Now that the season has passed, it’s time to start looking forward. Ironically, to begin doing that, we first need to look back at who did what last season.
Rose missed the entire season due to recovery from knee surgery. And he lost a little good will along the way. Nonetheless, everybody from Jerry Reinsdorf to the most casual Bulls fan is hoping and praying that Rose returns — and returns to his old MVP form — next season. He is the foundation of this franchise.
In many ways, Noah had his best season ever. He was selected as a reserve for the Eastern Conference All-Star team. He made the NBA All-Defensive First Team and was fourth in Defensive Player of the Year voting. He had one of the franchise’s best-ever regular season performances in a road win over the Pistons (30 points, 23 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocked shots) and one of the greatest playoff performances Game 7 victory over the Nets in Brooklyn (24 points, 14 rebounds, 6 blocked shots, 2 assists, 1 steal).
Unfortunately, Noah’s season was once again plagued by an injury, this time an ongoing case of plantar faciitis in his left foot. Noah missed 16 regular season games and simply wasn’t himself in several others. He averaged career-highs in minutes (36.8), points (11.9), rebounds (11.1), assists (4.0), blocks (2.1) and steals (1.2), but he also set career-low marks in field goal percentage (.481) and turnovers per game (2.7). And believe it or not, his Offensive Rebounding Rate (12.2) and Total Rebounding Rate (17.3) were lower only during his rookie season.
Noah is an elite center — one of the best in the league — and he is the team’s emotional leader. However, he’s missed 70 games over the past four seasons and and the plantar faciitis injury is recurring. When healthy, Noah is among the best there is at his position. Can he stay healthy? We’ll see.
For the second year in a row, Deng led the league in MPG (38.7) and made the All-Star team. He is one of the league’s premier perimeter defenders and provides leadership by example. And, of course, everybody knows that coach Tom Thibodeau believes Deng is absolutely indispensable.
That said, there are some concerns. For example, his three-point percentage sunk to its lowest mark since 2006-07 and he accumulated the second-worst field goal percentage of his career. He also had a league average Player Efficiency Rating of 15.1 and ranked sixth on the team in Win Shares Per 48 Minutes (.105).
It’s hard to determine whether the heavy minutes and a lingering injury to his left wrist account for his struggles with shooting and overall efficiency, but they probably figure in there somewhere.
The good news is Deng will have the entire summer off to get healthy (and have wrist surgery if necessary), which means he might be even better next year than he was the previous two seasons.
One thing worth noting: Deng is one of the team’s better trade chips. He is worth less to the Bulls than Rose and Noah. He doesn’t carry the same stigma as Carlos Boozer. And his $14 million salary comes off the books after next season. Therefore, if the Bulls make any kind of major deal, there is at least some likelihood Deng will be involved.
Although fans (and even some experts) use him as a lightning rod for abuse whenever the Bulls fail to live up to expectations, Boozer had another steady season. He ranked first on the team in both Points and Rebounds Per 36 Minutes (18.1 and 10.9, respectively), and he was third (behind Joakim Noah and Nate Robinson) in PER (17.1). Despite his previous history of being an injury risk, Boozer has missed only three games the past two seasons, and he has also been a consummate professional on and off the court.
Of course, Boozer is still a statue on offense.
Despite his reliable productivity — his Per 36 Minute stats have been pretty constant over his entire career — Boozer’s contract is considered untradable. He is reportedly owed just over $32 million over the next two seasons, and the general feeling is that today’s NBA team won’t pay that kind of money for a defensive liability whose past is marked by injuries and big game disappearances.
Due to salary constraints, the Bulls wouldn’t gain much by using the amnesty provision on Boozer’s contract this summer. There’s a far greater chance they will do so next summer, which Deng’s and Kirk Hinrich’s contracts expire.
By most statistical measures, Captain Kirk had an awful season. He notched career-lows in field goal percentage (.377), Effective Field Goal Percentage (.461) and True Shooting Percentage (.493). Even his free throw percentage (.714) was almost 10 percentage points off his career average (.805). His PER of 10.8 was well below the league average and he missed 22 regular season games due to a variety of injuries. He also missed the final three games of first round of the playoffs and all of the second round due to a calf injury.
That said, his coaches and teammates were always high on his contributions in terms of defense and leadership. And there’s also the bottom line argument: During the regular season, the Bulls were 38-22 when Hinrich played and 7-15 when he did not. That’s a pretty dramatic swing.
The team still wants and believes in him. More importantly, it’s unlikely any other team would trade for him. So expect him to return next season. If he stays healthy, he’ll make a great backup for Rose and whoever starts at shooting guard (my guess is Jimmy Butler).
Hamilton missed 32 games due to injury and set career-lows in PER (10.6), True Shooting Percentage (.481), and Win Shares Per 48 Minutes (.016). Rip dropped out of the rotation before getting dusted off for the final two games of the Heat series. He showed he could still be somewhat useful in those games, but his ongoing injury issues combined with the general decline in his productivity and the emergence of Jimmy Butler have made him expendable. The Bulls will buy out his contract this summer. He won’t be back.