One of the Chicago Bulls' strong points last season was the bench mob. They had a collection of great shooters, lockdown defenders and big men that could fill in perfectly while the starters took a short rest. The 2012 season brought an entire new cast, however, and many wondered if they could match the production of the former unit.
The 2012 bench's major contributors averaged 43 points per game while this year's (including Kirk Hinrich) averages only 40.3. There were also better defenders in last year's unit, most notably Omer Asik, whose presence is missed in Chicago's thin frontcourt.
While this year's bench mob may not be scoring as many points as the previous one, there have still been some big improvements in overall personnel, as the Bulls now have more complete players on their second unit than they did a year ago.
Note: All stats are as of Jan. 15, 2013.
Hinrich & Robinson: 17.5 PPG, 38.6% FG 9.1 APG
Watson & Lucas: 17.2 PPG, 38.3% FG, 6.3 APG
Kirk Hinrich is in a unique position as he's been forced to start due to the injury to starting point guard Derrick Rose. He runs the offense better than either C.J. Watson or John Lucas could; he just can't score like they did, evident by his 6.4 points-per-game average.
That's where Nate Robinson comes in. He's a much better scorer than Watson or Lucas. He can shoot from anywhere on the court. More importantly, he can penetrate defenses—something the former group of guards couldn't quite do.
One of the biggest aspects of the bench mob was their defense. Watson held a defensive rating of 101 with the Bulls, while Hinrich currently has a 103. However, Hinrich has to match up with the opposing team's starting point guard, and he also averages more minutes than Watson did (27 to 24, respectively). Since Captain Kirk can guard multiple positions, he takes the edge on defense.
While Hinrich might not be as good a scorer as the rest of these guards, he is better at defending and running a team. Teamed up with Robinson's scoring ability, the new backup guards for the Bulls are better than the previous ones.
Marco Belinelli: 24.7 MPG, 9.8 PPG, 40.6% 3PT
Kyle Korver: 22.6 MPG, 8.1 PPG, 43.5% 3PT
After the first few games of the season, it seemed like Marco Belinelli was going to be a downgrade from one of the best shooters in the NBA in Kyle Korver. Following a foot injury that sidelined starting guard Richard Hamilton, Belinelli stepped his game up in a big way as a starter.
In December Belinelli averaged 14.1 points per game and showed that he wasn't just a spot-up shooter, but also someone who could put the ball on the floor—something Korver couldn't do.
Korver was also a liability on defense. He wasn't a great one-on-one defender, and if someone posted him up he would most likely get scored on.
Belinelli won't shut anybody down, but he can put pressure on his assignment and force tough shots.
Even though Korver is a better shooter than Belinelli, he was unable to do anything other than that during his stint as a Bull. Add on the fact that he wasn't a very good defender, and Belinelli is considered an upgrade.
Jimmy Butler: 5.2 PPG, 50% FG, 2.7 RPG
Ronnie Brewer: 6.9 PPG, 42.7% FG, 3.5 RPG
Ronnie Brewer was the best one-on-one defender in the second unit. He was able to defend multiple positions and was a decent pickpocketer, averaging one steal per game. His downside was his offense, as he was limited due to his poor shooting. But his ability to move without the ball was among the best in the league.
Jimmy Butler is also a great defender, although his defensive rating isn't as good as Brewer's was. He has still put on great performances on defense while going up against some of the best players in the league (like Carmelo Anthony). His athleticism allows him to pressure ball-handlers and still stay in front should they decide to attack the rim.
Butler gets the advantage in both rebounding and offense. At 50 percent shooting, Butler has shown efficiency on offense and a knack for offensive rebounding. His jump shot is undoubtedly better than Brewer's, and he has also shown glimpses of his ability to drive the ball and finish around the rim.
2011-12: 7.7 PPG, 49.5% FG, 5.3 RPG
2012-13: 7.1 PPG, 48.3% FG, 4.9 RPG
Taj Gibson hasn't had a great year. He plays 20 minutes per game, but his presence on the court is sometimes unnoticeable. Gibson has been known for his intensity and hustle throughout his short career. But this year—for whatever reason—he just doesn't seem the same, and it has shown in his decreased rebounding numbers.
His offense has also shown little improvement.
He has, however, shown progress in the post. He does a good job of getting defenders up in the air with fakes, allowing him to get easy points. But there's still a lot of room for improvement.
Gibson has played better in January, averaging 10.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. If he can continue that level of play, he could see an increase in minutes and an increase in productivity.
Until he shows that he can consistently play at a high level, though, the 2011-12 version of Gibson was better.
Nazr Mohammed: 0.9 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 0.4 BPG
Omer Asik: 3.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.0 BPG
Omer Asik was one of the biggest losses for the Bulls' bench. He brought great defense and rebounding, and he's showing it in Houston by averaging a double-double. With just under 15 minutes that he averaged in the Bulls' rotation, he was able to rack up nearly two offensive rebounds per game and had a great defensive rating of 92.
Nazr Mohammed, on the other hand, has played in only 26 of the 36 games for the Bulls this season, and he has done next to nothing. Then again, he usually plays in garbage time. He just doesn't pose any threats defensively or in the paint.
Mohammed does have a better offensive game than Asik, however. He has a decent short-to-mid-range shot and can face up in the post every now and then. He just lacks any quickness to do much. And since he barely sees any playing time, he can't really show his offensive skill set to anyone.
If there's one clear downgrade in this year's bench mob, it's Mohammed.