The Bulls are a pitiful 10-32 with just under half the season left to play. At this same time last year, the Bulls had a record of 14-27 and were already deep in the Great Tank Race of 2018. This season has been a disaster. Injuries, coaching changes, and more injuries; Even though the Bulls are trying to compete, they are in a better position to tank this year than they were a season ago. I tried to be generous with my mid season grades, but it’s hard to do that when we fans were told this team was going to be competitive and better than last season. So gird your loins, here comes the Mid-Season Report Card for Your Chicago Bulls…
Win Share to Date: 1.9
Ryan Arcidiacono is one of the bright spots on the Chicago Bulls. He has worked his tail off to make the roster and to flourish in the NBA. He was especially effective early in the season, starting at point guard for the injured Kris Dunn. His gritty play and dogged defense gave the Bulls some much needed energy and hustle. Arch has come back to earth a little bit in the last month and a half, but even though his numbers are starting to regress, he still plays with energy and hustle every time he touches the court. There is also a very real possibility that he has been playing through a shoulder injury for the last couple of months, which would explain some of the drop off in his production.
Win Share to Date: -0.2
At the end of the summer, I wrote a post about Antonio Blakeney, No Spin Moves Here. It talked about what kind of a player Blakeney was, and how I saw him fitting with the Bulls moving forward. In the post, I expressed my hope that he would develop his passing skills and vision. His scoring skills have never been an issue, it’s always been his not scoring skills that leave something to be desired. I thought the next step in Blakeney’s develop would be to add some ball-handling and distributing to his game. The Bulls even tried using Blakeney in that very roll as a ball-handler and distributor, but he hasn’t quite gotten past his shooter roots. Blakeney is a black hole. If the ball is put in his hands he will shoot it. It doesn’t matter how many hands are in his face, if he has the ball he’s trying to score. To that end, there has been no noticeable improvement from Antonio Blakeney this season.
Wendell Carter Jr
Win Share to Date: 2.0
Despite an up and down rookie season, Wendell Carter Jr now leads the team in Win Share. He has endured a lot of foul trouble (only some of it justified), a lot of frustration, and just a pinch of success this season. He has demonstrated some real, consistent skill as a defender, and has shown flashes of offensive brilliance. Carter has been good, bad, and ugly in the first half of the first season of his career, just as you’d expect any rookie to be.
Win Share to Date: 0.6
Injuries have plagued Dunn in his relatively short career, and this season was no exception. Having missed several months due to a sprained ligament, Kris Dunn is finally showing the Bulls what kind of point guard he is. His defense has been strong. He has improved his finishing at the rim. His mid-range shot is solid. He has limited the number of turnovers he commits while raising the number of assists he dishes out. Kris Dunn has improved. But. He is more hesitant than ever to shoot 3 pointers, allowing opponents to sag off of him at the perimeter, clogging the paint and forcing the Bulls to take low percentage mid-range shots. While his assists have gone up, Dunn still struggles with his court vision, missing opportunities to pass to open teammates as he drives into the paint. I don’t think it’s time to move on from Dunn, but he can still improve his shooting and passing. If he doesn’t by the end of next season, the Bulls may find themselves facing a tough decision concerning his future with the team.
Win Share to Date: 0.5
Felicio is still a disappointment and hardly ever plays.
Win Share to Date: 0.4
Shaquille Harrison, much like Ryan Arcidiacono, is doing a good job of proving he belongs in the NBA. He is a defensive specialist. The kind of effort player that gets under an opposing teams skin. He harasses opponents the entire length of the court. He picks pockets, jumps passing lanes, blocks shots, and most importantly, runs in transition. Harrison is not a complete player. Like Dunn, he struggles from beyond the 3 point line, but he has carved out a nice niche for himself coming off the bench as a defensive stopper.
Win Share to Date: 0.3
Have you ever seen a puppy try to run on linoleum? Little balls of enthusiasm moving at full speed, paws scrabbling for some kind of purchase on the slick surface. So much energy being used, but so little forward progress being made. This is Chandler Hutchison. He has so much excitement for the game, he is constantly going too fast for his own good. The good news is that he is starting to slow down and figure out the NBA pace. Hutch is a rookie, and he has been playing like a rookie. Since he was inserted into the starting line up in place of the recently traded Justin Holiday, he has been more relaxed and has shown his greatest skill: Unselfishness. On a team full of players that need the ball in their hands, Hutch has been content to play off the ball, effecting the game in all the small ways that have very little to do with points per game. I like what I’ve seen from Hutch this season. As he continues to adjust to the pace of NBA play, I think his positive impact will continue to grow.
Win Share to Date: 1.0
For the first couple months of the season it was the Zach LaVine show. He routinely torched teams with 25+ points per game. He was shooting lights out from 3 point land. He was getting to the free throw line with regularity, and his hops were back to pre-ACL injury levels. He looked great! Unfortunately, because LaVine was the only option for the Bulls, teams began loading up on him. He started to be double and triple teamed by defenders. His body began to wear down on him, and soon he looked exhausted. Not only was LaVine the lead scorer for the Bulls, but he essentially took over the point guard duties in Kris Dunn’s absence, playing a bit outside his comfort zone. All of this has led to a falloff in production, a slow down from the torrid pace he set at the beginning of the season. Even so, and defensive deficiencies included, LaVine has played up to expectations this season, I just hope he has enough left in the tank to finish the season as strong as he started it.
Win Share to Date: -0.1
I don’t care what Neil Funk and Stacey King say on the Bulls TV broadcasts, Robin Lopez has been a disappointment this season. His production is down from last year, and he seems to be moving slower than in years past. I have a sneaking suspicion Father Time is catching up to the Earl of Trey. To be fair, with the arrival of Wendell Carter Jr, Lopez didn’t play very many minutes at the start of the season. He has been playing more minutes under Jim Boylen, and while he has put up better stats with more regular minutes, he is still not playing like the Robin Lopez of a season ago. Luke Longley would not be proud.
Win Share to Date: 0.4
I, like a lot of Bulls fans, set very high expectations for Lauri Markkanen this season. They were probably too high. Markkanen injured his elbow before the season even started and it’s been kind of downhill ever since. He’s had a couple of games where he’s looked like the Finnisher, but he hasn’t taken the steps forward that you’d expect from a budding super star. He has been too passive on offense. He has struggled against even undersized opponents in the post, and his defensive footwork seems to have regressed a little from his eye opening rookie season. This grade may be a little unfair because of the unrealistic expectations I had for Lauri, but it’s still my grade to give.
Win Share to Date: -0.3
Out of shape and lacking in defensive enthusiasm is not a good way to start a basketball season. Jabari Parker struggled early for the Bulls before playing himself back into shape and finally finding his groove. And then he was benched when Jim Boylen took over as head coach. Even though Parker was the second leading scorer on the team at the time of his benching, he was statistically one of the worst defensive players in the league. He has the teams lowest win share, and though his defense was starting to show signs of improvement, it seems the Bulls have deemed The Jabari Parker Experiment a bust.
Win Share to Date: 0.2
It’s been a rough season for Bobby Portis. He has spent most of it recovering from injury. He started the regular season poorly, after winning the starting Power Forward spot from the out of shape Jabari Parker. Portis was missing shots from 3 point land, shots he’s never missed as a pro, and then he sprained his MCL and missed several months of play. He came back, played well, and then sprained his ankle. Since coming back from the ankle injury, Portis has returned to being an offensive beast, scoring from the post and the arc. Now it looks as though Portis might be injured again. He sprained his elbow while jockeying with Kevin Durant for rebounding position in the second embarrassing blowout loss to the Golden State Warriors this season. Hopefully, Portis can return quickly and play like the beast he is. Until then, count me disappointed.
Win Share to Date: 0.1
Wayne Selden with the heads up play, leading to a nice finish from Shaq. Great effort from the squad tonight. pic.twitter.com/NyVrdAZIP7
— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) January 13, 2019
The newest Bull, Wayne Selden came over from the Memphis Grizzlies in the Justin Holiday trade. So far, I like what I’ve seen from Selden. He plays defense. He shoots threes. He has a nice mid-range shot. He runs in transition. He finishes at the rim. It’s almost as if the Bulls have found themselves a well rounded basketball player. It’s still too early to get excited about Selden, but his arrow is pointing up.
Grade: Too soon to tell
Coach Fred Hoiberg/Jim Boylen
Neither Hoiberg or Boylen seem to be the kind of coaches that will win you games with their strategy and motivational efforts. It’s also hard to tell if they have lost the Bulls games with poor planning and personnel decisions. Either way, the Bulls are not a good team, and I, like a lot of fans, expected them to have a better record than they do at this juncture of the season.
Expecting Jabari Parker to play the small forward position this season was a huge mistake by the Bulls front office, the kind that should get someone fired. Paying Jabari Parker $20 million this season was also a miscalculation. The price tag might be too high for the Bulls to trade. Yes, the second year of the contract is non-guaranteed. Yes, this makes it very desirable for teams trying to dump salary and improve cap space. But the Bulls seem unwilling to take on a bad contract and draft picks in return for Jabari’s expiring contract. If GarPax are unable to trade Parker, it will be another monumental failure. Thinking Cameron Payne was a solid back up point guard was also a mistake. Trading Justin Holiday to the Grizzlies for Selden and two 2nd round draft picks was a very good move. It forced the Bulls to waive Cameron Payne, and I’m surprised the Bulls were able to get that much back for Holiday. The trade to Houston for Michael Carter-Williams and cash considerations in exchange for a heavily protected 2nd round pick was also a good move. It allowed the Bulls to open up a roster spot for a future trade, by waiving both MarShon Brooks (also a part of the Grizzlie trade) and MCW.
The Bulls as a whole deserve an F.
There has been some individual improvement from players, but not enough Team improvement to warrant a passing grade. It’s been a long, awful 1st half of the season. Let’s hope they can turn things around in the 2nd half and stay healthy. Thanks for reading and Go Bulls!