Between the consistent starting lineups, overperforming bench mobs, and a dazzling young star paving the way for the future, the early 2010s were a great time to be a fan of the Chicago Bulls. Derrick Rose would go on to be the youngest player to ever win an MVP and inspire an entire generation of young Bulls fans, but this era has always felt like a bit of a missed opportunity.
Playing alongside the main core of Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Jimmy Butler, and Taj Gibson for the majority of his time with the Bulls, this team had the tools they needed to get the job done, but the stars never aligned at the right time.
I can’t help but feel if the Bulls had just one more piece to finish the puzzle, things could have ended differently. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, however, as the Bulls signed plenty of failed projects to get across the finish line. For that reason, I’d like to take a little trip to the past and revisit a few of the worst starters we ever witnessed suit up for the Bulls during the Derrick Rose era.
The one area the Bulls failed to address time and time again was shooting guard, so expect to see a lot of them on this list. I’m also only considering players who started at least 20 games (at least 25% of the season) in any given season to qualify for this list, so a few particular disastrous former Bulls starters dodged this list on a technicality. Now that we’ve established the ‘rules’ here, let’s dig right in.
Ranking the worst Chicago Bulls starters of the Derrick Rose era
13. C.J. Watson (2011-12)
It feels a little unfair starting this list out here with C.J. Watson, as he was a tremendous role player for the Bulls at the turn of the decade. In two seasons with the team, Watson proved to be one of the first of a long string of exceptional point backup point guards under Tom Thibodeau that included Nate Robinson, DJ Augustin, John Lucas III, and Aaron Brooks.
The problem here, however, is that Watson was unable to remain in the role that suited him best during the 2011-12 season. With Rose sidelined for a portion of the season, Watson was forced to step up and start for over a third of the season.
He performed better than expected, averaging 11.3 points and 4.6 assists as a starter, it became painfully obvious how steep of a downgrade Watson was in the postseason. After Rose tore his ACL in the first game against Philadelphia, Watson would struggle mightily — including a zero-point outing in Game 3 — and Chicago would lose four of their next five and be eliminated. Although Watson wasn’t exactly a bad starter, he’s definitely the best of the worst starters the Bulls fielded during the Rose era.