Nikola Mirotic

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.

 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

NBA Buzz: Former Bulls will be a big part of 2019 free agency madness

butler-304.jpg
USA TODAY

NBA Buzz: Former Bulls will be a big part of 2019 free agency madness

With over half of the league’s players heading into free agency come July 1, it’s not surprising to hear a number of ex-Bulls will be waiting to see what they’re worth on the open market.

Let’s start with the biggest name, four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler, who will be looking for a max contract, preferably a five-year offer from his current team, the Philadelphia 76ers.

Problem is, Butler will turn 30 before the 2019-20 season begins with a lot of mileage on his body playing for Tom Thibodeau in both Chicago and Minnesota. Watching him play for the 76ers lately, it appears Butler is now the fourth option in the offense behind Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and newly-acquired Tobias Harris.

Butler is averaging 13.7 field goal attempts with Philadelphia, the lowest total since his third season with the Bulls in 2013-14. He often goes for long stretches without being a primary option in half-court sets. Will Butler be happy to continue taking a back seat to three other players in Philly for the rest of his career? That will be one of the interesting story lines around the league this summer.

Sixers’ general manager Elton Brand, the former Bulls’ Rookie of the Year, told reporters after completing the Harris trade with the Clippers that he hopes to sign both Harris and Butler to long-term contracts this summer. But Harris is younger (26) and is enjoying his best season, while committing five years to Butler would take him through his age 34 season.

Ultimately, how the 76ers fare in the upcoming playoffs could play a big part in helping Brand decide whether to offer max contracts to both Butler and Harris. Don’t forget Simmons is also eligible to an extension of his rookie deal. It’s very possible the 76ers will have to make a hard choice on which free agent they want to invest in.

We know Butler spends a lot of time in California during the offseason, and both the Lakers and Clippers have cap space to offer max deals, as do the two New York teams, the Knicks and Nets. Is Jimmy still interested in partnering with Kyrie Irving? Would he be willing to be LeBron’s co-star with the Lakers? Safe to say Butler will be a big part of the free agency intrigue come July 1.

So will his former backcourt mate with the Bulls, Derrick Rose. After rejuvenating his career with a tremendous season as a sixth man for the Timberwolves, Rose hits the open market again after playing on veteran’s minimum contracts the last two seasons.

What is Rose worth on the open market after averaging 18 points and 4.5 assists in his age 30 season? Given the fact Eric Bledsoe just signed a four-year, $70 million extension in Milwaukee, you would have to think Rose will be looking for at least a $10 million average on a multi-year deal. He could stay with the Timberwolves, but after outplaying starter Jeff Teague all season, it’s hard to imagine Rose would be comfortable taking another smaller contract with Teague staring at a $19 million player option.

The Bulls are in the market for a veteran point guard to either compete with Kris Dunn or mentor a young draft pick like Ja Morant or Darius Garland, and the door appears to be open to a Rose return on both sides. But given Rose’s injury history and drama-filled first run with the Bulls, the front office might decide to go a safer route in looking for a veteran point guard.

Rose could seek a bigger contract with a team in need of a starting point guard like the Magic or Suns, or he could try to find a back-up role with a legitimate championship contender. Still, don’t be surprised if you hear reports of Rose being interested in coming back to the Bulls this summer.

Former Bulls big men Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Niko Mirotic and Pau Gasol all hit free agency this summer. Gasol is near the end of the line at age 38, and will probably stay in Milwaukee if the Bucks are interested in keeping him around next season.

Similar story for Noah, who has played well in a reserve role for Memphis. Noah just turned 34 and worked hard during the offseason to get his body ready to compete again. The former NBA Defensive Player of the Year is beloved in Chicago, and if the Bulls decide they can’t afford to bring back Robin Lopez, it’s possible they could ask Noah if he’s interested in a mentor role with one of the league’s youngest teams.

Actually, Taj Gibson might be a better option as a veteran backup big. Gibson is quietly having another solid season in Minneapolis, averaging 10.7 points and 6.6 rebounds while shooting .567 from the field. Gibson’s lack of 3-point range will probably limit the interest he receives on the open market since he turns 34 in June, but the Bulls need a backup for Lauri Markkanen and bringing Taj back on a team-friendly two-year deal can’t be counted out.

Mirotic will also be a free agent, but I don’t think the Bulls will show any serious interest. Mirotic has been saddled with a backup role everywhere he’s been, and he’ll be looking for more minutes and a long-term contract at around $15 million per season. The Bulls weren’t going to pay Bobby Portis that kind of money to be a backup, and they won’t offer that to Mirotic either. Still, as the prototypical “stretch four” that teams covet, Niko should find plenty of interest this summer.

Veteran swingman Justin Holiday will also be an unrestricted free agent this summer, but he could be looking at a contract similar to the $4.4 million he made this season after struggling with his shooting after the trade to Memphis in January. The Bulls are set at the small forward spot, so don’t look for a third tour of duty in Chicago for Holiday.

Around the Association

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers have decided to put contract talks with Carmelo Anthony on hold while they wait to see if they’re still viable playoff contenders in the West. The Lakers stumbled out of the All-Star break with bad losses to the Pelicans, Grizzlies and Suns and it’s looking more and more like LeBron James will miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2004-05 season.

All kinds of speculation on who will replace Luke Walton on the bench as soon as the season ends, but you can be sure James and his agent Rich Paul will have a big say in what changes are made this summer. The Lakers will try to re-engage the Pelicans on a possible Anthony Davis trade, and they do have cap space to add an elite free agent, but recruiting players to join one of the league’s glamour franchises hasn’t been easy for most of the last decade.

Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka will have their work cut out for them convincing free agents the Lakers can be title contenders, even with King James on the roster.

—————

Yahoo Sports is reporting the Golden State Warriors plan to sign veteran free agent center Andrew Bogut, now that he’s finished his season in Australia. The Warriors had been waiting to see what developed with Bulls’ big man Robin Lopez, but neither Lopez nor the Bulls were interested in pursuing a buyout.

Lopez is hoping to stay in Chicago after this season, but as mentioned earlier, the fact that seldom used backup Cristiano Felicio makes $8 million per season will probably end any chance the Bulls have at negotiating a team-friendly contract with RoLo. It’s hard to project the Bulls paying Lopez somewhere around $10 million to play 15-18 minutes a night behind Wendell Carter Jr.

As for Bogut, he was a part of the Warriors’ 2015 championship team and is popular with the coaching staff and some of the key players. He won’t be asked to play significant minutes for Golden State with DeMarcus Cousins, Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell already on the roster. Basically, it’s just a low risk insurance policy as the Warriors get ready to compete for a third straight NBA title, and their fourth in the last five seasons.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Former Bulls in the playoffs: Kyle Korver gets hot as LeBron, Cavs top Raptors

Former Bulls in the playoffs: Kyle Korver gets hot as LeBron, Cavs top Raptors

Just about the only difference between the Kyle Korver who Bulls fans remember and the one playing in Toronto last night was that he didn't come off the bench.

Korver, a member of the original Bench Mob in Chicago in 2011, was one of the supporting cast members who picked up LeBron James and Kevin Love in Tuesday's Game 1 win over the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

The 37-year-old finished with 19 points, including five 3-pointers, and was a key cog in the third quarter as the Cavaliers tried to keep things close against the top-seeded Raptors.

Korver hit a pair of long jumpers with his foot on the 3-point line to get it going, and later in the period hit back-to-back 3-pointers to keep the Cavaliers afloat after Toronto had pushed its lead to 10 points.

Korver didn't score in the fourth quarter but was clutch in overtime, hitting a 3-pointer to get the extra period started that gave the Cavs the lead for good.

The 19 points were necessary on a night when James and Kevin Love combined to go 15 of 43. Korver has one distinct role on the Cavaliers: be shot-ready as soon as a James drive-and-kick finds him. In Game 1 he was 7 of 17 from the field with five 3-pointers, and both 2-pointers were jumpers.

He's been streaky in the postseason but did come up clutch in Round 1 against the Pacers. He scored 18 points in Game 4 to help the Cavs even up the series, and then the Cavs took a 3-2 series lead in Game 5 behind, in part, Korver's 19 points. He was held scoreless in Game 1 and 3 losses and had 6 and 3 points in Games 6 and 7 against the Pacers, so Ty Lue and the Cavs will have to hope his streaky shooting stays hot if they intend to knock off Raptors and advance to the conference finals.

Rajon Rondo: The Pelicans now trail the Warriors 2-0 in their best of seven series, but not because of Rondo. #PlayoffRondo was at it again with 22 points, seven rebounds, 12 assists and five steals in Game 2. He did commit seven turnovers but was otherwise great, even connecting on three 3-pointers and making all three of his free throws. Stopping the Warriors offense is another discussion, but Rondo is still putting up massive lines for the Pellies. Rondo was actually a +2 in the five-point loss.

Nikola Mirotic: A bounce-back performance for Threekola, who finished with 18 points and nine rebounds in the Game 2 loss.