NBA Buzz: Forget overpaying for Kawhi Leonard and focus on the rebuild

NBA Buzz: Forget overpaying for Kawhi Leonard and focus on the rebuild

It seems like every time John Paxson takes questions from the media, he's quick to remind reporters and the fan base that the Bulls' front office will be patient and methodical in executing their rebuilding plan. Sure, if LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Paul George decide they want to come to Chicago this summer, the Bulls would welcome them with open arms. But other than that type of unforeseen development, the Bulls plan to stay the course and build through the draft while continuing to develop their own young players.

Which brings us to the curious case of Kawhi Leonard, who continues to work out on his own in New York while his Spurs team is about to get drummed out of the playoffs in Round 1 by Golden State. Leonard only played in nine games this season because of a mysterious quad injury, and even though it appeared the two-time Defensive Player of the Year would be healthy enough to return for the stretch run, he decided (with the advice of his own hand-picked medical team) he simply wasn't ready.

Leonard's disconnect with the Spurs organization has led to speculation he might be available on the trade market this offseason. Leonard has one year remaining on his contract at just over $20 million, with a player option for $21.3 million in 2019-20. He's also eligible for a “supermax” contract extension from the Spurs this summer: five years for up to $219 million.

But if Leonard has strained his relationship with the normally drama-free Spurs beyond repair, will Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford look to cash in their top-10 talent for a package of young players and draft picks rather than risk losing him as a free agent next summer?

And if Leonard does become available, what would it cost for the Bulls to get involved? Well, you can bet the asking price will start with Lauri Markkanen, the No. 6 draft pick this summer and the Bulls' first-round pick in 2019. And even that might not be enough, considering the Celtics and Lakers can probably put together a better package of young players and picks.

Considering the Bulls still wouldn't be in position to contend for an Eastern Conference title next season with Leonard in the lineup, it makes no sense to trade at least three prime assets for only one guaranteed season of Leonard's services. And given the way Leonard has gone rogue on the Spurs, how could the Bulls front office count on any type of verbal commitment that the two-time All Star would be willing to re-sign long term after the 2018-19 season? The Bulls would be much better served to continue to build their young team with the addition of two first round draft picks and keep their cap space free should Leonard, Klay Thompson or Kyrie Irving enter the free-agent market in 2019.

Sure, Leonard is an amazing talent who is only 26 years old, but at this point in the rebuild the Bulls are better served to wait and see how things shake out before overpaying on a trade they might come to regret very quickly.

Mock draft 3.0

Now that the tiebreakers have been conducted by the league office, we know what the draft order looks like until the lottery is held May 15 in Chicago. And for all of you Bulls fans hoping to see the team add Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr., I think there's a good chance he'll be available at No. 6.

Here's a look at how the top 22 picks could fall on June 21.

1. Phoenix: Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona. Perfect fit for a Suns franchise that's been wandering in the desert for most of the last decade. Adding an athletic, soft-shooting big man is exactly what Phoenix needs to support all the young talent on the roster, led by sweet-shooting guard Devin Booker.

2. Memphis: Luka Doncic, G-F, Slovenia. The Grizzlies have highly paid veterans Marc Gasol and Mike Conley and not much else. The versatile Doncic gives them another playmaker and an exciting gate attraction to bring the fans back.

3. Dallas: Marvin Bagley, F-C, Duke. Things got so bad in Dallas this season they had to play 39-year-old Dirk Nowitzki at center. Bagley gives them some much-needed low-post scoring and rebounding.

4. Atlanta: Jaren Jackson Jr., F-C, Michigan State. The Hawks are desperate for a big man who can score and block shots. Jackson should help on both counts. He led the Big Ten in blocked shots and has excellent shooting range out to the 3-point line.

5. Orlando: Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama. The Magic front office cleaned house after a year of observing the team built by the previous regime. They need a franchise point guard to run the show, and Sexton is a unique talent with toughness and playmaking ability.

6. Bulls: Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri. Forget about what you saw in the SEC and NCAA tournaments, Porter said he was only about 65-percent healthy after early season back surgery. Assuming the medical exams check out, the sweet-shooting forward would be a tremendous value with the sixth overall pick.

7. Sacramento: Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas. The Kings drafted a similar player with the sixth overall pick in 2015, Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein, but he's been a disappointment. That means Vlade Divac rolls the dice again on another project big man.

8. Cleveland (from Brooklyn): Mikal Bridges, F-G, Villanova. With the Cavs uncertain about LeBron James’ future, it might be a good idea to add a two-time NCAA champion who can provide defense and 3-point shooting from the small forward position.

9. New York: Wendell Carter, F-C, Duke. With Kristaps Porzingis rehabbing from ACL surgery and Enes Kanter holding a player option for next season, the Knicks need to add some size and strength to their frontcourt, and Carter definitely fits the bill.

10. Philadelphia (from L.A. Lakers): Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, G, Kentucky. The Sixers are already loaded with young talent, so they can go for the best player available. Gilgeous-Alexander can play both guard spots and run the offense when Ben Simmons needs a rest.

11. Charlotte: Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State. New general manager Mitch Kupchak will be looking to improve a middling class of forwards that includes former No. 2 overall picks Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Bridges is a tremendous athlete who needs to prove he can create his own shot on the NBA level.

12. L.A. Clippers (from Detroit): Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma. Doc Rivers will be thrilled to get the Steph Curry wannabe at this point in the draft. The Clippers could use a dose of star power after trading away both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

13. L.A. Clippers: Robert Williams, PF-C, Texas A&M. Speaking of losing stars, veteran center DeAndre Jordan could also be leaving L.A. this summer in free agency, and Williams looks like the perfect replacement since his No. 1 skill is throwing down alley-oop dunks.

14. Denver: Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky. The Nuggets could potentially lose small forwards Will Barton and Wilson Chandler in free agency, so Knox would be a solid pick to fill that void. Knox could develop into a bully-ball three like former Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony (just not as good).

15. Washington: Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA. The youngest of the basketball-playing Holiday brothers (Jrue with the Pelicans, Justin with the Bulls) could stop the revolving door in the nation's capital at the point guard spot behind John Wall.

16. Phoenix (from Miami): Troy Brown, G-F, Oregon. Don't be surprised if the Suns look to trade this pick, because the last thing they need is another young player. Still, Brown is a raw athlete who intrigues a number of NBA teams.

17. Milwaukee: Lonnie Walker, SG, Miami. The Bucks are another team that's overloaded with young players, but they wouldn't mind adding another shooter to open up driving lanes for Giannis Antetokounmpo.

18. San Antonio: Dzanan Musa, SF, Bosnia & Herzegovina. If any team can mine the international market, it's the Spurs. Musa could stay overseas to work on his game while he matures physically and come to the NBA in a year or two.

19. Atlanta (from Minnesota): Khyri Thomas, G, Creighton. After taking Jaren Jackson Jr. with their 1st pick, the Hawks could add a versatile combo guard to back up Dennis Schroder and Kent Bazemore.

20. Minnesota (from Oklahoma City): Jacob Evans, SG-SF, Cincinnati. We know Tom Thibodeau loves tough-minded players, and Evans helped lead Cincinnati to a top 10 ranking and No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

21. Utah: Jontay Porter, PF, Missouri. The Jazz are expected to lose veteran forward Derrick Favors in free agency, so the younger brother of Michael Porter makes sense here. Jontay Porter showed a lot of improvement during his one season at Mizzou, with shooting range out to the 3-point line.

22. Bulls (from New Orleans): Mitchell Robinson, C. Robinson is the ultimate project, sitting out this season after backing out of a commitment to Western Kentucky. Still, NBA scouts love his size and potential, and the Bulls could let him watch Robin Lopez play next season while getting reps with the Windy City Bulls. At this point in the draft, the Bulls could go in a number of directions including athletic wing players like Zhaire Smith, DeAnthony Melton, Tyus Battle and Anfernee Simons; Big Ten Player of the Year Keita Bates-Diop; Duke guards Gary Trent Jr., Trevon Duval and Grayson Allen; USC big man Chimezie Metu; or Michigan's NCAA tournament star Moe Wagner.

Rose blooms for Timberwolves

Finally, it sure was fun watching Derrick Rose show off his athletic ability in Game 1 of the Timberwolves' playoff series against the Rockets. Tom Thibodeau turned to Rose over young point guard Tyus Jones as the primary backup to Jeff Teague, and the former league MVP responded with 16 points in 24 minutes, shooting 7-for-14 with four assists in a hard-fought 104-101 loss.

"I've been telling everybody since he's been on our team what he's capable of," Jimmy Butler told reporters after the game. "He plays with a lot of energy, plays ball the right way and he can still score, get to the rim at will. He was a big burst for us off the bench (Sunday)."

Rose added, "I'm just trying to be a professional, whenever I'm in. I'm just trying to get better every game, try to make winning plays and play as hard as I can. That's what my job is being here."

Obviously, the Timberwolves face an uphill battle against the team that finished with the NBA's best record during the regular season. But it would be nice to see the 29-year-old Rose find a long-term home in the Twin Cities, playing for his longtime coach and alongside former Bulls teammates Butler, Taj Gibson and Aaron Brooks.

Portis, Markkanen and Nwaba: Grading the 2017-18 Bulls' frontcourt


Portis, Markkanen and Nwaba: Grading the 2017-18 Bulls' frontcourt

The 2017-18 season has come and gone, so Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill and Mark Strotman are handing out grades to the seven key frontcourt players. You can read the backcourt grades here.

Robin Lopez | C | 11.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.9 APG | '18-19 contract: $14,357,750

Mark Strotman: Unlike Justin Holiday, who chose to sign in Chicago, Lopez came to the Bulls via a trade. So whether he approved of being benched for Cristiano Felicio the final 20 games of the year was never really up to him. And yet, he took it all in stride, acted as the veteran presence on the bench and earned the respect and admiration of coaches and teammates alike.

Forget his rather average numbers - 11.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 0.8 blocks - that declined for the third straight season. Lopez's 2018 season will be remembered for how he dealt with his circumstances in professional fashion. I don't truly believe he's part of the team's future, as John Paxson said last week, but I do think the organization really values Lopez. And for good reason. On performance alone Lopez probably deserves a C, but I'll bump it to a B for the way he handled himself on and off the court.

Vincent Goodwill: I find myself agreeing with you on Lopez. He was the most steady starter this season--while his ceiling wasn't high, his floor wasn't low. You didn't find yourself saying "He's having a terrible night" too many nights aside from his "Training Day" episode in Miami or his chair-throwing fit in Sacramento. You mentioned the numbers, that 11.8 points is a career high, but beyond that, he took up space on the interior.

And make no mistake, he was another guy who understood the nuances of the offense and unselfishly sprung Lauri Markkanen for open jump shots, another reason the front office wasn't so gung-ho about getting rid of Lopez at the trade deadline this season. Taking up space is a talent in this league, even if he doesn't fit the new-age definition of a center.

Add to the fact he was one of Nikola Mirotic's only allies in the locker room while also being good with Bobby Portis, the soft-spoken but booming-voiced big man displayed his value in spades when things got chaotic. All things considered, he was a godsend, especially when he had to take his demotion for the last six weeks. Grade: B+

Lauri Markkanen | PF | 15.2 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.2 APG | '18-19 contract: $4,536,120

VG: The crown jewel of the front office's eyes and he lived up to it in his rookie year. The most unexpected surprise and frankly, a benefit of Nikola Mirotic's early-season absence. When he got hot, he could go for 30 and shoot without a hint of hesitation.

He showed the ability to put it on the floor every now and again to shake himself free for jumpers but nearly half of his attempts came from 20 feet and out. A solid rebounder and unselfish player who can only grow from here. Finding space among the hierarchy of himself, Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine was the only unanswered question and it wouldn't seem right if he asserted himself so soon--even if he seems more mature beyond his tender age of 20.

Is he a franchise player? A future true superstar? It's hard to say for sure but the fact we're asking this question means he made a heck of an impression in what would've been a miserable year without him. Grade: A-

MS: I didn't know what to expect from Markkanen in Year 1. I just know I didn't expect this. We've tweeted plenty about his accomplishments, but let's put them here again: Markkanen was the 108th rookie in NBA history to score 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds. None of those 107 players before him had made 110 3-pointers as rookies. Markkanen made 145. He was one of three players to go 1,000/500/145, joining Dario Saric and some guy named LeBron James. Markkanen definitely hit some lulls in the regular season, and his year-end shooting numbers weren't great (.434/.363/.843) but that's really stretching it.

Markkanen was phenomenal. Thrust into a starting gig 24 hours thanks to the Bobby/Niko fight, he hit the ground running and never looked back. His dunk over Enes Kanter, his dribbling clinics in the open court, his rebounding success in traffic. He even showed some real value defensively, where he clearly needs work/muscle but has the footwork and instincts down to be a capable defender. Though Markkanen wasn't a true "Euro pick," this was still a swing-for-the-fences pick from GarPax. And the early returns are Markkanen is a perfect fit for the NBA, a mature player who wants to get better, and someone whose potential is untapped. The Bulls couldn't have asked for more from Lauri Legend this season. Grade: A-

Bobby Portis | PF | 13.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.7 APG | '18-19 contract: $2,494,346

MS: Apologies to Lauri Markkanen and his sensational rookie season, but the most impressive Bulls player I watched this season was Portis. While his future in Chicago never really seemed in jeopardy, his return to the Bulls after a seven-game suspension had many wondering what type of player he'd be. Instead, the third-year foward put together a career year and made a serious case to remain a piece of this team's future. The Bulls offense was nearly NINE points better with Portis on the floor, and while his field goal percentage dipped slightly he also doubled his attempts. He was one of 31 players to attempt 800 shots and shoot 47 percent from the field.

His per-36 numbers were also great. It seemed odd that he didn't play more minutes, finishing the year averaging just 22.5 per game. Then again, the tank lives. Per-36 minutes, Portis averaged 21.1 points, 10.9 rebounds and 1.8 3-pointers. The only players to reach those thresholds were DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love. Maybe he's so effective because he isn't playing more minutes, but as it pertains to this season he did his job as well as he could have. He's got my only A of the year (and yes, I'm going to look past him knocking out Nikola Mirotic in handing out this grade)

VG: If there's a winner for Most Improved Bull, it's definitely Portis. And I agree with you, he might've been the most impressive with all things considered. He entered the preseason as essentially a third-string power forward and left the season as a viable part of the future.

There's a reason over 20 teams were lining up to see if the Bulls were willing to let Portis go for the Blue Box special, and had the thirsty Philadelphia 76ers got their hands on him...Mark, you'd be winning me over on this "Process" thing. But with Portis, he extended his range, physically matured and developed a skill set all while understanding his physical limitations.

Going from 32 triples last year to 80 this year, including doing it in less than 22 minutes, makes him a viable option for more minutes at two spots next year. 

At this level, he's not going to overpower opponents. But he can outwork them. He stayed on the glass even while improving his offense, something that's not a given. If not for Markkanen's presence, Portis would really have All-Star numbers and in regard to the Mirotic situation, he handled himself as well as possible in the aftermath.

Well-liked in the locker room, that situation might've helped him focus even more. The Bulls would be wise to lock him up to an extension this summer before taking a chance on restricted free agency next summer. Grade: A

Cristiano Felicio | C | 5.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.0 APG | '18-19 contract: $8,470,980

VG: If there was one player I got wrong this year, it was Felicio. After some steady improvement his first couple years, believing he would continue on that trajectory was a gross miscalculation. It looks like the Bulls made that same error too after giving him a four-year, $32 million deal over the summer.

He went from finishing around and above the rim with quick feet and decent enough hands to a slow-reaction player who didn't seem to play with the same vigor he had in his first two years. Coming from where he did, it's not impossible to imagine the contract giving him a level of satisfaction and he probably couldn't replicate that hunger from his first two years.

He didn't get consistent playing time until the last six weeks when he posted modest numbers, averaging 9.4 points and 6.8 rebounds in 16 starts. But it still didn't live up to the expectations set by the contract or natural growth. What the Bulls do with him this summer--or try to do with him this summer, will be interesting. Grade: D

MS: Oh, man. I'm going to try to get through this one without being too harsh. Here's a cold-hard fact: Of all players since 1996 who averaged 16 minutes and appeared in 40 or more games, Felicio had the second worst net rating (-18.0). That's a rather large sample size and a rather awful number to have your name attached to. It's also confusing because, like you, Vinnie, I really liked what Felicio brought to the table as a pick-and-roll specialist, someone with good hands and a body big enough to secure a handful of boards every night. He was only 24, too. Instead, we saw some serious regression. He fumbled more balls than he caught (it seemed), he looked lost defensively and got pushed around a lot for a 6-foot-11, 270-pound forward.

He showed some soft touch around the rim and, yes, is still a solid pick-and-roll man. But when is the last time you saw a 6-foot-10 player who plays exclusively in the paint block 11 shots in a season? Zach Randolph comes to mind, but he also averaged 14.5 points this season. Doug McDermott blocked 16 on his own. Look, Felicio seems to have the right attitude, is well-liked and goes about his business the right way. His business just might not be in the NBA. A $32 million man sent to the G-League? Not good at all. Portis was my only A. Felicio is my only F.

David Nwaba | SF | 7.9 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.5 APG | '18-19 contract: RFA

MS: Myriad backcourt injuries thrust Nwaba into a larger role than expected, and he played fairly well most of the year. He was a rare player who saw significant action pre- and post-All-Star break. He was far and away the Bulls' best individual defender, and he played his game to a T. But he was able to expand that game in the second half of the season. Given a larger role with Justin Holiday riding the bench, Nwaba averaged 9.9 points on 44 percent shooting, 5.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 27.1 minutes. Ironically, for a guy who had never made more than three 3-pointers in a single college, Summer League, G-League, or NBA game, Nwaba finished the second half shooting 39 percent from deep on 32 attempts.

He was a benefactor of the Bulls' tank machine, and he'll likely never progress into more than a fifth wing on any NBA team. But there's significant value in that, and the Bulls know what they have in him as a defender and someone who can finish in the paint. I thought he had flashes of defensive brilliance and I was glad Hoiberg and the coaching staff got him out of his comfort zone on offense and begin shooting 3-pointers (then again, maybe his agent told him to start doing that with free agency looming in a few months). I'm going to give him a B. His limitations are clear, but he's rock-solid at what he does well.

VG: 5th wing? I think Nwaba can be more than that on a good team, actually. I'm not sure what his actual ceiling is, and I'm not going to let the Cris Felicio disaster stop me from seeing the promise in a willing and active wing defender who doesn't back down from anybody. More muscular than athletic, he was rarely overpowered and had feet quick enough to fight over the top of screens on the wings--the fact he didn't stick to screeners like glue is a plus, and he had good speed to recover on the back end.

Offensively, he certainly was a work in progress after that nasty ankle injury cost him a few weeks of action. The fact he went from self-check outside the paint to a reliable standstill shooter in the corners illustrates his work ethic and recognition of his weaknesses.

Yes, he's 25 so his free agency experience will be interesting. But reliability is something that should be in high demand, and he went to the glass to start the break plenty of times to my liking. Whether as a part of the Bulls future or as a chip in a trade, Nwaba has value as a Tony Allen-type defender. Grade: B+

Paul Zipser | SF | 4.0 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 0.9 APG | '18-19 contract: $1,544,951 (non-guaranteed)

VG: If there was a picture in Fred Hoiberg's office last season as one for player development, it would've been Zipser. But what this year revealed was that he was much more valuable as an afterthought playing next to very good to great players as opposed to this setup.

He got lost in the wing shuffle and didn't distinguish himself this year as someone who could've made a jump--if there was a jump to make. On the nights he received playing time, there were too many where you hardly noticed that he was on the floor. Playing next to Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade, he was someone who played with a flurry of activity, with occasional flashes of athleticism, quickness and spot shooting.

That went away this year, and although I'm not a big believer in PER, that 5.2 mark sticks out in the worst way. Grade: D-

MS: Agreed. This was a lost season for Zipser in a year when minutes were plentiful just about everywhere. It's unfortunate, and probably says more about him than any of the others around him. But it's difficult to play in the NBA and make fewer than 35 percent of your shots. Only he and Michael Carter-Williams attempted 200 or more shots and made 35 percent or worse. You don't ever, ever, ever want to be in the same field goal percentage category as Michael Carter-Williams.

He's athletic for his size, and his defense was never an issue (or a standout trait). He was simply an end of the bench guy who never made a serious impact. And that's unfortunate because he held his own as a rookie. But he didn't improve his 3-point shooting, either, which could have helped his atrocious field goal percentage, and his counting numbers went down as his minutes decreased. He's a pretty easy D-, though the expectations weren't all that high to begin with.

Noah Vonleh | PF | 6.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.0 APG | '18-19 contract: UFA

MS: I actually appreciated the Bulls experimenting with Vonleh after they traded for him at the deadline, playing him far more on the perimeter than the Blazers ever did. The results weren't great - he shot 30 percent from deep on 60 attempts - but this was a rental period for the Bulls to see if they had something in Vonleh.

I'm afraid to say they don't, but it was well worth the gamble. Vonleh is still four years removed from being a top-10 selection, and he's just 22 years old. But his offensive game is severely limited, and while he's an apt rebounder and put up solid advanced numbers defensively, the Bulls can find better options that fit Hoiberg's scheme. He was who we all thought he'd be. Average, a warm body to move the tank along with potential upside that never really translated. Grade: C

VG: You're obsessed with the tank, Mark. Everything's about the tank. (Wait, everything with the Bulls was about the tank so....)

The Bulls took a look at Vonleh, a lottery pick in 2013 who's still 22 years young. He wasn't bad in his stint, a 21-game stretch after he was acquired right before All-Star break. He averaged 13 and 13 per 36 minutes and could be a value pickup in free agency this summer. Still a solid athlete growing into his body, he probably won't be able to escape being a top-10 pick, showing how perilous the draft can be.

At this stage, the Bulls seem to be solid at the power forward position with Markkanen and Portis, and it didn't hurt to take a look at him for a few weeks. Grade: C

Former Bulls in the playoffs: Dwyane Wade turns back the clock in Philly


Former Bulls in the playoffs: Dwyane Wade turns back the clock in Philly

The NBA Playoffs are just three days old and yet there's a contingent of former Bulls who are alreayd leaving their mark on the postseason.

As the first in a series, we won't roll these out every day, but any time one of the dozen or so former Bulls in the postseason has a big night, we'll let you know right here.

Dwyane Wade, Heat: Flash turned back the clock in Miami's Game 2 victory in Philadelphia, scoring 28 points on 11 of 16 shooting in a 113-103 victory. Wade scored 21 points in the first half and made nine of his first 10 attempts, and he closed out the Sixers with an 18-footer to give the Heat an eight-point lead inside a minute to play. It was Wade's first 20+ point game since March 6, and the 28 points were the most he had scored since he scored 31 against the Kings last season with the Bulls. Miami won't necessarily need Wade to go off like that again to win the series, but it sure helped Monday night.

James Johnson, Heat: Not to be outdone by Wade, former first-round pick James Johnson was equally as good. In addition to being tasked with guarding Ben Simmons, Johnson finished with 18 points on a perfect 7-for-7 shooting night, sive rebounds, five assists and three steals. He's made all four 3-point attempts in the series, and the Sixers haven't had much of an answer for him as they focus their attention on players like Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson and now Wade. He could become the series' X-factor.

Nikola Mirotic, Pelicans: We're a few days late on this one, but Mirotic continued his red-hot April with a solid showing in Game 1 against the Blazers. He double-doubled with 16 points and 11 rebounds, and also added four blocked shots in the road win. Mirotic hadn't blocked four shots in a game since late February, and the double-double was his fourth in his last five games. He's peaked at the exact right time for New Orleans.

Rajon Rondo, Pelicans: Playoff Rondo! Bulls fans remember this version of last year's starting point guard, as he went off for 17 assists and just two turnovers in New Orleans' Game 1 win. He added six points and eight rebounds, but the dimes were the key. He also helped limit Damian Lillard to 18 points on 23 shots. We'd say this is surprising, but after what he did to the Celtics in Boston last year we're really not shocked. The four-headed monster of Davis/Holiday/Mirotic/Rondo could really make noise in the playoffs.

Derrick Rose, Timberwolves: The TimberBulls needed a spark in Game 1 against the Rockets and got it in Rose, who scored 16 points off the bench and added four assists in 24 minutes. His defense on James Harden - and the Rockets as a whole - left plenty to be desired, but it was an inspired performance for Rose, who is back in the postseason.

Jimmy Butler, Timberwolves: He's clearly not 100 percent, as Butler's 13-point performance showed in Game 1. The Timberwolves really don't have much shot at knocking off the top-seeded Rockets, and that's if they were entirely healthy. Butler isn't, but he'll still have an impact on this series at some point.

Marco Belinelli, Sixers: Famous in Bulls postseason history for his, erm, Big Marbles dance in Game 7 against the Nets, Belinelli is showing the postseason gene again with the Sixers. He scored 25 points on 9 of 17 shooting in a Game 1 win over Miami and was solid in the Game 2 loss, scoring 16 points. He's proven to be a critical piece on the second unit for a Sixers offense that can't stop scoring.

E'Twaun Moore, Pelicans: He's been great all year for the Pelicans, but Moore was quiet in Game 1, scoring four points in 27 minutes.

Pau Gasol, Spurs: Gasol really has no value in this series against the Warriors. In two losses he's totalled 18 points and six rebounds in 36 minutes.

Tony Snell, Bucks: The Snelly Cat was nowhere to be found in Game 1 against the Celtics, as he scored two points and grabbed three rebounds in 33 minutes. Clearly they need him to be better moving forward.

Taj Gibson, Timberwolves: Tom Thibodeau is going to rely on Gibson for big minutes. He scored nine points and hauled in six rebounds in 32 minutes in a Game 1 loss.

Kyle Kover, Cavaliers: Expect bigger things from the former Bench Mob member, who played just four minutes and missed all three shots in a Game 1 loss.

Jamal Crawford, Timberwolves: Death, taxes, Jamal Crawford getting buckets. Crawford scored 15 points off the bench in 26 minutes for the Timberwolves in Game 1. Yes, you millenials reading this: Jamal Crawford played for the Bulls from 2000 to 2004. Fred Hoiberg was his teammate.

We won't consider any "Bulls" who were drafted by the team but never played any minutes. So, no Jordan Bell, Jose Calderon, J.R. Smith, LaMarcus Aldridge. Also, we're leaving out Aaron Brooks because he doesn't play. Sorry, Aaron.