Bulls

Jimmy Butler joins Love, Jordan, Pippen, Rose, others as All-NBA Bulls

Jimmy Butler joins Love, Jordan, Pippen, Rose, others as All-NBA Bulls

Jimmy Butler was named to the All-NBA Third Team on Thursday. Here's a look at the seven other players who have been named to an All-NBA team in the Bulls' 51-year franchise.

Bob Love (Second team: 1971, 1972)

The first member of the Bulls to appear on an All-NBA team, Love's two nods came in the same years he was named to two of his three All-Star games. In 1971, Love averaged 25.2 points and 8.5 rebounds in 43.0 minutes per game. It also coincided with the first winning season in Bulls franchise history (51-31), though they lost in seven games to the Los Angeles Lakers. The following year Love averaged a career-best 25.8 points for the 57-win Bulls.

Norm Van Lier (Second team: 1974)

Stormin' Normal took his game to a new level in 1974, averaging 14.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 6.9 assists in nearly 36 minutes per game. He was named to his first of what would become three All-Star Games, and ended the year on the second team. The Bulls won 54 games, knocked off the Pistons in seven games before being swept by the Milwaukee Bucks in the conference finals.

Michael Jordan (Second team: 1985; First team: 1987-1993, 1996-1998)

It didn't take MJ long to find his name on an All-NBA team. In his rookie season Jordan was named to the second team, becoming the first rookie since Larry Bird (1980, first team) to accomplish the feat. Jordan took second team honors behind Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas. Jordan missed all but 18 regular season games the following season with a broken foot.

Then the rest became history. Jordan was named All-NBA First Team the following 10 seasons in which he played the entire year. From 1987 to 1993 Jordan led the NBA in scoring all seven seasons, led the NBA in steals three times and minutes played twice. The Bulls, of course, won their first three titles and Jordan cemented himself as the game's best player. After skipping the 1993-1994 season to try his hand at baseball, Jordan returned late in the 1995 season for 17 games.

From 1996 to 1998 he was back at the top of the mountain, winning three titles and being named to the All-NBA First Team in each season. Had he not taken the two-year hiatus there's a real chance Jordan would have become the first (and still only) player to make the All-NBA First Team in 12 consecutive seasons (LeBron James, Karl Malone and Kobe Bryant are the only others to do so).

Scottie Pippen (Second team: 1992, 1997; Third team: 1993; First team: 1994-1996)

MJ's sidekick had already been named to one All-Star game before he found his name on an All-NBA squad. In 1992 he averaged 21.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.0 assists. At the time he was just the seventh player in NBA history to reach those thresholds. He bumped down to the third team in 1993 as his numbers dipped some, but he still managed to average 18.6 points, 7.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists as the Bulls won their third of three straight titles.

When Jordan bolted for minor league baseball, Pippen took over and was named First Team All-NBA both seasons. He averaged 21.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists for the Bulls in those years. When Jordan returned in 1996 Pippen was still red-hot and was again named All-NBA First Team, joining Jordan. It'd be the last time teammates shared First Team honors until 2002, when Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal did so.

In 1997, Pippen was named to the All-NBA Third Team. He averaged 20.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists. He likely would have added to his total in 1998, but a toe injury forced him to appear in just 44 regular season games during the Bulls' final title run.

Derrick Rose (First team: 2011)

The Bulls went 13 years without a player on any All-NBA team, let alone the first team. But Derrick Rose's MVP campaign was certainly worthy of finding his name on the list. Rose appeared in 81 games, averaging 25.0 points, 4.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists and leading the Bulls to 61 wins and the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Though it seemed unthinkable at the time, 2011 would be the lone time Rose was named to an All-NBA team.

Joakim Noah (First team: 2014)

The face of the Bulls franchise had a truly remarkable 2014 season. He made his second All-Star team that year, carrying a Bulls team to 48 wins by averaging 12.6 points on 48 percent shooting, 11.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. The assists were the most by a center in NBA history in a single season, and on top of that he also won Defensive Player of the Year. Knee and shoulder injuries ruined the following two seasons for Noah, and he appeared in just 46 games in his first season with the Knicks in 2016-17.

Paul Gasol (Second team: 2015)

The Bulls' free-agent splash had a resurgence in his first year in Chicago, averaging 18.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 35 minutes per game. He played in 78 games, the most for him since 2011, and was named an All-Star. A weak crop of centers certainly helped Gasol out in being named to the Second Team, but his numbers were impressive all the same after the Spaniard looked to be on the tail end of his illustrious career.

Jimmy Butler (Third team: 2017)

Were it not for Butler playing the deepest position in the NBA, he may have been named to the Second Team. That's how good his numbers were - especially playing for a Bulls team that had little else around him. Butler averaged 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists, and single-handedly carried a banged up and (at times) dysfunctional Bulls team to the postseason.

Shaquille Harrison is on a defensive hot streak

Shaquille Harrison is on a defensive hot streak

The Bulls signed guard Shaquille Harrison to provide depth to a rotation that is missing it’s best perimeter defender in Kris Dunn and is lacking playmaking/ball-handling when Zach LaVine gets a rest. So far the results have been positive. Though Harrison hasn’t shown a tremendous amount of promise in terms of being a playmaker, he provides a solid option in the backcourt due to his defensive fundamentals.

Harrison racks up a lot of steals but it is more impressive due to the fact that he is not gambling for steals too often (i.e. getting out of position to try to strip a player you aren’t guarding). He picks up a decent amount of his steals by “digging”, which is a basketball term for applying pressure with a second player without making it a true double-team.

Simple “stunting” (jumping towards an offensive player to mimic pressure) or digging would help the Bulls prevent many of the easy drives to the rim they give up.

A big part of successful NBA defense is making the opposition think you are committing to one thing before executing something else. And the Bulls defense does little to keep the opposition on their toes.

The aggressiveness of Harrison in on- or off-ball defense has serious potential to be contagious to the Chicago roster, and even more so once Dunn returns. We don’t know if we will ever see Hoiberg trot out the Dunn-Harrison pairing or if that duo could do enough to spur on a change--over a big sample size-- in the overall team defense, but the basketball world has definitely started to pick up on his 110 percent effort on the struggling Bulls:


Even when Harrison does things that coaches traditionally don’t like—such as the ol’ ‘Rondo/CP3 reach around swipe’—he makes it work out:

In the above clip he was going over the screen on Celtics guard Brad Wanamaker--the correct play since Wanamaker is a solid shooter--and prevents Felicio from having to contain the guard for too long. A common thing you see from NBA guards in the pick-and-roll is the “snake dribble” that gets them into the paint. Harrison times up this move perfectly, knockling the ball loose as soon as Wanamaker transfers his dribble from his right to left hand.

Part of the reason that Harrison’s gamble in the above play was so great is that fouling can be a good thing, so even if he had fouled Wanamaker, that would’ve been a preferable outcome when compared to Felicio vs a guard or Cam Payne coming over in help defense to contest the 6-foot 8 Daniel Theis.

Harrison’s locked-in defense will certainly be needed as the Bulls head into a three-game slate that features matchups against the Bucks, Raptors and Harrison's former team, the Suns. All three teams have excellent wing scorers in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard and Devin Booker, and rookie Chandler Hutchison and Jabari Parker can’t be depended on to slow down those players by themselves.

Per Basketball-Reference, the 2018-19 season represents the first time that Harrison has played small forward in his NBA career (6 percent of the time). It will be interesting to see how Hoiberg deploys Harrison against two of the best three offenses in the league, his newfound versatility and consistent effort level should afford him a long-term on the Bulls.

Zach LaVine's offensive struggles begin with his deficiencies at the rim

Zach LaVine's offensive struggles begin with his deficiencies at the rim

Through the NBA’s first three weeks there wasn’t a better player at attacking the rim than Zach LaVine. The 23-year-old looked spry, healthy and aggressive, and was drawing fouls at a rate that would have made even James Harden blush.

Well, LaVine has hit his first speed bump of the 2018-19 season. With Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis all on the mend (had you heard those three players were injured?) LaVine has taken on a ridiculous burden of leading the Bulls offense; he’s currently second in the NBA in usage, behind only James Harden and Russell Westbrook and ahead of names like Giannis, LeBron, Curry, Embiid and Durant.

For three weeks that was fine. LaVine was hitting everything in sight, passing like we hadn’t seen since his rookie season when he played primarily point guard, and attacking the basket, ranking near the top of the league in trips to the free throw line.

LaVine was shooting a wild 69.6 percent on 8.0 attempts per game inside 5 feet through Oct. 29, third among guards to only Donovan Mitchell (73% on 6.2 attempts) and Devin Booker (70.8% on 6.0 attempts). To put those numbers in perspective, LaVine ranked just ahead of Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook in the category.

It’s where LaVine was at his best, even as he continued to pore in 3-pointers at an absurd rate and, for the most part, take care of the basketball. He lived at the rim, and if he wasn’t finishing there he was drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line; through Oct. 29 he was ninth in free throw attempts per game (8.0), a slight tick above LeBron James (7.7).

But something happened after that pitiful loss to the Golden State Warriors on Oct. 29, and it’s sent LaVine into an ugly shooting slump that he hasn’t been able to get out of in the eight games since. Yes, teams are doubling LaVine and pressuring every time he plays in pick and roll.

But consider: LaVine has taken nearly the same number of contested shots per 36 minutes (11.0 vs. 10.9) and hasn’t taken all that fewer drives to the basket per 36 minutes (14.4 vs. 12.2) during his slump. It may seem like it on the surface, but LaVine’s game hasn’t changed that much as teams have keyed in on him.

Of course his 3-point percentage being as low as it is – 25.6 percent on 5.9 attempts during his slump – has had a huge effect, but the answer might be in what’s happening to LaVine on those drives to the basket lately.

He was a magnet the first seven games of the season, drawing a foul on 15.4 percent of his drives to the basket. He shot 55 percent on those drives and got to the free throw line 3.7 times per game on drives alone. 9.6 of his 28.1 points per game were coming on his attacks to the basket.

But his slump has affected the best part of his game. It certainly could be fatigue, or simply bad luck, but LaVine’s shooting numbers on drives have dipped to 44.6 percent, he’s drawing fouls on only 4.7 percent of them and is getting to the free throw line fewer than one time (0.8) off those drives. The volume of drives still have him averaging 7.0 points on them, but it’s a stark contrast. And when you combine his pedestrian – for his standards – numbers at the rim with that ugly 3-point shooting, it’s a recipe for disaster.

He’s even passing less on drives during his slump (22 percent of the time compared to 28 percent during his hot stretch), perhaps once again feeling the need to take over on offense for his shorthanded group.

Or maybe he’s just not getting calls. LaVine was issued a technical foul in the second quarter of Wednesday’s loss to the Celtics after he felt he was fouled by Semi Ojeleye. LaVine didn’t get the call, clapped his hands at the official and was given the T.

It’s been a frustrating two weeks all-around for LaVine, but his inability to finish at the rim like he had the first three weeks of the season has led the charge. It’s who LaVine is as a player and where he’s most effective for this Bulls team, which is why his attempts have remained the same.

Perhaps he isn’t getting the same leap on those drives given the uptick in minutes, or maybe defenses are figuring out how to better defend him without fouling. Whatever the reason, LaVine will need to figure out how to better attack defenses, especially if his 3-point shot remains off. It’s either that or more losses will continue to pile up for this undermanned group.