Chicago Bulls: Breaking Down What to Make of the New Bench Mob
The "Bench Mob," as they came to be known, was the Bulls reserve unit last year that
Last year, if you were to pick an MVP for the Chicago Bulls, it might not be a "P" so much as a "We." The Bench Mob was the team's MVP, and it was the Bench Mob that led the team to the most wins in the regular season.
Granted, there's only so much a bench can do. After all, that's why they're the bench. When you get to the postseason and you lose two of your three best players—arguably even your best two—you're going to have a struggle to win.
Still, that taken into account, many of the important players are gone off the Bench Mob and new players have come in to take their places. Let's take a look at the new players and see how they compare to their replacements to try and get a handle on how the new Bench Mob will play.
Kirk Hinrich Replacing C.J. Watson
In this case, the Bulls may have actually gotten an upgrade over C.J. Watson, based on three things. First, Hinrich has more maturity than Watson; second, if he can return to his pre-injury form, he's a better shooter than Watson; and third, he's more adept at playing the shooting guard position and could play alongside Rose better.
If you look at Hinrich's shooting chart from 2011 to Watson's shooting chart from 2012 (charts obtained from basketball-reference.com), you'll notice a surprising thing. Most of their shots come from the same area, though Hinrich tends to make his shots more often.
Also—and this is the surprising part—Hinrich does a better job of getting to the rim than Watson. Additionally, while with the Wizards year before last (before injuries slowed him down), Hinrich only had 39 percent of his field goals assisted compared to Watson's 45 percent last year.
Hinrich is also a better defender than Watson, who had the lowest OPER of any Chicago Bull on the roster last season.
While Watson was a fan favorite the last two years, Hinrich was a fan favorite before he was traded away and his return should be welcome. When he comes back, he'll be an improvement over Watson on both ends of the court.
His experience will also come in handy if the Bulls make it to the postseason.
Jimmy Butler Replacing Ronnie Brewer
Jimmy Butler will not be a new face so much as he'll be a player with a greatly increased role.
Last year during games where he received a decent amount of playing time, Butler indicated he had the kind of defensive commitment and instincts to fit in perfectly into a Tom Thibodeau defense. He'll be able to bring everything Brewer brought on defense, but he'll also be an upgrade offensively.
What Butler has shown both in the regular season last year and even more in the summer league this year is an ability to drive the lane and get to the line. Butler shot 52 free throw attempts on just 79 field goal attempts last year.
Compare that to Brewer, who shot 100 free throw attempts on 190 field goal attempts. That's a ratio of .65 free throw attempts for Butler compared to just .52 for Brewer. Butler also had a .526 true shooting percentage compared to Brewer's .465.
Marco Belinelli Replacing Kyle Korver
Marco Belinelli and Kyle Korver make for an interesting comparison for reasons that would have had people laughing two years ago. Offensively, Belinelli doesn't give up much, but he does give up a little.
Korver shot .425 from deep during his two year stint with the Bulls. By comparison, Belinelli shot .396. That's not insignificant, but it's still enough to make him enough of a threat to score. On the other hand, Belinelli is a little more bold to shoot, and isn't as likely to pass up an open shot.
Where the Bulls will miss Korver more is on defense. And yes, I really just said that. Korver improved enormously during his time with the Bulls on defense, and by the end of his second season was actually pretty consistently making good defensive plays.
Korver is two inches taller than Belinelli, and he brings 100 percent effort on defense. Over time, that effort paid off. The evidence of that is in the clip above.
Nazr Mohammed Replacing Omer Asik
With Nazr Mohammed you'll see the difference between night and day between two centers. What Asik did well—which is play defense, particularly in the low post—Mohammed is awful at. In fact in the picture above, you can see Moahammed getting absolutely owned by Andrew Bynum on a post up play.
Watch some footage of Mohammed on defense, and you'll see a lot of that. Mohammed's defensive instincts are about as sharp as a spoon. Not a spork, mind you, a spoon. Hopefully Thibodeau can elevate him to sporkdom but that's not likely.
Last year Asik gave up just .71 points per play on defense, which is easily one of the best numbers in the NBA. What makes this particularly impressive is that it was the team defense which was benefiting from Asik and not the other way around.
When it came to defending the jump shot, Asik gave up just .59 points per play, the fifth best average in the entire NBA. Meanwhile, Mohammed was 303rd at 1.05.
On the other hand, offensively it's the other way around, particularly when it comes to what both players do with offensive rebounds. Both players are gifted offensive rebounders, but Mohammed makes more of that gift than Asik.
Asik was horrid when it came to knowing what to do with the ball once he grabbed the board. It was as if sometimes you expected him to ask, "What is this orange thing in my hands?"
After looking at the ball with a befuddled expression he would invariably touch his knee with the ball, and then—in the course of bringing it back up—get it blocked by the shortest player on the court.
Mohammed is the opposite. He does an outstanding job of keeping the ball above the rim, where he has the advantage. He tips it in rather than bringing it back down whenever possible.
When he does have to bring it back down, he has some moves on the floor that allow him to get around a big man and put it in the rim without turning it over. As a result, he scores .94 points per play on offensive rebounds to Asik's .71.
In sum, what we're getting here is an upgrade offensively, but not enough to offset the difference defensively.
Nate Robinson and Marquis Teague Replacing John Lucas III
Nate Robinson and John Lucas III are an interesting comparison, because they are almost interchangeable. They both like to dribble too much. They don't seem to ever pass, which isn't the preferred thing for a point guard.
They are both undersized, too, though Lucas is veritable giant compared to Robinson. On the other hand, Robinson is quicker than Lucas.
To paraphrase the great Forrest Gump, both players are like a box of chocolates: You never know what you're going to get.
Robinson could bring something intriguing to the locker room, though, as he has a lot of personality. I can certainly see him and Joakim Noah having some intriguing interactions. It may be that the Bulls locker room is in need of some levity. Robinson would bring that. Hopefully not too much of it, though.
The other thing to bear in mind here is that the Bulls have also added rookie Marquis Teague, who had a dismal summer league but has a ton of potential. Many projected that if he'd come out next year he would have been a top 10 pick. Teague could end up being the steal of this draft.
After a training camp and some coaching, he should improve markedly through the season.
By the end of the season, Robinson should be obsolete; and Teague should have completely taken his place and be a better player than either Lucas or Robinson.
Edge: Robinson and Teague
Vladimir Radmanovic Replacing Brian Scalabrine
Since this is a serious article I'm going to avoid any kind of talk about how Brian Scalabrine is the G.O.A.T. and all of that. Realistically, what he provided the last couple of seasons isn't something the Bulls really need this year.
Primarily that's because they have enough players who have been playing under the system for two seasons now. They simply don't need his tutelage any more.
Scalabrine played 210 total minutes in his two seasons with the Bulls. That's really not enough to validate a roster position. Yes, it's nice to have a player that we can have fun with and give a roar of applause just because he steps on the court.
On the other hand, Radmanovic actually brings something that none of the other Bulls power forwards have the ability to bring to the court, which is to spread the court with a three point shot. Remember the game the Bulls lost on the Carlos Boozer missed three?
Radmonivic is a stretch-four who will allow the Bulls to be able to create more looks. Having him this year will also start preparing the Bulls in terms of fitting in Nikola Mirotic when he comes over, perhaps in the 2013-2014 season or the year after that.
The one thing that's impossible to ascertain without seeing the team play together is...well, how well they play together. The thing about the previous Bench Mob is that they were greater than the sum of their parts.
They were a tight group, and completely unselfish. They played well together because they had outstanding communication, trusted one another on defense and fully committed to Thibodeau's system.
Which member of the Bench Mob will you miss the most?
For now it's hard to say that the new Bench Mob would be better than the old for that reason, even if they do have the edge on some of the exchanges. The overall is still hard to gauge.
They will be better offensively, that's not a question. They just have more players that are willing to take a shot and/or able to make it when they do. They'll give up that advantage on the other side of the court though.
In sum, the Bulls new Bench Mob will not be as good as the old one, but they won't be as big a step back as some people are thinking.
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