Bulls

Top 10 Bulls of the decade: From the Rose years to the rebuild

Top 10 Bulls of the decade: From the Rose years to the rebuild

The 2010s are about to be in the books, so we took a look back at the top 10 players from that decade of the Bulls franchise. A handful of different factors went into the equation, including longevity, per-game performance, team success and individual accolades such as All-Star appearances, Defensive Player of the Year votes and MVPs.

10. Nikola Mirotic (2014-2018; 243 games): 11.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.8 3-pointers

No Bulls player made more 3-pointers in the 2010s than Mirotic, who poured in 432 triples in three-plus seasons. He never fully reached his potential in Chicago – and a right hook from Bobby Portis essentially ended his time in Chicago – after finishing second to Andrew Wiggins in the 2015 Rookie of the Year voting, but Mirotic had some stellar stretches for the Bulls. Most notably, his red-hot Marches and his sparkling December/January stretch that allowed the Bulls to net a first-round pick from the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for him.

In addition to being the 3-point champion of the 2010s, Mirotic ranks seventh in points, seventh in rebounds, eighth in games, eighth in steals and eighth in blocks. Whether you liked him or thought he was overrated, Mirotic put up numbers for the Bulls.

9. Lauri Markkanen (2017-2019; 120 games): 16.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.2 3-pointers

Too soon to put him on the list? Maybe, but in just two seasons Markkanen ranked 12th in points and 11th in rebounds over the last decade for the Bulls. He’s also 8th in made 3-pointers and gets a few added bonus points for being the potential face of the franchise in the post-Jimmy Butler era.

Markkanen has posted impressive numbers despite the fact that the Bulls have been tanking around him the last two seasons, plus a head-coaching change right after his return from an elbow injury and a heart scare at the end of last season. He provides one of the most unique skill sets the franchise has ever seen and should only improve in Year 3 with a clean bill of health, a stable head-coaching situation and more talent around him.

8. Robin Lopez (2016-2019; 219 games): 10.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.1 blocks

This is the one that probably has you scratching your head. In terms of on-court production, Lopez quietly put together three really nice seasons. Among Bulls in the 2010s, he ranks 10th in games played, 10th in points, 10th in rebounds and fourth in blocks. He’s also second in field goal percentage. So the numbers give him credibility on the list despite him playing just three seasons in Chicago.

But his off-the-court productivity is noteworthy, too. He was the veteran leader both with the Three Amigos fiasco of a season and during two years of rebuilds. He dealt with DNP’s, 12-minute first quarters and then 36 straight minutes on the bench, and then watched the Bulls draft his replacement in Wendell Carter Jr. Lopez then took Carter under his watch and helped the 19-year-old rookie acclimate to the NBA. He was also one of the key veterans in keeping the peace during Jim Boylen’s wild first week as head coach. Lopez was never an All-Star in Chicago, but he left a great impression on the entire organization.

7. Pau Gasol (2014-2016; 150 games): 17.6 points, 11.4 rebounds, 2.0 blocks

Gasol was the consolation prize for Carmelo Anthony but proved to be one of the best signings from the draft class. He had a career rejuvenation in Chicago, making two All-Star appearances, helping lead the Bulls to the postseason twice, and posting some gaudy numbers in his ages 34 and 35 campaigns.

Despite playing just two seasons with the Bulls, his ranks among the 2010s Bulls include: eighth in points, sixth in rebounds, ninth in assists, third in blocks and 10th in games. It happened while Jimmy Butler was ascending to stardom and that buried Gasol’s accomplishments some, but the Spaniard was a great addition in Chicago.

6. Carlos Boozer (2010-2014; 280 games): 15.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists

Stop punching the air. Though he was certainly not the main target during the historic 2010 free agent class, Boozer put together four solid seasons with the Bulls. Though he was never able to replicate the numbers he posted during his Jazz days, Boozer still finished the 2010s ranked fifth in points, third in rebounds, seventh in steals, 10th in blocks and seventh in games.

He’ll always be remembered as “the guy the Bulls signed instead of LeBron James” but he wound up working out for the Bulls. Holdat.

5. Taj Gibson (2009-2017): 9.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.2 blocks

No. 5 on our list, but forever No. 1 in our hearts. No player appeared in more games or played more minutes for the Bulls in the 2010s than Gibson, who finished third in points, second in rebounds, fourth in steals and first in blocks. Along the way, Gibson spent more than half his games coming off the bench in favor of Carlos Boozer and Pau Gasol, all the while being the consummate teammate and locker room presence.

He also provided the lasting in-game memory of the 2010s Bulls when he dunked all over Dwyane Wade in Game 1 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals. Let’s just forget that he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Cameron Payne and remember the good times.

4. Luol Deng (2010-2014): 16.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.0 steals

Deng had played five NBA seasons before the 2010s rolled around but enjoyed his best seasons in that era. He was named an All-Star twice while leading the NBA in minutes per game both seasons, went toe-to-toe with LeBron James in some unforgettable playoff series, and hit his fair share of clutch shots.

In the 2010s alone, Deng ranked fourth in points, fourth in rebounds, fifth in assists, third in steals, fifth in 3-pointers, sixth in blocks and sixth in games. An all-around, two-way player who certainly has an argument to be even higher on this list.

3. Jimmy Butler (2011-2017): 15.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.5 steals

Butler made one of the most unlikely rises to stardom of any player in the 2010s, from late first-round pick to four-time All-Star in the span of four seasons. Butler watched as Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose all departed before him to make him the face of the franchise. Though Butler never got the Bulls past the second round of the playoffs and wound up being the outgoing piece to begin the Bulls’ rebuild in 2017, he was still one of the team’s best players of the last decade.

He ranked second in points, fifth in rebounds, third in assists, first in steals, fifth in blocks, first in made free throws and third in games. It’s a shame neither side could make the relationship work that would have allowed Butler to add on to those numbers the last few seasons, but both parties seem better off.

2. Joakim Noah (2009-2016): 10.3 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 blocks

Noah played his first two NBA seasons in the 2000s but was a budding star by the time the 2010s rolled around. All Noah did in seven Bulls seasons was earn two All-Star berths, win Defensive Player of the Year and finish fifth in the MVP voting in 2014.

Noah is littered across the 2010s Bulls leaderboard: Sixth in points, first in rebounds, second in assists, second in steals, second in blocks, second in games and second in minutes. Injuries eventually took their toll on Noah, who was a shell of himself by the time the Bulls moved on in 2016, but he was an easy choice for No. 2 on this list.

1. Derrick Rose (2009-2016): 20.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 0.8 steals

Rose ended the 2000s in style by winning Rookie of the Year honors in 2009, but he was just getting started. Over the next seven seasons (six years), Rose became the youngest MVP in league history, went to three All-Star Games, signed a shoe deal with adidas and was the driving force behind a pair of top seeds in the Eastern Conference, including a 62-win campaign in 2011.

Among the 2010s Bulls, Rose ranks first in points, first in assists, sixth in steals, eighth in blocks, fourth in 3-pointers, fourth in games and fifth in minutes. Debate his legacy in Chicago all you’d like, but there wasn’t a better or more accomplished player during the last decade than Pooh.

 

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Five observations from Bulls' preseason, including Zach LaVine's focus

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USA Today

Five observations from Bulls' preseason, including Zach LaVine's focus

The Bulls blew through four preseason games in seven days, a pace coach Jim Boylen acknowledged by resting his starters for one.

But now it gets real. Wendell Carter Jr. made his debut Sunday in Toronto after sitting the first three games with a bruised tailbone, but the second-year big man only played first-half minutes.

Thursday’s preseason finale at the United Center against the Hawks is an opportunity to extend minutes, set rotations and square off against a young, rebuilding team looking to make a similar jump. Here’s what the Bulls’ preseason has shown so far:

Zach LaVine is playing with a proper edge

The preternaturally gifted scorer often is accused of being an empty calories player, spouting empty words. Those who are around LaVine on a daily basis see his work ethic and care factor and say otherwise.

LaVine has made no secret of his desire to represent the Bulls at the 2020 All-Star game at the United Center. But through three games---he sat with the other starters last Friday in Indiana---he isn’t trying to get there with a head-down, selfish approach.

LaVine has shown leadership, an improved commitment at the defensive end and his 23.3 points in 23 minutes proves he still scores in bunches. Boylen deserves some of the credit for LaVine’s focus, challenging him to be a better two-way player. Veteran Thaddeus Young also has been in LaVine’s ear. But LaVine put in the work and is playing like a man on a mission.

Coby White is fearless

The first-round pick said all the right things about playing with confidence when the Bulls used the No. 7 selection on him. But so many 19-year-olds have uttered similar sentiments and then looked overwhelmed.

White isn’t that. His speed and scoring ability have demanded a rotational role. And who cares if he’s not a point guard yet, with just five assists in 105 minutes? His ability to push the ball and play off it will be critical for a second unit that will feature the defensive-minded Kris Dunn.

White still needs to eliminate his tendency to take long 2-pointers and learn to finish better. And the point guard knowledge needs to come eventually. But for now, unleash him and let his athleticism do the trick.

Boylen and the Bulls are playing like a modern NBA team

In the three games the regulars have played, the Bulls have attempted 38, 37 and 49 3-pointers. The 49 3-pointers versus the Raptors would’ve represented a franchise, regular-season record.

After taking over for the fired Fred Hoiberg last season, Boylen drew widespread criticism for his publicly stated plan to slow down the offense and build it back up with proper fundamentals. Furthermore, last season’s roster, particularly down the stretch as the Bulls fielded gloried G League lineups, didn’t lend itself to perimeter shooting.

The additions of Tomas Satoransky, Luke Kornet and White help. So does a more versatile roster with multiple ballhandlers. This approach isn’t going away this season.

Carter needs to stay on the court

The defensive-minded big man consistently draws praise from coaches and teammates for his communication skills and ability to read the court. There also are raves for his offensive potential.

However, it’s getting to the point where the Bulls need to see it consistently, not talk about it. Between thumb surgery limiting him to 44 games in an otherwise promising rookie season and now Carter showing some rust---and some nice plays---Sunday in Toronto, consistency and reliability needs to follow.

After all, Carter never fully mastered the art of avoiding foul trouble last season. His interior defense and rim protection will be critical for a team challenged in both areas.

The Bulls need to broaden Lauri Markkanen's offensive game

The good news is Markkanen shot 44.4 percent from 3-point range in three games. The bad news is over half of Markkanen’s shots have come from behind the arc.

Markkanen is too talented---and too much a matchup nightmare---to be relegated to a spot-up shooter. During his dominant February stretch last season, Markkanen displayed a dribble, drag-step move that seemed unguardable. Offseason talk centered on his bulking up for more post play.

This is where Markkanen’s rebounding is so essential. He has the ability to push the ball up the court himself. There’s nothing wrong with Markkanen shooting 3-pointers. But he’s at his best in motion, with multiple offensive options at his disposal.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Guest Ricky O’Donnell on the future with Zach LaVine

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Guest Ricky O’Donnell on the future with Zach LaVine

Kevin Anderson is joined by SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell to talk Zach LaVine and the Bulls preseason.

0:55 - On Zach LaVine’s preseason and if he is the true star on this Bulls team

3:00 - What should we expect from LaVine this season?

4:45 - LaVine’s true ceiling is…

7:00 - Can LaVine be a top-3 scorer in the NBA?

9:15 - Concerns over Lauri Markkanen

12:40 - On the LaVine and Lauri 2-man game

15:50 - Ricky explains why he’s optimistic on the Bulls

17:25 - On Bulls depth and White vs. Dunn in rotation

21:15 - Expectations for Bulls win total this season

24:00 - Are Raptors likely to make the postseason?

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Bulls Talk Podcast

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