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5 Bulls make Sports Illustrated's list of the top 100 NBA players

Jimmy Butler is a top 20 player, according to SI.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Player rankings are fine. Not 'fine' like a dog drinking coffee inside a burning house or a jilted celebrity, but actually alright: mindlessly enjoyable and harmless and probably not something worth getting totally worked up over. This is, admittedly, a controversial stance.

Player rankings exist in part because people love to hate them. This is the likely outcome for Sports Illustrated's Top 100 NBA Players list, a yearly exercise conducted by the always great Rob Mahoney and Ben Golliver to give us something to talk about during the two months a year the NBA goes dormant. If your thing is getting upset at perceived slights for Your Team, this is basically Christmas morning.

It feels like the annual debate over Kobe Bryant's #NBARank will be an essential footnote for the twilight of his career. In SI's list, Kobe ranks No. 54, which is either about 100 spots too high or 45 spots too low depending on who you're listening to. It feels like Draymond Green is set to be Bean's inverse on lists like these for years to come. Green is No. 16 here, even though some people will say he "only averaged 12 points and eight rebounds per game."

SI's list will conclude with the top 10 players in the NBA on Thursday, but every Bulls player who is going to make the list has already been named to it. There are five in all. Let's take a look:

No. 90 Taj Gibson


Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Who is he ahead of? Andrew Wiggins, Lou Williams, J.J. Redick and Roy Hibbert

Who is he behind? Amir Johnson, Ricky Rubio, Kenneth Faried and George Hill

Taj Gibson set a career high in true shooting percentage and offensive rating last season, which is a bit surprising because he didn't look like the same force of nature we remember dunking all over the Heat and solidifying the backline of the Bulls' defense. Which is to say: it was hard to watch Gibson last season without noting that something looked wrong.

Turns out, something was wrong: he had surgery on his left ankle earlier this summer and is sidelined for four months because of it. Taj still played through the pain for most of the season, providing a slightly less efficient but still valuable presence in the Bulls' front court. His rebounding percentage and block percentage each slipped to the lowest mark of his career, but there's reason to believe he still has a few good years left in the tank even at age 30 if he can get healthy.

Outrage level: 2 out of 10

No. 60 Derrick Rose


Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Who is he ahead of? Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozan, Paul Pierce, Chandler Parsons

Who is he behind? Kobe Bryant (!!), Luol Deng (!!!!!!!!!), Tyreke Evans, Monta Ellis

Given the incredibly ugly allegations Derrick is currently facing, it feels like the best thing to say right now is nothing at all. With that in mind, let's only focus on basketball for a minute.

There's no point in sugarcoating it: Rose's first season back from injury wasn't particularly promising. He was No. 25 among point guards in RPM, behind luminaries like Patty Mills and Jeremy Lin. He was, essentially, the second worst volume three-point shooter in the NBA (thank you to my old friend Lance Stephenson!) by making only 28 percent of the 5.3 attempts he took from deep per game. The ferocious dribble penetrator we once remembered has been replaced a knockoff brand model that often appears tentative and cautious.

He was better in the playoffs, save for the disastrous last two games against Cleveland. This is a big, big year for D. Rose. I will write something on that soon. Let's just leave everything that's set to go into it alone for now.

Outrage level: -null-

No. 43 Joakim Noah


Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Who is he ahead of? Andre Iguodala, Danny Green, Greg Monroe

Who is he behind? Derrick Favors, Brook Lopez, Tyson Chandler

Noah was No. 17 on this list a year ago, so the drop we all witnessed on the court was captured in these rankings. With that being said, I would be thrilled if Joakim Noah was a top 50 NBA player this year, and it would likely mean the Bulls are the second best team in the Eastern Conference.

said my peace on Noah already, and I'll note again I'm not particularly optimistic he can bounce back in full. He was always a center who thrived on his athleticism, and now age and injuries are catching up to him. That hurts for a player who has always been undersized at his position and has never been able to beat the defense with a consistent jump shot. That said, even if Noah can elevate himself to, like, playable this season, it would be a big boost.

Maybe playing less minutes under Fred Hoiberg will benefit him. Perhaps he'll start next to Nikola Mirotic instead of Pau Gasol, allowing him to captain the defense from center once again. The time off he's had this summer just might help him rediscover his explosiveness around the rim on each end. Here's hoping it all happens.

Outrage level: lmao

No. 40 Pau Gasol


Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Who is he ahead of? Andre Iguodala, Danny Green, Greg Monroe

Who is he behind? Derrick Favors, Brook Lopez, Tyson Chandler

My hope for Pau this year: instead of the Bulls walking the ball up the court, dumping it into Pau in the post and trying to manufacture a quality offense with zero margin for error, Hoiberg's schemes will keep Gasol involved while changing how he's used.

You realize Pau shot 48.1 percent from 16-feet to the three-point line last year, right? And that he made 46 percent of his 26 attempts from three? If some of those post touches get replaced by catch-and-shoots earlier in the shot clock, I think it would go a long way to alleviating some of the Bulls' spacing issues and help open an offense that looked clogged up for so much of last year.

Outrange level: 0 out of 10

No. 18 Jimmy Butler


Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Who is he ahead of? Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving, Paul George

Who is he behind? Draymond Green, Kevin Love, Carmelo Anthony

Jimmy was No. 98 on this list last season, which puts his incredible rise in perspective. Just look at those names he's ranked ahead of here. How the hell did this happen?

One thing I've been thinking about lately: after watching the way LeBron detonated the Finals (35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game), Jimmy deserves a lot of credit for holding him to 26.2 points on 39.9 percent shooting while averaging nearly 22 points per game himself.

If Jimmy can keep producing at last season's level, the Bulls don't just have their long sought after two guard of the future, they have a star in the present. With so much about this team in flux over the next couple years, it's nice to know that Butler is a foundation from which another great team can be built.