Chicago Bulls Roster: Whose on the Naughty or Nice List?

Chicago Bulls players sit on the bench before the first half against the Orlando Magic at the United Center in Chicago on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. The Bulls won, 112-94. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Chicago Bulls players sit on the bench before the first half against the Orlando Magic at the United Center in Chicago on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. The Bulls won, 112-94. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images) /

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and Santa’s checking his list (twice). I’ve had a word, and he’s let me know which of the Chicago Bulls roster can expect presents on Christmas morning.

Christmas is just days away now, and Santa’s naughty and nice lists have been finalized, stamped and handed to his workforce. I have sources working closely with the big man in red, white and black (definitely a Bulls fan), and I’ve managed to get my hands on his list to see which of the Bulls roster is on which list.

He also mentioned that to make either list, you have to have played at least 10 minutes per game so far this season. But in the interest of staying on the right list this Christmas myself, if he comes asking about these leaks; you’ve not seen me. Let’s get to it.

Kris Dunn

In my eyes, a candidate for the most improved player in the league this year, Kris Dunn has put down a marker as the Bulls starting point guard. Not just for this season, but perhaps long term. Although still rough around the edges, Dunn is showing signs of becoming a great point guard and one that could be a building block for this Bulls rebuild. The great thing is that his numbers are trending upwards as he is improving month by month. From October to December Dunn has made huge strides; 8.0ppg – 12.3ppg – 15.0ppg and 3.0apg – 4.3apg – 7.7apg. He’s quickly becoming my favourite player on the Bulls roster.

Verdict: Nice List

Jerian Grant

Beginning the year as the Bulls starting point guard, Jerian Grant had an opportunity to hold down the role and make a case for his role in the Bulls rebuild.  However, Grant failed to do just that. He was out of the starting line up by November 21st and hasn’t had a look in since. Guilty of continually over dribbling and failing to run an offense, it isn’t much of a surprise. At this point, what Jerian Grant can bring to the team is spot up shooting and the occasional iso play. But watching Grant continually failing to recognize mismatches in the paint and making the right play is enough to test anyone’s Christmas spirit.

Verdict: Naughty List

David Nwaba 

Picked up in the off-season after being waived by the Lakers, David Nwaba has been an important addition to the Bulls roster. He provides an instant impact on both ends of the floor, whether that is pushing the pace and scoring easy fast-break layups or locking down an opposing player for consecutive plays. As Stacey King often says, “It’s like there are five Nwabas out there!”. If not a starter, I think David Nwaba could play a role for the Bulls long term and I’m excited to see how he develops over the remainder of this season.

Verdict: Nice List

Justin Holiday

Regarded as a ‘veteran’ on the team, I don’t think Justin Holiday is setting the necessary example for the young Bulls. Holiday has never averaged more than 20 minutes per game for a team, until this season and he is trying to get his. Although it has eased now that Mirotic and Portis are back, Holiday was chucking shots as if his life depended on it, shooting an almost career low 36.7% from the field. At times it feels like Holiday is going after his numbers, regardless of whether its the best shot or not. He’s had some hot games, but I think we’d be better off allowing younger players to get their shots and bring Holiday off the bench.

Verdict: Naughty List

Antonio Blakeney

Every now and then you have that player who can drop 40 points a night in the G-league, but can’t seem to reproduce that quality in an NBA game. Antonio Blakeney is that man. On paper, he’s an exciting player, able to spot up from deep, as well as throw down jams that’ll have the fans on their feet. I’m not saying it’s not going to happen, but early signs are that Blakeney is struggling to relax into games, almost trying too hard. More than this, when he does get it going – he gets carried away and starts shooting shots he probably shouldn’t be.

Verdict: Naughty List

Quincy Pondexter 

I think I speak for everyone when I say that it’s just great to see Quincy Pondexter back in the league. I can imagine he’s a wonderful veteran presence from the bench. Limited to garbage time minutes, that is all we can ask for from Pondexter – and he’s delivering.

Verdict: Nice List

Denzel Valentine 

In his sophomore season, Bulls fans watched on in interest to see what exactly we got in the draft last year. After an average first year, Denzel Valentine is getting his chance this year to really shine. The problem is, he’s not. Having started a whopping 20 games so far this season, Valentine has looked like an average player with the exception of his 3 point shooting percentage, 40.3%. His averageness was highlighted by the fact that he was one of the weaker performers in our recent winning streak. Perhaps most frustrating is Valentine’s inability to make the right decision when we have numbers on the fast break. Currently destined to being an NBA rotation player who can come off the bench and knock down the 3 ball; we’re all still waiting on Denzel Valentine.

Verdict: Naughty List

Paul Zipser 

It’s time to get off the Zipser bandwagon. After a pleasantly surprising rookie season, Paul Zipser has taken a backwards step this year and is at risk of falling out of the rotation completely once Zach LaVine makes his return to the court. His field goal percentage has fallen from 39.8% in 16/17 to a depressing 31.6% so far this season.

Verdict: Naughty List

Lauri Markkanen

It may only be Christmas, but I think it’s fair to say that Lauri Markkanen is going to be a key piece of the Bulls rebuild. He’s had ups and downs so far this season, but no more or less than is usual for rookies. What’s impressed me most about Markkanen is his composure on both ends of the court. He already looks more calm and assured on the defensive end than some of our previous rookies (I’m looking at you Dougie McBuckets). Equally pleasing is his decision making on the offensive end when his signature three-point shot isn’t falling. Rather than force it, he instead looks for closer looks in the paint. I could go on for days about how excited I am about our rookie, so I’ll just say this – Lauri is getting presents this year. Lots of them.

Verdict: Nice List

Nikola Mirotic 

MVP, MVP, MVP. Okay, so we’re getting carried away. But still, Nikola Mirotic has made a massive impact on the team. Whether you view his great start as a plus because he can help the Bulls win long term, or because you think his performance might help us get value in a trade come January 15th – it’s hard not to enjoy it!  His numbers are off the chart when compared to last year. He’s averaging 19.0 ppg as opposed to 10.6 ppg, shooting 48.9% from deep as opposed to 34.2% last year. We all know that Mirotic can have these months, and they don’t always last – but the beauty of this situation is that we might only need him to keep it up until January 15th.

Verdict: Nice List

Bobby Portis 

Typically, Santa doesn’t give presents to people who punch people in the face. But he’s informed me that he makes exceptions for players who can almost double their points per game from last season. Portis is staking his claim for a role in this rebuild. He’s looking more and more like a veteran out there, making the right decisions on the defensive end and making it happen on the offensive end. If Mirotic does get traded, it’ll be interesting to see if Portis can take another step up.

Verdict: Nice List

Next: Did the Bulls win the Jimmy Butler trade?

Robin Lopez 

At this point, Robin Lopez has to be considered one of the most consistent big men in the league. The veteran leader for the baby Bulls is now in his tenth season in the league and is delivering the same quality numbers he always does. Although, he is actually averaging career highs in points per game (13.1) and assists per game (2.1). I’m making sure to savour Lopez’s consistency while he is still here because he will not be a Bull by the season’s end.

Verdict: Nice List

Cristiano Felicio 

This one hurts. We all had such high hopes for Felicio.  Clearly, the Bulls front office shared this view, as they handed him a 4 year deal worth $32 million. Shockingly, this means he is the third highest paid player on the Bulls active roster, and he is… not playing. When he was playing, it wasn’t pretty. The eye test was enough to know that Felicio was struggling on the offensive end.  Gone were the days of him throwing down that vicious alley-oop dunk every game. It’s too early to rule him out entirely, but currently – this looks like a bad deal to me.

Verdict: Naughty List

Perhaps you agree with these decisions, perhaps you do not. But remember, these are from Santa, not me – so I can’t be held responsible. Which of the Bulls roster has made your nice list this year?