Quick note: I'm writing this during tonight's Bulls-Pistons game, so all the stats I'm citing are subject to change.
I started writing this post in my head after Friday night's game, but never got a chance until now. Obviously there's a lot that can be said about the loss to the Hawks, but I'm not going to waste too much time on the game itself, other than to give TT a little credit for throwing in the towel and giving the starters (who got absolutely destroyed in the minutes they did play) a decent amount of rest.
However, I do want to focus on the Bulls' big men for a minute, and make another bold proclamation:
Taj Gibson is the Bulls' best big man.
And I'm really not panicking here about Noah's slow start. He'll get it together offensively, and not be the type of player you can leave open from 15 feet. I love Noah's passing and on-the-ball defense. But Taj has been better in every aspect of the game thus far this year. He's always been the Bulls' best help defender, but lately has been guarding other bigs as well if not better than Noah this year, and has been finishing around the rim better than anyone besides Rose and Deng. The Bulls have somehow only played 3 games this year decided by less than 10 points, and one of those was the Warriors game, which really was never in doubt. By my count 4 games have been undecided with about 8 minutes left, the Lakers and Hawks comebacks, the Clippers game, and the Magic. In those 4 games, here are the 4 big men +/- numbers:
I know +/- has a lot of noise, but this isn't a coincidence. Taj has been really good when it counts. I'm willing to bet most of that +34 number has to do with Taj altering shots of players attacking the rim (which I'm sitting here watching Boozer and Noah fail to do against Detroit).
Looking at 82games.com, the best 5-man unit for the Bulls at +21 is the current starters (with TBN in for Rip). The starting 5 with Rip isn't far behind at +18. But what's interesting is the 2nd best unit, Rose-Korver-Deng-Taj-Turkish, +20 in only 19 minutes (current starters have played 51 minutes together.)
A lot of that has to do with that 5 being on the floor for most of the Hawks comeback, but I'm willing to say that 5 makes me more confident than any other 5, assuming the opposing team doesn't take advantage of Korver defensively. But the way Korver is shooting, that's probably the best offensive backcourt we can send out there, along with two solid defensive bigs to protect the rim. At least until Noah gets it together, I want to see more of this.
Two quick unrelated notes-
ESPN...this is not CJ Watson:
Also, TT, THIS WOULD BE THE PERFECT GAME TO PLAY JIMMY BUTLER. Deng is not having a good game, he's 2-12 from the field, and not playing particularly great defense on Tayshaun Prince (who isn't the toughest matchup in the world anyway,) yet Deng has played 34 minutes 3 minutes into the 4th. What could you possibly have to lose?
Free Jimmy Butler.