Chicago Bulls: 5 Role Players Who Need to Raise Their Game in 2012-13
The Bulls are at a crossroads. The team has lost superstar point guard Derrick Rose to an ACL injury for at least the first half of the season. They also lost the productive "Bench Mob" and have added six new players on much cheaper deals.
With Rose out and so many new players, guys will have to step up for the Bulls in the first half of the season at least.
Here are five such players who have the potential to do just that.
Stats: 2.6 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 40.5% FG
Jimmy Butler was the Bulls' first-round draft pick in 2011, making him a rookie last season. Last season, Butler did not have much playing time available to him. On top of that, coach Tom Thibodeau has a tendency to avoid giving rookies playing time as well.
This upcoming season, the door is open for Butler. The Bulls lost defensive stud Ronnie Brewer, as well as sharpshooter Kyle Korver. Butler will be expected to come in and be the defensive presence that Chicago lost when Ronnie Brewer left town. Butler will have to be up to the challenge.
Stats: 11.8 PPG, 41.7% FG, 37.7% 3P
Belinelli is coming off a season where he averaged pretty decent numbers for a very bad New Orleans team. As usual, he was a solid shooter from beyond the arc and showed the ability to put the ball on the floor as well.
For Chicago, Belinelli will need to show everything that he showed last season for New Orleans and more. Chicago will rely on him to be a deadly three-point shooter, as he will be expected to replace Kyle Korver.
He will also need to play much better defense in order to stay on the floor in a Tom Thibodeau system. It seems like a lot to ask for, but Belinelli has the abilities; he just needs to show them.
Stats: 11.2 PPG, 4.5 APG, 42.4% FG, 36.5% 3P
Nate Robinson has been one of the dynamic bench scorers in the NBA for quite some time now. He has been characterized by his overwhelming athleticism and strength, especially in a package so small. He is also a very good shooter and can be a solid distributor at times as well.
Robinson could easily be an absolutely perfect fit for Chicago this season. While Chicago has had a very good bench for a long time, they have not had a single player who can come in off the bench and change the flow of a game. Nate Robinson could and will easily come in and do that.
Stats: 6.6 PPG, 2.8 APG, 41.4% FG, 34.6% 3P
Chicago fans have been clamoring for the return of Kirk Hinrich ever since he left town two seasons ago. I knew that he would be back, I even called it back in March on my Twitter account.
However, Hinrich is just flat-out not the same player who left town two years ago. He has had two injury-plagued seasons where he struggled to produce much of anything on the court.
Hinrich received a contract WELL above his market value this offseason, which will net him approximately $7.8 million over the next two years. He is not worth that much money, especially based upon how he has been playing the last two seasons.
If Hinrich wants to be worth his contract, he will have to revert more to the numbers he put up in his Chicago days and will have to truly play great defense, not just have a reputation.
Stats: 15.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 41.2% FG, 36.7% 3P
I know what you're thinking: Luol Deng was an All-Star last season; how can he be considered a role player?
Well, on this Chicago team, he functions as a role player. He plays great defense, he provides some shooting, he provides some rebounding, but no team will build any sort of offense around him.
Last season, Deng had a relatively solid season for the Bulls, but struggled to produce effectively after tearing a ligament in his left wrist in January. However, this season, with Derrick Rose out, he will need to provide much better offense on much better efficiency.
If he can't replace some of Rose's effectiveness, the Bulls will struggle to compete.