The 2014-15 regular season is only three games in for the Chicago Bulls, but it was a crazy three games. The Bulls hammered the New York Knicks to win their opener, lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in overtime in their second game, and then beat the Minnesota Timberwolves by one point in their third game Saturday.
Although fantasy owners shouldn't get too high or low after just three games, there are some interesting storylines that came out of this first few games for the Bulls roster.
Derrick Rose: Rose wasn't needed much in the season opener against the Knicks as the Bulls went up early and rested a lot of their starters in the fourth quarter. He scored 13 points, dished out five assists, and had two steals in only 21 minutes. Pretty promising stat line from a guy who basically hadn't played in two years. He was on fire in the second game against the Cavaliers and had 20 points in only 25 minutes. He was 2-for-6 from behind the arc and looked extremely athletic both driving to the rim and grabbing three offensive rebounds. However, Rose sprained BOTH of his ankles and missed most of the second half. Cue the groans out of Chicago.
Rose then sat out the game against the Timberwolves, as fantasy owners who took the risk of drafting him started to get that pit in their stomachs already. Although these seem to be minor ankle sprains, it gives fantasy owners a glimpse of what to expect with Rose this season. The Bulls are deep, and he is injury prone, so even if he suffers a minor injury, the team is likely to take the cautious route and sit him. He may play at a very high level for stretches, but fantasy owners who have Rose might be in store for a rocky ride this season.
Joakim Noah: Like Rose, Noah wasn't needed to play much in the season opener, which drags down his overall numbers. He is currently averaging 6.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 2.7 blocks in about 30 minutes per game. He was excellent last season, averaging 12.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game, but fantasy owners should note that he also averaged 35 minutes per game.
The Bulls are much deeper this season, and Noah is coming off knee surgery over the summer. Not only is he on a minutes restriction to start the season, but he may not be needed as much as he was last year when the Bulls were thin up front. He should still be a solid source for rebounds, blocks and assists at the center position, but expect his scoring and overall production to decrease some this season.
Pau Gasol: If anyone can average 18.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks over three gamess in a more peculiar way than Gasol has, I'd like to see it. He has dominated at times and is blocking shots at a rate like he never has in his career, but he had a bad game against the Cavaliers, as he was worked over on the glass and sat down the stretch in favor of Taj Gibson.
The Bulls are known for their defensive prowess, and Gasol is likely to continue to be an excellent source for blocks this season based on his quickness and their defensive scheme. Will he be on the floor to finish games over Taj Gibson? While I don't think he'll be sitting on the bench at the end of the fourth quarter on most nights, I think Gasol will sit more than he ever has in his career. That perception is largely overblown when it comes to his fantasy value, though, as he should still see plenty of playing time to be a major contributor.
Jimmy Butler: Butler missed the first two games of the regular season due to a sprained thumb, but he roared onto the scene against the Timberwolves on Saturday as he scored 24 points to go along with four rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one bock in 39 minutes. Yes, Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson missed the game, which resulted in Butler carrying more of the offensive burden, but the fact that he was able to do it says a lot about his improvement offensively.
Butler looked great in the preseason before he injured his thumb, and now he is playing for a contract as he and the Bulls were unable to agree to an extension before the October 31st deadline. I've been high on Butler since the beginning of the preseason, and his performance against Minnesota only cemented my feeling that this will be a breakout season for the man fondly known as "Jimmy Buckets" in Chicago. He's going to play a ton of minutes regardless of the Bulls' depth, so fantasy owners who selected him on draft day could be in for a mighty reward.
The first couple of weeks of the regular season can sometimes make or break your fantasy campaign. How you overreact or underreact to the first few games can go a long way to determining your overall success. The Bulls have been on a bit of a roller coaster ride already, so buckle up for the next 79 games!