The Chicago Bulls go into next season as a vastly different team than they were in 2011-2012 and nowhere is that more apparent than on their bench.
Chicago's "bench mob" was a huge part of the team's success last season but Derrick Rose's injury took the Bulls out of contention and sent them into cost cutting mode. Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver, and Omer Asik have been replaced by Jimmy Butler, Vladimir Radmanovic, Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli and Nazr Mohammed.
So, who are the Bulls' most important backups this season?
Gibson is now the Bull's most important reserve player. He is a versatile front-court defender with the ability to play starter's minutes at power forward and spot minutes at center.
Gibson comes into 2012-2013 looking to prove himself as a long-term NBA starter. He is already an all-world defender so, if he improves his offensive game and cuts down on his foul rate, Chicago will be forced to trade him at the deadline or sign him to a big off-season extension.
Bellinelli is a sneakily-effective player who Chicago acquired on the cheap to replace Kyle Korver. He struggles with health but, when at full strength, he is capable of putting up near league-average PER with high-level accuracy from three-point range.
Belinelli will be called upon to use replace Korver at small forward reserve and to sub in for Rip Hamilton at shooting guard. If Hamilton or Luol Deng succumb to injury, he could quickly become an emergency starter.
Butler put up negligible stats in very few minutes of playing time as a rookie last season. But he seems to have picked up a lot from observation and played well in the Summer League, showing decent scoring touch and defensive tenacity.
He will be called on to replace Ronnie Brewer's production as the Bulls' best defensive swingman and backup small forward. The Bulls hope Butler's pugnacious defensive style will mesh well with Belinelli's highly effective shooting to produce a cheap but dynamic reserve duo.
The Bulls picked up Robinson on the cheap and are hoping he can recapture some of the electrifying scoring that made him a fan favorite in Madison Square Garden.
Chicago doesn't have many dynamic scorers and, with Rose out, Robinson's ability to penetrate to the rim will make him a valuable asset on the Bulls' bench.
Mohammed, an aging but still effective reserve center, will be asked to replace Omer Asik. The Turkish defensive wunderkind unexpectedly departed in restricted free agency.
There is little chance that Mohammed will replicate Asik's extraordinary ability to clog the lane and either block or alter shots. However, he understands defensive placing and will provide slightly below league-average production for under 15 minutes per game while backing up Joakim Noah.
In response, expect the Bulls to give Taj Gibson over 30 minutes per game and play Gibson with Noah during defensive crunch time.