Mid-Season Grades

It’s the halfway point in the NBA season. So here’s a lazy post where I give grades to the Bulls players and staff.

Player grades are in alphabetical order, like we’re in school.

Kris Dunn:

Dunn has shown remarkable improvement over the course of the season. During his short time with the Bulls, he has become a legitimate starting point guard in the league. He makes the other Bulls players better when he is on the court. Dunn has also blossomed into a leader. He does not shy away from big moments at the end of games; he wants to be the hero who hits the game winning shot. Dunn still has areas to work on (shooting, limiting turnovers, and playing more disciplined defense), but all in all, he has been one of the best players on the team.

Grade: A

Cristiano Felicio:

What a disappointment! I still hold out hope that Felicio will get his act together and add some positive contributions to the team. He has failed to adjust to his new teammates, the new offense, and he has failed to live up to his new 4 year contract. It’s been a bad first half of the season.

Grade: F

Jerian Grant:

I find Jerian Grant to be the most frustrating player on the Chicago Bulls. He is SCARED to pass the ball into the post! It doesn’t matter which big is posted up, Grant can’t make the pass. BUT, he has excelled at being a scoring option off of the bench. He has fit right in with the Bulls second unit, and has improved his ability to score after taking defenders off the dribble. Grant plays more like a shooting guard than a point guard, and he is at his best when he is looking to score.

Grade: C

Justin Holiday:

I had big expectations for Justin Holiday this season. I thought he might become the teams best scorer while Zach Lavine was still recovering from injury. I think Holiday thought so too, because for most of the 1st half of this season he has been chucking up shots like Kobe Bryant. Unlike Kobe, not enough of them are going in. I am giving Holiday a low grade, but it’s probably because I expected too much from him to begin with.

Grade: C-

Zach Lavine:

…Has just been cleared to play basketball! His first game for the Bulls will be this Saturday, January 13th, against the Detroit Pistons at the United Center. Coincidentally, it is “Zach Lavine Bobble Head Night” on Saturday.

Grade: Incomplete

Robin Lopez:

Is another player that makes other teammates better, specifically he makes Lauri Markkanen better. They should create a stat called the rebound assist, it’s a stat that gives credit to a player who makes a rebound happen for a teammate. Lopez would lead the league in rebound assists. The amount of times he pushes the other teams big man out of a play so that Markkanen, or one of the guards can grab the rebound is astonishing. He is a very unselfish player, and a reliable scorer from mid range and the paint.

Grade: A+

Lauri Markkanen:

Has exceeded the expectations of not only this blogger, but those of the countless NBA experts, draft experts, and fans around the world. He has been incredibly fun to watch; a constant surprise on the offensive end of the court, Markkanen has a plethora of moves he uses to score, and he can score from all over. His defense has also been a pleasant surprise. He moves his feet well, is quick enough to stay with smaller opponents, and he is long enough to block a Kristaps Porzingis fade away jumper.

Grade: A

Niko Mirotic:

Has played so well this 1st half of the season, he may have created a bidding war for his services. The NBA grape vine seems to think at least 3 teams in the league are interested in trading for Mirotic when he becomes available on January 15th. This is all I ever wanted from the bearded wonder. Keep up the good work, and good luck in all your future endeavors.

Grade: A+

David Nwaba:

Another big surprise this season has been the play of David Nwaba. His defense and energy have been a spark for the second unit. Nwaba needs to work on his offensive skills, but he plays hard every night. He seems to have inherited Taj Gibson’s hard hat and lunch pail, and they fit him just fine.

Grade: B+

Cameron Payne:

Is still recovering from injury. I still hold out hope he can take over the back up point guard duties from Jerian Grant when he gets healthy.

Grade: Incomplete

Quincy Pondexter:

Pondexter has not played very much this season, and there is a reason for that, he isn’t very good. He does play hard, when given a chance, and he has managed to create turnovers and opportunities for other teammates when he is on the court. Considering most people never expected him to play in the NBA ever again, I’d say that he has been okay.

Grade: C

Bobby Portis:

Ignoring the Niko Mirotic face breaking incident, this has been a good season for Bobby Portis. He has been much more consistent on offense this year than in years past. He has played very well along side Mirotic and Lauri Markkanen when paired with either of those two big men. Portis has made a strong case for the Bulls hanging on to him as they go forward with the rebuild. He still has room for improvement on defense, but I get the feeling that ship has sailed.

Grade: B+

Denzel Valentine:

This 1st half of the season has been a journey of self discovery for Valentine. He started the season trying to be a three point sniper, and has recently been more of a playmaker. He has been attacking the paint and passing the ball to teammates. Valentine has slowly been defining his role in the NBA, overall he’s been okay.

Grade: B-

Paul Zipser:

Much like Cristiano Felicio, Zipser has regressed and disappointed this season-BIG TIME! He has been slow on defense, prone to fouling the player he is guarding. He has been inconsistent on offense, struggling to hit his shots. He had a real opportunity to solidify his place on this team, he has failed to capitalize on that opportunity. Worse, he has played so poorly this season, there may not be a place for him in the league.

Grade: F

Staff grades, from least powerful to most.

Head Coach Fred Hoiberg:

When executed as intended, the vaunted Hoiberg offense (“Hoiball”) looks like a legit NBA offense. Which leads me to write this cringe worthy statement: Perhaps Hoiberg is the offensive genius the front office told us he was. Hoiberg, and his staff, have also developed Kris Dunn into a competent NBA point guard, not an easy task. That being said, Hoiberg has made some questionable in game personnel decisions, and, at times, the Bulls have not known what plays to run in late game situations. Soooooo, maybe not a genius.

Grade: B+

Gar Forman:

For the most part, Forman has been out of the spotlight the 1st half of this season. He has been away from the team, scouting potential draft picks. And that’s good, that’s what he should be doing. He made some good decisions this summer getting Dunn, Markkanen and Lavine for Jimmy Butler, picking up David Nwaba off of the scrap heap, and allowing Dwayne Wade to buy his way out of his contract. There were also some bad decisions: selling the second round draft pick to the Golden State Warriors and signing Cristiano Felicio to a four year contract.

Grade: A-

John Paxson:

Paxson is the man with the plan. He is the visionary behind the Bulls decision to rebuild. Paxson was the impetus for the Butler trade that got the rebuild off to a fast start. He has also stepped up and been the face of the front office, taking a lot of heat off of Gar Forman. Paxson needs to stick to the plan, and we have to hope it’s a good plan.

Grade: A-

The Chicago Bulls overall:

The front office has made some good moves to kick start the rebuild. Hoiberg looks more comfortable as a head coach who develops young players. Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen are developing well and still have a ton of untapped potential. The Bulls are in decent shape. Unfortunately, the Bulls have been winning too many games! It’s a tank season for crying out loud! They need to finish the season with a top 5 pick in the draft.

Grade: B

The Worst Records in the NBA:

1. Atlanta Hawks 10-30 .250

2. Orlando Magic 12-29 .293

3. Memphis Grizzlies 12-27 .308

4. Los Angeles Lakers 13-27 .325

Sacramento Kings 13-27 .325

7. Chicago Bulls 14-27 .341