season, showcased his incredible defensive skills each and every contest. The Bulls are an elite defensive squad, and the third-year swingman has a lot to do with it. He earned the nickname "Kobe Stopper" for containing Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant a season ago. He also did a great job on the Miami Heat's LeBron James during the playoffs.
Defense is Butler's strong point, but his offensive is improving by the day. Last year, he averaged 8.6 points during the regular season and then 13.3 in the postseason. His three-point shooting rose as well, going from 38 percent to 41.
A monster year is in store for Butler, as he'll compete for the league's Most Improved Player Award.
Kirk Hinrich will serve as Butler's backup. After starting in place of Derrick Rose a season ago, he will head to the bench this year. While Captain Kirk is a decent scorer, his defense is what makes him a valuable contributor.
He basically shut down the Brooklyn Nets' Deron Williams during Game 2 of last season's first-round playoff series. D-Will had only eight points on 1-of-9 shooting from the field. Now that's what you call shutdown D.
No current Bull has been with the team longer than Luol Deng. The former Duke one-and-done is set to enter his 10th season in Chicago.
Deng is one of the league's better two-way players. While he plays smothering defense, he's also solid on the offensive end of the floor. His scoring average (16.5) led the Bulls last season in the absence of Derrick Rose. He's made the Eastern Conference All-Star team the last two seasons, and it won't be shocking at all if he gets the nod once again this season.
Speaking of Duke alums, Mike Dunleavy will play behind Deng in 2013-14. Signed as a free agent this past July, he brings superb shooting to the Bulls' lineup. He hit 42.8 percent of his three-point attempts as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks last season. He's the perfect pickup for the Bulls, who shot just 35.3 percent from beyond the arc, which ranked them 21st in the league.
Dunleavy will likely emerge as Chicago's top scorer of the bench, replacing the departed Nate Robinson.
Tony Snell, the Bulls' first-round pick during this year's NBA draft, will try to find playing time as a rookie. Unfortunately, he'll likely spend his debut season watching the veterans and learning from Deng and Dunleavy. He'll be a rotation player, but that likely won't happen until next year.
Chicago's power forward position is three-deep with Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson and Erik Murphy.
Boozer will start for the fourth consecutive season. Although he definitely isn't a fan favorite or lockdown defender, he's still capable of producing good numbers. Last season, Booz put up roughly 16 points and 10 boards per game while shooting nearly 48 percent from the field.
This could very well be his last season in the Windy City. There's a strong possibility that the Bulls will amnesty him next summer to help free up cap space for a big-name free agent. Whether his days as a Bull are numbered or not, Boozer is primed for a respectable 2013-14 campaign.
Drafted by Chicago 26th overall in 2009, Gibson was simply a steal. The USC product provides both energy and exceptional defense off the bench on a nightly basis. This season, look for typical Gibson numbers: about eight points and six rebounds per contest. He has been one of the "Bench Mob's" most valuable members, and that won't change.
Murphy was taken by the Bulls during the second round of this year's draft (49th overall). He isn't expected to see much action as a rookie, though. Head coach Tom Thibodeau doesn't even use first-round picks, so you can pretty much forget second-rounders. But if Murphy does wind up touching the court, he should emerge as a much-needed stretch 4. He shot 45 percent from three-point land as a senior at Florida. That's not bad at all.
With Derrick Rose's return, the Bulls are expected to contend for a title. Rose is a major reason for that, but so is Joakim Noah. The energetic big man is easily one of the best centers in the world.
Noah was nothing short of brilliant last season. He reached career highs in several categories, demonstrating his all-around skills.
Is there a more complete big man in the game today? Many pro hoop fans out there would say no. He can score a little, rebound, block shots, shoot free throws and possesses a nice mid-range jumper. And you can't forget about his passing. He dished out an impressive four assists per game last season. Four assists is truly magnificent for a center.
Expect Noah to have another great campaign for the Bulls, stuffing the stat sheet every night
Chicago passed up centers during this year's draft. That means they'll have to go with Nazr Mohammed as Noah's main backup. Re-signed by the Bulls in the offseason, Mohammed is a decent bench player who can provide respectable defense for 15 minutes per game.
Although he's probably more of a third-stringer, Mohammed was worthy of being retained.
Former Miami Heat and Memphis Grizzlies center Dexter Pittman will be a part of the Bulls training camp this year. He could earn a roster spot if he impresses in camp.