A bit late, I know, but let us take a second to remember the eventful, yet somewhat disappointing 13-14 season for the Chicago Bulls. All the way from Derrick Rose’s second season-ending injury, to the emergence of Taj Gibson, and even saying goodbye to one of the fan favorites, Luol Deng. Moreover, now the Bulls are involved in numerous off-season rumors concerning the likes of All-Stars Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love. With the NBA Finals being right around the corner; I would like to announce my off-season awards for the Chicago Bulls.
MVP: Is there even a question? With all the of adversity going on during the season; Joakim Noah still managed to put the team on his back and carry the Chicago Bulls to a 48-34 record; which was good enough for the fourth seed in the lackluster Eastern Conference. Better yet, the “heart and soul” of the Bulls had such a remarkable season, that he placed fourth in the MVP voting. Noah saw improvements in all aspects of his game, including career highs in points, rebounds, and assists. Despite only averaging just above 12 points per game, the 6’11 center was the focal point for the offense. Let’s not forget that he also won Defensive Player of the Year. Back to the assists. Among centers that qualified for the assist-per-game leader-board, he had the fourth-highest assist percentage ever and tied for the sixth-most assists per game. Names that join him on these lists are: Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Bill Russell. These stats are from basketball-reference.com. Interesting enough, before the Luol Deng trade, Noah averaged 3.5 assists, and after the trade… he averaged 6.6. Even after all of those eye-opening stats, Noah still urged everyone that this is still Derrick Rose’s team. No Joakim, “You the real MVP”.
Most Improved: Taj Gibson. Along with Noah, Gibson progressed tremendously, and was rewarded a much needed increase in minutes. Assuming Carlos Boozer is amnestied, this will be your starting power forward next season (unless something happens with Kevin Love). But otherwise, it is much deserved for Gibson. I won’t get into the stats just yet, but we saw a more all-around player this year, and his confidence in scoring has soared. However, Chicago will have to find a replacement that brings energy off the bench like Gibson provided, again assuming Boozer is amnestied. the Bulls sixth man had 15 double-doubles this season, and on the defensive side of the ball, Gibson was 16th in the NBA for blocks per game (1.37). Furthermore, he was also 13th in the NBA in total blocks, good enough for fourth out of all PF’s in the league. the 28 year old veteran also had career highs in points and rebounds. To top it off, Gibson was voted second for the Sixth Man of the Year award. I’ll admit, I was skeptical of the Bulls drafting him at first, but Gibson has panned out to be a perfect fit for the Chicago Bulls.
Most Disappointing: I wouldn’t exactly call it disappointing, but it wasn’t what the Bulls were expecting this year from Jimmy Butler. However, he did have career highs in ALMOST every offensive category… except his shooting percentages. Butler shot a mere .397% from the field, and struggled from behind the arc (.283 3P%). What it makes it worse is that time after time he would settle for jump shots in traffic. The Bulls guard actually attempted about 4 three point shots per game; which almost tripled his average from last year. Butler excels at attacking the rim, we know it, and he knows it. If there’s anything I want to see improved come next season, it would be his ability to slash and finish in the paint. Chicago’s offense is much more valuable when the ball is moving, and it starts with Butler being active off the ball. On the other hand, his defensive intensity didn’t drop, it actually got better. the former Marquette guard averaged 1.9 steals per game. Surprisingly, that is top-5 in the NBA. Look for this next year to be Butler’s breakout year; as well as a possible contract extension coming his way this summer.
Memorable Moment: There was actually quite a few this season, but I’m going to have to go with Joakim Noah’s four triple-doubles. Noah is one of five centers in NBA history to have five or more career triple-doubles with one of the stats being assists. That’s pretty impressive. A close second goes to Mike Dunleavy’s injury to the eye; which he came back from and played.
Least Memorable: The playoff series against the Wizards. Clearly out-matched.
Overall Team Grade: For the circumstances the Bulls were put through… I have to give them a solid B.
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