I’ve gotten a little behind…okay WAY behind….and it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t wrap up the NBA season (finally, and sadly) with my last few Bulls grades. Joakim Noah, Nate Robinson, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng. Derrick Rose gets an “incomplete”. He owes us a LOT of make-up work….
Joakim Noah played both extreme sides of the spectrum this season. He solidified himself as one of the marquis centers in the NBA this year. He made his first of what I project will be many All-Star appearances. But, he also suffered from plantar fasciitis again – the same injury that plagued him last season and appears that it may be a chronic issue for Noah that’ll pop up at different times in his career. But even with that, he did more than everything that he was asked. Because most of the season the Bulls left Nazr at the end of the bench, Noah was forced to play WAY too many minutes, which did not help his injury situation. BUT – perhaps the thing that most defines his season, as his play during the playoffs, specifically the Brooklyn series. For the first two games, he could barely make it up and down the court. He was giving it all he had, but, you could tell that he just wasn’t right. And then came Game 7…and one of the greatest single performances in Chicago Bulls history. Not only was he the emotional leader of a team that has already lost their two best players and were playing with a lineup of mostly benchwarmers. He filled the box score and led the Bulls to an amazing Game 7 victory on the road. 24 points. 14 rebounds, 6 blocks. Noah is the kind of player you love to have on your team. And as he continues to improve as a player as well, its difficult not to love him. Grade: A
Nate Robinson wasn’t even supposed to play this year. Lets face it. If Derrick Rose had come back in February as expected, and Kirk Hinrich had stayed healthy, Nate would be the guy we all would look forward to seeing celebrating on the bench. Pumping up the crowd during rallys. Playing Scalabine-type minutes in late-game situations. But the season didn’t go that way – and Nate Robinson took center stage. And for all of his defensive blunders, dumb DUMB fouls, mis-guided shots and immature antics – the Bulls would not have had HALF of the success that they had without “LoveHateNate”. Nobody will forget his effort in the Bulls triple overtime thriller in Game 3 agains the Nets. And though he will most likely not be back next season, he left us with a whole lot of memories – and deserves a TON of credit for the season the Bulls had. Grade: B+/A-
Looking back, Carlos Boozer came in with WAY to high expectations. In the “Summer of LeBron”, he was brought in to be that final piece of the puzzle. The low post scoring presence to compliment Derrick Rose and put the Bulls over the top and ready to compete for an NBA title. But now with 3 seasons under his belt in a Bulls uniform, perhaps it was unfair of us to expect such things. And while Boozer has disappeared at times in big playoff games, which should not be overlooked, he has been the Bulls most consistant scorer. With Rose out all year, he stepped up and scored when they needed him too. He got much more focused on defense this season, and played the most games in a season since his ’07-’08 season. Now, Boozer will most likely be amnestied after next season – he is past his prime and making way too much money to justify when the Bulls have so much young talent to build around – but I can’t say he was a disappointment. His scoring and rebounding were up from last year, and his post-season scoring was the best in all of his years with the Bulls Grade: B+/A-
Luol Deng was the Bulls’ best player this year. The problem is, Deng is probably best suited to be a third or fourth best player on a good NBA team. He is not an elite scorer, he is not a floor leader, he is not a guy who will average more than 20 points a game. But he is a guy who can do it all. He is a great defender, he has developed a nice cut game and a nice outside shot. He can be a GREAT compliment to DRose and one or two other really good players. But he could also be good trade bait with only one year left on his contract. Remember when the Bulls said no to a trade that would have sent Deng to the Lakers for Kobe Bryant? I think the Bulls should absolutely value Deng, but that much? While he is such a huge part of who this team is, and embodies all that gives them their identity, he may also be a guy who could bring back some really good value for the Bulls’ future. He played through injury all year, but couldn’t finish the playoffs due to complications from a spinal tap. And while that was in no way his fault, he wasn’t there when it mattered most. Grade: B+