It was damn ugly at times, but the Chicago Bulls are 1-0.
Here are the grades:
Rajon Rondo: C-
How would Rajon Rondo fit Fred Hoiberg’s scheme? Apparently pretty well… in the halfcourt. It won’t show up in the box score, but Rondo did a nice job keeping the ball moving and making quick decisions during sets. Hoiberg put a lot of trust in his point guard, and, for the most part, the offense ran smoothly. Unfortunately for Rajon, though, one does not get ‘A’ grades for floor management. Rondo struggled shooting (1/9) and pulled his famous pass-up-a-shot-to-pad-my-assists move three times. On the fast break, he was horrendous. Not only did he pass up a wide open layup to throw a dreadful pass to Butler that was picked off, he also missed a wide open layup by going up soft, slowing down and using one hand. That’s middle school shyyyt.
Jimmy Butler: B+
Butler didn’t have his best shooting night (6/17), but he didn’t force anything and bailed the Bulls out with four three pointers – two as the shot clock was winding down. He also got to the stripe 12 times and rotated nearly flawlessly on defense. Honestly, he was the reason the Bulls didn’t give up 122 tonight.
Dwyane Wade: B
The hometown kid busted out the three-ball four times Thursday night! The last time that happened? 2013. Wade led the team with a +15 – take that for what it’s worth – and dropped five dimes. He continued his illustrious career of being the most-fouled jump shooter of all time and even knocked in the dagger. Not a bad first game.
Taj Gibson: A+
Gibson scored 18 points, nabbed 10 rebounds and made his coach look like a damn genius. That’s the definition of an A+ game. Whenever the Bulls needed a big bucket, Gibson was there. Whenever the Bulls needed a big stop, Gibson was all over the glass. Dude was the MVP of the game, no question.
Robin Lopez: C
Pretty much exactly what you’d expect. Can’t shoot a lick. High energy. Solid defensively. Moving on.
Nikola Mirotic: C-
This grade was an ‘F’ until he made a few nice moves down the stretch. Mirotic was bloody awful on defense. He couldn’t stay in front of anyone, and the effort he put in when getting switched onto Isaiah Thomas was laughable. Just slide your feet once, man. Just once. He inexcusably over-helped when Avery Bradley was just casually dribbling at the top of the key, which ended in a Jonas Jerebko three-pointer. And, to add insult to injury, his stroke was way off from deep. It’s still unclear why he was getting big minutes down the stretch in a close game. The Bulls need floor spacing, yes, but it’s time to stop treating Mirotic like Ray freaking Allen.
Doug McDermott: C+
At the end of last season, McDermott proved he could do more offensively than just hit the deep ball. He showed a little bit of that again tonight, slashing hard to the hoop for two exceptional buckets. He didn’t do much else, though, and is still a net-positive on the other end of the floor.
Michael Carter-Williams: B
His three-pointer, steal, runner combo at the beginning of the fourth was big, and his length clearly bothers people on the other end. It may be too soon to say he’s an upgrade from – wait, what the hell am I saying? – he’s an upgrade from Tony Snell. Yet again, Lindsay Hunter is also an upgrade from Tony Snell.
Fred Hoiberg: B
Hoiberg automatically starts with a high grade for his decision to start Taj Gibson. He didn’t sacrifice skill for shooting, and it paid off tonight. His substitutions were OK. As said before, Mirotic should not have been on the floor down the stretch. He managed to have one of the “big (LOL) three” in for most of the game, helping keep the offense from being too stagnant. Pressuring, and not just token, the Boston guards in the full court was fantastic, especially because the Celtics were playing their second game in as many nights. It also didn’t take the offense 15 seconds to get into their set like it did last year, but that’s what happens when you get rid of a (non) point guard like Derrick Rose.
Locker room talk:
Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown is a skilled finisher and candidate for Rookie of the Year. Avery Bradley improved his offensive game… again. Al Horford continues to be the most overrated player in the NBA. The Celtics will not get out of the first round in the East. Brad Stevens gets way too much credit for everything he does. No, seriously. We get it. He’s a good coach. He’s not a top-three coach. And, yes, we know. He’s still young.