Obviously the Bulls with last years bench would be much further away from a title without Rose than they would be with this years bench with him. However, in terms of staying afloat, bench mob 2.0 is causing nearly as many problems as missing Derrick Rose.
Last season Chicago won two in three games without Derrick including big wins over quality teams. This season the Bulls are presently at 5-5, have only beaten scrubs, and have looked hopeless against any team with a pulse. The difference? Bench mob 2.0 has stunk up the joint.
Kirk Hinrich vs C.J. Watson
This was the move that was supposed to be a slam dunk. I was a strong advocate of keeping C.J. Watson all summer long, thought he was better than Hinrich for what this team needed, and said they were similar at best. A little research into Kirk's last season and how he improved after recovering from his shoulder gave me some hope, but I was still on the "keep C.J." bandwagon given the extra flexibility it provided.
Well, so far what do we have? C.J. Watson isn't tearing it up in Brooklyn, but he's playing a similar caliber of ball to what he did for the Bulls last season. He has a PER of 13.6 and has a TS% of 55.6% while adapting for a different role for the Nets where he's taking most of his shots as a spot up shooter and asked to create less.
Kirk Hinrich has a PER of 9.1 and an out of the league bad TS% of 36.3%. He is passing the ball and running the offense better than C.J. did with two more assists, and a shade (.2) fewer turnovers per 36 minutes (relative to C.J. last year), and more consistent ball handling. His defense is probably about the same caliber and is perhaps the most overrated facet of Kirk's game these days, and quite honestly giving him "same caliber" might be generous.
If I had a choice of Kirk or C.J. right now, I'd take C.J. If I had a choice between Kirk on a two year deal at nearly four million per year which also imposes a hard cap or C.J. on a one year deal worth 3.4 that doesn't, then I'd laugh at what an easy decision this is. Thought so during the summer. Think so now.
Hopefully Hinrich wakes up and proves me wrong, but so far its not good.
Jimmy Butler vs Ronnie Brewer
This was the one move I was totally behind switching for the Chicago Bulls. This was the move that made all the sense in the world to do. So far?
Ronnie Brewer is off to an amazing start for the Knicks. He's even shooting over 40% from the three point line on 2.4 attempts per game. His PER is a 17.1, and he's having a fabulous year.
However, Jimmy Butler is off to just as an amazing start for the Bulls. he's sporting an 18.2 PER, has a shooting percentage over 60%, and makes smart decisions while on the floor. He's been a tremendous energizer.
I'll call it a push. It was the right move to move on from Brewer who's clearly benefiting from playing with better offensive talent around him and having a far better season than he'd likely have if he were to have stayed in Chicago.
Kyle Korver vs Marco Belinelli
I was hopeful that Marco Belinelli could provide a similar impact to Korver. He brings more ball handling to the table, is still a quality shooter, and is a younger player. While I thought Kyle was a better player, I thought the Bulls had a reasonable chance of a push here.
Boy was that wrong.
Korver's having a better season for Atlanta so far than he did for Chicago the past two seasons. He's playing more minutes and has an even higher PER. He's also likely benefiting from playing more consistently with better offensive players while his minutes with Rose on the floor in Chicago were always limited (and I always felt that was a big mistake as it limited best assets).
Belinelli's shooting 39.1% from the three point line on solid volume which is nothing to sneeze at, and it's clear defenses respect his three point shot.
Defenses didn't respect Korver's three point shot. They were scared to death of it.
The difference between fear and respect is pretty significant in terms of spacing. Belinelli's ball handling hasn't helped nearly as much as I'd hoped, and the Bulls miss Korver's passing instincts and basketball IQ as well. Despite greater athleticism, Beli hasn't helped the Bulls any on defense where Korver's fundamental play overcame his lack of athleticism to play better than Beli.
Asik vs Mohammed
It appears I underestimated the impact of Asik. I thought with Mohammed stepping in for maybe five minutes a night and the rest of the big men playing more that the front court would play similarly well as it did in the past. Mohammed showing some signs of offensive life in the preseason further invigorated my hopes.
Joakim Noah's having his best season to date, but the rest of the front court is really struggling. Carlos Boozer's fallen below a 15 PER player and this TS% is now under .500. What does that mean? A guy who's only real talent is to score can't score. As Scooby do would say Rut Roh.
Taj Gibson has struggled as well limiting what the Bulls get if they don't go with Boozer. He's played hard, so I don't want to hear how he's gotten lazy after his contract, but he's struggled to shoot the ball and his defense isn't as effective without Asik with him. He clearly benefited from playing next to another premier defender and big bodied rebounder which allowed him to chase players down without hurting the defensive scheme.
Meanwhile, Mohammed has been out of the league bad for the Bulls after his hot preseason start. The Bulls rebounding advantage has gone from dominant to mild, and they now lack the X-factor that allowed them to stay in games when they couldn't hit the broad side of the barn.
Everyone wanted to keep Asik, the question was always whether he was worth the money given the Bulls talent in the front court. I've always been mixed on the issue, but Asik has clearly played at a level worthy of the contract he signed with Houston and is now on a value deal.
How would things look in Chicago as a limited minute backup? Hard to say. This is still a case where he's worth far more to Houston than to us. The Bulls felt they had to choose between Asik and Gibson when really they would have been better off keeping both and amnestying Boozer if they needed to save luxury tax money.
That said, Chicago was never going to take that kind of financial hit.
Nate Robinson vs JL3, the one we got right
I was very excited with the signing of Nate Robinson and quite happy we didn't dip into the John Lucas had a fluke year so lets pay him fund. Robinson has done everything you'd expect including playing god awful at times, but he's generally scored efficiently, brought a ton of energy, driven the lane, shot the three, and has gone so far as taken the closer role from Kirk Hinrich in most situations.
Is it too late to swap his and Kirk's contracts? Sadly so. The Bulls will be saddled with Hinrich for another season while Robinson will move on to a new team that can offer him more than the minimum after proving himself this year.
So was it worth the money Jerry?
Most of these moves were fairly predictable in terms of their outcome. I don't think I'm any type of basketball genius, but it was obvious the Bulls bench mob was going to take a hit, and it has. The Bulls would probably be sitting around 7-3 if they brought the band back for one more year.
However, what they lose isn't the 7-3 vs 5-5 start or what I would predict would be a 60% vs 40% win percentage when Rose comes back. What they really lose is a chance to have any shot at the title. When Rose is healthy, he'll bring this team back around to near the top of the league, but their slim chances to win a title went from slim to requiring significant injuries to the Heat roster.
There's no way this team beats Miami in the playoffs and even with a healthy Rose may have fallen behind several other teams. Their moves dropped them from the clear second best team in the conference to maybe fourth or fifth, and what did they get? A few extra million bucks for an owner who's made over a billion in profit off this team and would have been top three in profits even if they had spent some extra money and paid more luxury tax.
The irony, of course, is that the Bulls may not even end up making money with their cheap ways. Lack of interest and playoff success may end up costing them more than they saved.