For the second year in a row, there's been plenty of hand wringing over the off-season additions made and the weakening of the Bulls bench. So far the bench play looks as good as ever for Chicago.
There job was made easier this season with stalwart Taj Gibson already in place, and Kirk Hinrich ready to move to a bench role with Derrick Rose returning to the starting lineup. Effectively, the brought back Nazr Mohammed, added Mike Dunleavy, and called it a day. Where things may eventually break down is when the Bulls have an injury and need to go to the 10-13 men in the rotation.
Marquis Teague certainly doesn't have the trust of head coach Tom Thibodeau as Mike James's presence proves while Tony Snell and Erik Murphy don't look like NBA caliber players. Now any one of those players may step up and play just fine if they're forced into action. It's unfair to criticize the group that hasn't played for the belief that they'll play poorly.
So looking at who is playing, and the Bulls fans should smile at the results even if they have a bit of fear with the depth.
Mike Dunleavy's failed to hit a three only once this year. He's shot 50% or better from beyond the arc in the past six games (seven overall). He hasn't missed a free throw in 12 attempts. Yeah, his 34% from inside the arc leaves a bit to be desired, but when you're shooting 54.5% from beyond it, I don't want to see you take another non layup inside it anyway.
I noted repeatedly in the preseason that there was no need to worry about Mike Dunleavy's shooting even when it was pretty horrific. I thought it would come around, because he's a proven shooter. Well, it has, but he's been much better than I expected so far.
Really, anyone out there looking at what Dunleavy's done so far and still wishing we'd chosen Nate Robinson over Dunleavy? I know I was sitting in that bus for awhile, but Dunleavy looks like a great addition to the team. Much like Korver, despite a relative lack of athleticism, he plays with a high effort level and does better with intangibles than you'd expect because of it.
Just stay healthy Kirk
I wasn't a big believe in bringing Kirk Hinrich back to the Bulls last season either. I was in the let's keep C.J. Watson and save some cash to use somewhere else camp. That was born out of a belief that the Bulls wouldn't pay the tax for multiple seasons, but that belief has proven incorrect and when healthy Kirk has been a very solid player.
Kirk has had a very Hinrichesque season so far. He's not shot the ball particularly well, but he shows his worth nearly every time he's on the floor. He continues to play hard nosed defense, and he's become the secondary ball handler the Bulls have needed next to Rose to help alleviate some of the pressure [especially given Derrick's struggles this season].
The thing with Hinrich will come down to health. If Kirk can remain healthy for a season then he's really going to be a quality player for the Bulls. If he misses 1/3rd of the year and part of the playoffs then it's going to be a rough deal for Chicago.
Taj Gibson is knocking down the J
He's slowed down a bit since a torrid preseason and a hot start, but Taj Gibson just looks notably better on the court this year compared to last. Many, including myself, were disappointed with Taj's season after the extension.
While his shooting percentage is actually down a tick this year from last, he's taking more jumpers and still keeping that percentage in the same vicinity. While we obviously love the points in the paint, the put backs, and break away dunks, Taj looks more complete on offense.
His defense has still been amazing as always. Taj Gibsono's a starting caliber PF, and the Bulls are fortunate to have him as a third big man.
The rest? We'll see
No one else is playing much, so there simply isn't much to judge. Nazr's looked fine in his very limited minutes. Snell, Murphy, Teague, and James have combined for 33 minutes, so what is there really to say about that?
I don't feel confident in the other guys, but as noted above, I'm not going to rip them for an inability to play when they haven't had a chance to play.
Health is a concern for this group if the drop off is ad big from the big three bench guys to the bottom five as we think it might be, but for now the Bulls have a bench that's carried them rather than disappointed them.