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2024 NBA Playoffs Winners & Losers: Former Chicago Bulls

Let's look at former Chicago Bulls who are thriving or diving in this year's NBA playoffs

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The 2024 NBA Playoffs are heating up, as both the Eastern and Western Conference Finals are set and will get underway this week.

The West features an intriguing matchup between two playoff underdogs. The Timberwolves upset the reigning champion Denver Nuggets in an unbelievable Game 7 that saw them come back from a 15-point deficit. And the Mavericks defeated the West's No. 1 seeded Thunder in Game 6 at home.

In the East, everyone's suspected favorite Boston Celtics will take on the Pacers, who have prevailed over Goliaths in the Knicks and the Bucks in the first two rounds. Both series will set the stage for this season's NBA Finals.

The Bulls, unfortunately, missed the mark on the playoffs this season, losing to the Heat in the play-in tournament for a second consecutive season. But, we've seen former Bulls characters thrive and dive in the playoffs after their respective stints in Chicago.

Let's take a look at the NBA Playoff winners and losers for former Bulls personnel.

Winners

Derrick Jones Jr.

Jones Jr. played two seasons in Chicago between 2021 and 2022, serving as a high-flying bench player who brought improved shooting and defense with him to the Bulls. He declined his player option for this season last summer, opting to sign with the Mavericks instead.

There, he's thrived, earning a starting spot in 66 games in the regular season and playing in all 12 playoff games the Mavericks have played this season. In the playoffs, he's shooting over 50% from the floor and 37% from beyond the arc, averaging over 10 points and a few rebounds per game.

Over the final three games of the Mavericks-Thunder series, Jones Jr. averaged 19.3 points per game, dropping a career-playoff-high 22 points in the Mavericks' elimination game. He tied Kyrie Irving as the second and third-highest-scorer on the team behind Luka Doncic.

He'll become an unrestricted free agent this summer, poised to earn a big payday based on the way he's carved out a vital role on a winning team in the Mavericks. And they're still not out of championship contention, yet.

Daniel Gafford

Another Bull-turned-Maverick, the Bulls drafted Gafford in the second round of the 2019 NBA Draft. He played in the shadow of Wendell Carter Jr. as a backup center. But when Carter went down with an injury in 2021, Gafford was exposed as the backup center he truly was back then.

That's before he catapulted his career in Washington, averaging double figures for two straight seasons. There, he earned a starting spot in the lineup, along with over 20 minutes per game, which is well more than the 12-14 minutes he averaged in Chicago.

The Mavericks sent Richaun Holmes and a first-round pick to Washington to acquire him at the NBA trade deadline this past regular season. Ever since, he's dominated in a center-heavy team including Derrick Lively, Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber (injured).

In the Thunder series, Gafford averaged 11 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. He's played a crucial role on both ends of the floor, providing some serious rim protection, also.

Tom Thibodeau

Thibodeau coached the Bulls through the electric Derrick Rose era that saw them fall short in the playoffs in five straight seasons, making it as far as the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010-11. Now, he's looking for that ring he's never earned with the Knicks, where he's been for the last four seasons.

The Knicks front office probably deserves a heftier tip of the cap for acquiring Jalen Brunson two offseasons ago and trading RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley for OG Anunoby this season. But Thibodeau has been the five-star Michelin chef to cook up the front office's recipe for them.

They finished this season with the fifth-best defense in the league, allowing around 108 points per game. Their 50-32 regular season record was good enough to give them the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, too.

Unfortunately, the injury bug ruined the Knicks all the way up to the final buzzer in their series against the Pacers. They lost All-Star Julius Randle to season-ending shoulder surgery during the regular season, Mitchell Robinson to ankle surgery, Bojan Bogdanovic to surgeries on his left ankle and wrist, Anunoby to a hamstring injury and Brunson to a hand fracture during Game 7 of the Pacers series.

Phew, did you get all that?

The Knicks will have some offseason work to do to bring everyone back. But there's no doubt they'll try to run this core back, seeing how well they finished in the regular season and how close they were to tasting the NBA Finals, despite enduring several key injuries.

Losers

Jimmy Butler

It's tough to hand Butler, who was drafted by the Bulls and played the first six seasons of his career with them, a total loss for the playoffs, considering he sprained his MCL in the first play-in game against the 76ers. He posted 19 points on 5-of-18 shooting in that game, as the Heat fell to play the Bulls in the final play-in game and advanced without him.

The Heat were quickly defeated by the Celtics in the first round, losing the series 4-1. Butler has been the leader of the Heat team for the last five seasons and they've come up short of an NBA Finals victory every season, including two Finals losses from last season and during the Covid-19, 2020 playoffs in the bubble.

It's tough not to consider this season a failure for the Heat after acquiring Terry Rozier for a first-round pick and finishing seventh in payroll. The Heat have been in a contention window for several seasons now, but have come up short each time.

However, their injuries and 35 different starting lineups are tough to ignore. The Heat have a lot of thinking to do this offseason and Butler is at the crux of it all as the team's best player.

Patrick Beverley

Beverley played on the Bulls last season, as the team acquired him in the buyout market post-trade deadline. He immediately took over as the team's starting point guard, bringing incredible energy and defensive aggression to a flat Bulls team riddled with injury.

He's an NBA journeyman to this point in his career, playing for his seventh team with the Bucks this season. The Bucks played and lost a frustrating first-round series against the Pacers. They were left without Giannis Antetokoumnpo, who strained his calf leading up to the playoffs.

But Beverley's trouble came off the floor. During Game 6 of the series, Beverley threw a basketball at a heckling fan, and upon receiving it back, threw it at him again. After the game, he disallowed a longtime ESPN producer into his postgame scrum for not subscribing to his podcast.

For both actions, the NBA suspended him for four games without pay.

It might be low-hanging fruit to categorize Beverley as a "loser" from the NBA playoffs, but his behavior was unacceptable in both instances. Considering the Bucks failed to make it past the first round, too, I'll slide Beverley in here.

Wendell Carter Jr.

The Bulls drafted Carter Jr. in the first round of the 2018 NBA Draft. He didn't live up to the hype of his draft pick (No. 7), barely scraping double figures on a young, opportunistic Bulls team.

Upon current management's arrival in 2020, they traded Carter at the 2021 NBA trade deadline in a package to acquire Nikola Vucevic. But while Carter was cast aside by his native team, he improved his game immensely upon touching down in Orlando with the Magic.

He earned a quick starting spot on the Magic's team, raising his scoring to 15 points per game over his first two full seasons. He shot a healthy 52.5% from the field over those two seasons and gradually improved his 3-point shooting up to 37% last season.

But he laid an egg in the Magic's first-round series against the Cavaliers, averaging 7.6 points and 6.3 rebounds on 40% shooting and 28% shooting beyond the arc. Despite playing in all seven games and averaging 26.7 minutes per game, Carter couldn't elevate for his team.

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