Every week, Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Chicago Bulls followers.
1. Who would you rather build your team around right now, Derrick Rose or John Wall?
Friedell: Even the most ardent Rose supporter would probably have to admit that Wall is the better option right now. That's because Wall is an All-Star who has recently proven that he can stay on the floor. Rose has only played 50 games in the past three seasons, and nobody is quite sure what kind of player he'll be when he does return. Wall is still getting better, and nobody knows if Rose will ever reach the MVP level he was at before his first knee injury.
Jon Greenberg, ESPNChicago.com columnist: It's easy to say Wall because he's on the floor right now. Rose's injury spell has drastically altered his reputation. As Thibs would say, it's a make-or-miss league. When you miss this much time, people forget. So I'd still stick with Derrick. Maybe I'm stubborn like Rose and Thibodeau, but I still think he has another six or seven years of top-flight basketball left. Maybe more. In his brief return to action, Rose showed he still had that nasty first step and could still explode toward the rim. The timing hadn't come back all the way, but you were getting a sense it was close. Rose's most recent knee injury isn't anywhere near as serious as the ACL tear. He'll be back to normal much quicker. Wall is a very, very good point guard, but I just don't think he has Rose's ceiling. Then again, he's out there playing, so maybe that's good enough.
Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com columnist: Wall is the easy choice to say right now since we haven't seen Derrick play at peak level in 2 ½ years. I don't know if it's fair or possible to answer that question "accurately" without being a prisoner of the moment. But for the sake of conversation, I'll say Rose. Whereas Wall is a great, soon-to-be elite player in the league, Derrick (when healthy) is special. Like, LeBron/KD special.
2. What's happened to Joakim Noah's defense in this series?
Friedell: Noah has always had a problem against big centers. Notably, Dwight Howard and Roy Hibbert. Nene fits that mold, but the difference early in this series is that Nene has been able to knock down jumpers and bang down low. The reality for the Bulls is that this just isn't a good matchup for him, but I do expect him to play better.
Greenberg: Well, Nene is a tough cover. He can shoot, and he can muscle inside. Marcin Gortat can get baskets, too. Noah is uniquely valuable because he can switch on screens and disrupt pick-and-rolls. But when the Wizards are making midrange jumpers, what can you do? Noah deserved his award because it was emblematic of the team's defensive success. But he's not a one-man lockdown defender. He's just the captain of a very mobile, very frustrating defense. That defense is simply getting worked by the multifaceted Wizards offense.
Jackson: It's still there, it's just under the microscope because we are focusing on his "matchup" with Nene as opposed to what he's doing overall inside of the team's defense. Noah is not a shut-down defender, he's a team defender. He roams, and he is one of the best help-defenders in the league, as witnessed on his contest of the Bradley Beal shot that could have won the game in regulation for the Wizards. Judging Jo's defense on his individual matchup (he honestly should be guarding center Gortat, not power forward Nene) is not a true indication of how he's playing D or if his D has disappeared.
3. What should the Bulls do about their struggles to score in the fourth quarter?
Friedell: The sad part for Thibodeau is he doesn't have many choices. D.J. Augustin can score, but once Trevor Ariza switched onto him, he was a non-factor. The only other move Thibodeau could make is to play Mike Dunleavy more down the stretch. Obviously, he doesn't trust him as much defensively, but Dunleavy is a solid defender and can hit shots. It's time for Thibodeau to try something different in the final few minutes.
Greenberg: Score more points? Seriously, the only options are either try to insert Dunleavy for Kirk Hinrich/Jimmy Butler or figure out a way to free Augustin from Trevor Ariza, or any other bigger defender the Wizards stick on him. The first is problematic because the Bulls need Hinrich to run the point when Augustin is getting dogged by big defenders, and they need Butler to defend Bradley Beal or Ariza. Carlos Boozer is a more popular option, given his ability to get buckets. Do you sub out Taj Gibson or Noah then? Maybe for a few minutes just to see if Boozer is feeling it. Perhaps Thibodeau can just do some offense/defense substitutions late in the game. Or maybe the answer is subbing out Butler, who played the entire 53 minutes last game, or Augustin before crunch time so they can be a little fresher in the last five or six minutes. With Nene in his grill, Noah can't run his point-center offense. Hinrich isn't a takeover scorer late in the game. Maybe the answer is there are no easy solutions with a limited roster.
Jackson: Make Butler shoot. Make Dunleavy shoot. Run plays for Tony Snell. Use Jimmer Fredette. Put Boozer in, put him on the blocks and let him either score, get to the line or create double teams to kick the rock out to shooters. Anything. Yes, the Bulls are at times an offensively challenged team, but we can't sit here and act as though they don't have options to score. I know it is hard for coaches to break out of their mental cycles in playoff series, but every team has 12 players for a reason. Sometimes you just gotta use them.