The Bulls had an amazing turnaround in 2010. After two years of .500 records with head coach Vinny Del Negro, the Bulls launched themselves into the realm of elite teams behind Tom Thibodeau. Derrick Rose's ascension was the primary reason why, but the bench mob played a crucial role in the team's improvement.
In the summer of 2012, the bench mob was largely disassembled to the dismay of many Bulls fans. Asik left in free agency, Kyle Korver was traded to lower our tax burden, and Watson/Brewer had their non guaranteed contracts waived. We could never get such good players on the bench again screamed the fans.
Until Nate Robinson came in and stole our hearts with his scoring, creation, and big plays. Marco Belinelli was a bit uneven, but it didn't stop him from some big games and contributing three buzzer beaters in the season. Jimmy Butler played excellently taking over for Ronnie Brewer and by the end of the season was the starter rather than part of Mob 2.0.
The rest of the bench? Kind of a flop.
However, it was enough to feel good about bench mob 2.0 even if the same depth wasn't there.
Enter bench mob 3.0.
Gone are Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli, and Vladamir Radmanovic, back is the mostly ineffective Nazr Mohammed. Jimmy Butler gets promoted to the starting lineup while Derrick Rose's return pushes Kirk Hinrich from the starters to the bench. Taj Gibson will still be there, the only guy who's been a part of bench mob 1.0 through 3.0.
The Bulls added Mike Dunleavy Jr, Tony Snell, and Erik Murphy to the roster. They've got at least one spot earmarked for another big man, and they've got Marquis Teague in their back pocket who didn't play much as a rookie but might capture a role this season.
If we assume that Taj and Nazr can replicate last years performances, then the Bulls are really looking to replace the productivity of Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli, and Rip Hamilton who started a bunch of games but was more of a bench type.
Belinelli and Hamilton were both uneven and struggled for much of the season and really shouldn't be difficult to replace. Jimmy Butler will clearly play more minutes to take over much of the burden on the SG rotation and Dunleavy Jr should improve on their performance as a wing player.
It basically comes down to can someone replace Nate Robinson. There's really no candidate to do so. When Derrick Rose leaves the floor there's no one left to create shots for the team.
Bench mob 1.0 had C.J. Watson. For whatever flaws Watson had, he could get you some volume scoring on volume shot taking. He wasn't efficient, but he could at least create a mediocre shot off the dribble.
Nate Robinson improved on that and gave us a fairly deadly spark plug off the bench.
This bench mob could look to Teague to take on that role and perhaps he could. Teague can't shoot threes like Robinson or Watson, but he can get to the basket. If he shows he can do it consistently, maybe he could help run the offense.
However, most likely the Bulls will shift the mentality behind the bench mob. Gone will be the days of the bench mob looking at a guy to take lots of shots and just hold the fort down until Derrick Rose gets back in. Now the bench will look to run a more cohesive offense. That's what Kirk Hinrich and Mike Dunleavy Jr will be better at.
Assume a typical bench unit looks something like this:
Wing2: Butler or Deng
Big2: Boozer, Noah, or Nazr
The Bulls won't have the shot creation punch as with Robinson, but Dunleavy gives them more shooting than Belinelli did, Butler/Deng are both solid players, and Taj Gibson may now play the most minutes of his career with a PG that looks to get him good shots instead of jack up threes.
When one of Boozer/Noah are in with this unit, it's still very formidable, and they'll probably only lean on Nazr to fill in during the second quarters, injury situations, and fourth quarters that aren't all that close.
It will be a change in the way the bench mob operates. Instead of a junk offense creator leading the unit, the Bulls will move towards a unit that will need to thrive on team play and execution.
One of the difficulties of such a move is that the bench has to constantly shuffle pieces whereas the starting unit can more easily develop chemistry together.
Still, Kirk Hinrich looked good for Carlos Boozer's game to me. I'm curious to see if Taj Gibson has his best season playing along side Hinrich rather than Robinson/Watson.
As somewhat of a hybrid of the two, Dunleavy gives us much better shooting than Belinelli and much better ball handling than Korver.
This unit has potential. Beyond the primary guys, Teague, Snell, and Murphy will all have a shot to prove they can fill in valuable niches.
I noted earlier that the starting lineup was the best the Bulls have had in the Derrick Rose era. This bench doesn't look like the best bench they've had on the surface, but I'd grade it higher than last year's unit in preseason.
In short, with stronger starters, I expect this bench to do enough to get the job done. The more I look at this roster, see the pieces fitting together, and look at the bigger picture, the more I think we have the best team around Derrick since he's gotten here. The biggest question is whether Derrick can return to an MVP level or not.