Will the Chicago Bulls abandon the Bench Mob for a bench rotation?

Through three preseason games we've watched Bench Mob 2.0 struggle to score, struggle to play with continuity, and give up large leads to the opponents. Thus far, the talent level appears lower, and the individual pieces aren't yet playing to the sum of their parts. The past two years, Thibodeau has played the bench as a unit, but he can't continue to do so with the present struggles.

The Chicago Bulls use of their bench was far from ordinary. While most teams bring in multiple substitutions at once, few teams regularly play an entire bench unit together for 15+ minutes a night. The Bulls regularly played five reserves together, and frequently, those reserves extended leads or led comebacks.

However, the old bench mob had a high talent level and complementary pieces. It still took them awhile to find their chemistry together as in the early going C.J. Watson would dribble the ball up the court and the entire unit would spend 20 seconds working to get Kyle Korver an open shot.

It took awhile for C.J. to integrate his Golden State born aggressive shot creating style with the more traditional point guard role that Tom Thibodeau asked him to play in Chicago. It took some time to get Gibson and Brewer integrated into the bench offense as well. However, as time went on, the unit performed strongly on both ends of the court and was one of the greatest strengths of the team.

Bench Mob 2.0 is going through the same initial struggles but has more things working against it. While Kirk Hinrich is a viable C.J. Watson replacement, Nate Robinson may not be. The original bench mob wasn't likely to have found its groove under John Lucas whom for all his heroics against Miami was an obsessive ball pounder and poor shot taker.

While Rose is out, the Bulls simply lack the talent to play two five man units even if the second unit fit together as well as the first unit. If Kirk Hinrich was leading Bench Mob 2.0 than they'd have a chance, but with Nate Robinson leading the show things are more of a struggle.

Robinson's a great signing for the minimum. He can provide a spark, and I think his personality it something the Bulls locker room actually needs. However, like Watson, he's spent a career struggling to take a game of creating shots for himself and interweave it with one to create shots for others.

The Bulls don't have the luxury of allowing this unit to try to figure things out. Not when Robinson, Belinelli, and Mohammed will all likely leave the team next season. Not when Kirk Hinrich will take over Robinson's role three months into the season when Derrick Rose is likely to return.

There's no sense of permanence to this group, and so there's no point trying to work out their kinks together when the unit will change dramatically mid season. The Bulls need to take a different tact this season.

Instead of creating Bench Mob 2.0, the Bulls need to rotate bench players in to play minutes with the starters, particularly on the perimeter. The Bulls should attempt to keep one of Kirk Hinrich or Luol Deng in with the bench the majority of minutes to provide stability on both ends of the court. They can mix Hamilton's minutes up so he plays some with both units as well.

The one pairing that would seem to fit well together is Taj and Mohammed where both front court units would strike a balance between offensive and defensive play. Both units would feature a quick big man paired with a less mobile one. However, even there, the Bulls are best limiting Nazr's minutes and simply playing Taj, Joakim, and Boozer more.

Given the makeup of the season, I expect the Bulls to make these adjustments. I expect a rotation with eight primary players and a ninth guy who gets 8-10 minutes a night and other playing time to be based purely on the situation.

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Tags: bench mob, chicago bulls, nba


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  • First of all, it goes without saying, but excellent article as always, Doug.

    I see two big problems with out bench right now, Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson.

    Of course it's not Derrick's fault he got hurt. But Kirk's numbers so far have been outstanding for a back-up combo guard: 27.5 min, 11.3 pts, 6.0 ast (2.7 to), 1.33 stl, .463 eFG%, .527 TS%, +/- of 27 pts (+15.7 per 48).

    For a back-up PG/SG making just under $4 million, he's doing fine so far. The problem is that with Derrick out, Nate is our backup PG and Belinelli is the back-up SG, and they are both playing like crap right now.

    Taj is up for an extension, and he's supposed to make Boozer amnestiable. So far, he has sucked, plain and simple.

    20.5 min, 7.7 pts, 6.7 reb, 2.67 blk, 1.33 stl, 30% FG, ZERO assists and TEN turnovers, and a +/- of -14.8 per 48 minutes.

    Belinelli and Nate get plenty of the blame so far, but if Kirk can get back to backing up both SG/PG and Taj just gets back to playing at his normal level, we'll be OK.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    Agree with the PG analysis.

    Disagree with the Taj analysis. I've commented on this debate before. If you want Taj to make Boozer Amnestiable, you are going to have to give him more than 20min per game.

  • In reply to YouBlewwIt:

    Assuming the Bulls would even consider using an amnesty in the first place. Which they won't. They are still angry about having to pay Skiles to leave!

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    Kirk's played well, but I have a hard time looking at those numbers and saying they're outstanding. They're solid though, and I think they're sustainable.

  • Yea this group needs a lot of time together to become a unit. It seems that they dont know their roles and cant adjust to what players are doing any scoring. It seems that Gibson and Muhammad are scoing but when the unit struggles to score they dont get the ball. Secondly Belinelli, is not just making shots but he is passing up shots, the same with Butler, who has teh mid-range jumper but dribbles right out of it. Robinson, has yet to figure out his role and how he can impact the team when he is out there.

    But as you stated time will either make or hurt the Bulls if they cant make the adjustments to become productive as a unit

  • This new bench has been disappointing. Belinelli just doesn't move around the screens or is active like Korver was. I can live with missing jumpers in preason but he looks like a stiff out there. Nate has been a brick and turnover machine, I'm hoping he can turn it around and have a good year like he did in GS. Butler's airball jumpers say it all, he needs to cut more to the basket and play to his strengths, it seems like he's trying to prove he can hit jumpers and the results are horrible. Butler has been playing good defense and rebounding well. Gibson's O play has been a disappointment but I do believe he'll turn it around and I do like him in the post with some moves. The brightest star has been Nazr, this old veteran has better post moves than our 80 million dollar mistake(Carlos Boozer) who looks completely overmatched on the low block. His defense is mediocre and I think he can get a little better under thibs but his offensive rebounding and put backs are excellent.

    There's no question how disapppointing the new benchmob is and Thibodeau will have to blend the starters with the reserves. I'm expecting Thibs to play Deng and Hinrich heavy minutes...38 minutes a game+ and obviously this can't be a good thing.

  • Not only does this group NOT need a lot of time, but Thib's won't allow it. This group will get the Bulls to the playoffs without Rose. This season is only predicated on whether Rose comes as a Christmas Day gift or a playoff present. Either way I think we will be one year short of truly contending. I'm looking for a certain level of quality basketball from this season's team. However, anything is possible and I wouldn't put a deep run and possible title shot past Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson. Many of which would be the best player on most teams in the NBA and in THIS current NBA, that is all that seems to matter.... Go Bulls. Great article, as always.

  • In reply to Curtis Shaw Flagg:

    Someone has been chugging the Bulls Kool Aid. :-)

    Just my oppinion but I think Bulls will struggle to make the playoffs this year. Granted they will be a top defensive team so they should be able to hang around the .500 mark but offense is going to be poor.

    If Rose does come back I just hope its not right before the playoffs as they are going to have to completely change the way the offense runs and will have to get used to playing with new players which is going to take time. Rose coming back could hurt them in the short term while they adjust.

  • Does anybody else see Thibs playing Hinrich and Deng 40+min in the regular season?

    If the preseason is any indication, I just don't think Thibs has learned his lesson. Even in the preseason, where you're trying to get kinks out, trying to develop players, and trying to see if any of the training camp invitees will make the team, Thibs plays Kirk for entire quarters, Butler for 48mins, and gives no minutes to any of the players we invited to workout.

  • In reply to YouBlewwIt:

    It's very esay to see this happening.

  • Hinrich, Radmanovich, Bellini, et al. How about calling them the over-the-hill mob

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    I'd agree, except Bellini is still relatively young.

    Maybe the Mason Mob, for the propensity to lay down some bricks?

  • It's taken 3 pre-season games to change from "maybe losing the old bench mob wont be so bad" to "blow up the whole bench mob concept losing the old bench mob was so bad". Ouch.

    I said at the time Nate Robinson was signed that his height doesn't make him a PG, it makes him a SG who is a foot too short to play the position. If the Bulls had the luxury of Rose it might be able to be made to work: overlap Robinson's minutes with Hinrich and have Kirk play the SG on defense and PG on offense. But the Bulls don't have that luxury so I just don't see how it's going to work. Deng as a point forward worked for a couple of games last year ... but I don't see that being a long term solution once teams wise up to it.

    I think here is where Korver was under-valued as a "shot creator" ... sure he doesn't make anything off the dribble, but as a last resort you can throw it to him and put up a contested 3 and hit 25%, which is about as good as it gets for efficiency when it comes to bail out shots.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    To be fair, I've been pushing for a shorter rotation for awhile. I do think the players are still similarly talented to the old players. Hinrich looks like an upgrade, Taj is obviously still Taj. Butler/Belinelli look like downgrades so far though.

  • fb_avatar

    $85 an hour! Seriously I don't know why more people haven't.
    tried this, I work two shifts, 2 hours in the day and 2 in the evening…And.
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  • fb_avatar

    $85 an hour! Seriously I don't know why more people haven't.
    tried this, I work two shifts, 2 hours in the day and 2 in the evening…And.
    what's awesome is I'm working from home so I get more time with my kids. Here’s
    where I went, Fox87.com

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