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The Daily Illini

Chicago Bulls’ bench is unworthy of Bench Mob nickname

By Ashley Wijangco

It all started on the evening of June 26, when the Chicago Bulls traded up in the 2014 NBA Draft to acquire Doug McDermott.

The addition of McDermott was a big offseason move for the Bulls, and he’s a large reason why many fans are convinced this season’s bench will be the next Bench Mob.

Along with McDermott, the bench unit consists of point guards Aaron Brooks and Kirk Hinrich and the frontcourt duo of Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic. This lineup provides a mix of scoring, steady playmaking and solid defenders and is considered to be one of the better benches in the league. But as much as I hate to admit it, this bench unit isn’t worthy of being dubbed as Chicago’s next Bench Mob.

Hinrich is a strange case, considering he has started eight of 11 games, but it’s clear his performance suffers when he doesn’t start. When starting, Hinrich has averaged 11.3 points and shot 37.3 percent from the field and 41.9 percent on threes. His bench numbers, however, are drastically different, with 4.3 points per game while shooting 30.8 percent from the field and 28.6 percent on threes.

Neither set of numbers is great, but there’s no reason why Hinrich shouldn’t produce better numbers as a bench player. Granted, three games is a small sample size, but Hinrich’s fully capable of playing better — his minutes have been relatively consistent.

Gibson has also started a few games, but he’s been on a decline as of late. He’s averaging 13 points per game, which is good, but often he’ll unnecessarily force shots in the paint. In the past five games, he has only scored in double figures twice and he only has one double-digit rebounding game so far.

The Bulls have had struggles with rebounding, but Gibson is a large reason for this. He’s expected to be a top rebounder, and he hasn’t got the job done.

Rookies McDermott and Mirotic have both struggled on the defensive end, and that has cost them playing time. McDermott’s minutes have been up and down, while Mirotic has played double-digit minutes only once in the past five games. Obviously, they both need to defend better, especially when their coach is Tom Thibodeau, but it’s difficult for two new players to jump right into Thibodeau’s system. Offensively, they are not performing as well as they should either.

McDermott has looked apprehensive, and it’s really hurting his game. While his 50 percent field goal percentage is fantastic, he has been horrible from downtown. On 20 attempts, McDermott has only made six 3-pointers. He has the ability to score in a multitude of ways, but it’s his 3-point shooting ability that Chicago really needs. 

As for Mirotic, he often looks uncomfortable on the hardwood. He’s hesitant to take shots and fakes his defender much more than he needs to. He just needs to shoot. As a stretch four, he occupies a valuable spot on this Bulls team, but he won’t be of much use if he doesn’t take advantage of his opportunities.

In Monday night’s win over the Los Angeles Clippers, Mirotic looked much more comfortable. Even though his defense wasn’t good, he was still able to contribute, matching his career high of 12 points in just 18 minutes.

Brooks is the third point guard in Chicago’s rotation. He has been compared to the likes of former undersized Bulls point guards Nate Robinson and D.J. Augustin, as he’s seen as someone who can bring a spark off the bench and provide consistent scoring. Brooks has lived up to that reputation relatively well so far. He’s averaging 10.4 points per game and is shooting the rock at a high level: 48.3 percent from the field and 46.9 percent on threes.

Despite that, Brooks needs to be more consistent. He started the season strong by scoring in double figures for the first four games, but he has only had three such performances since then. He needs to be that sparkplug off the bench who can keep his team in the game, because the Bulls cannot keep relying on their starters for the majority of the game. And that’s the greatest difference in this year’s bench becoming the next Bench Mob.

The original Bench Mob came in Thibodeau’s first season as head coach of the Bulls, 2010-11. It was composed of Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer, Gibson, Kyle Korver, Kurt Thomas and C.J. Watson, and what made them special was their ability to really come together as a team. They meshed so well together that they could play just as well as the starters, sometimes outplaying them and making it so Thibodeau didn’t need to go back to the starters.

Chicago’s current bench has the potential to become the Bench Mob, but they certainly aren’t there yet. There have only been 11 games, so a lot can change. But until they prove they’re worthy of being the next Bench Mob, the Bulls’ bench is just going to be a bench unit stuck behind a talented starting lineup.

Ashley is a sophomore in Media. She can be reached at wijangc2@dailyillini.com and on Twitter @wijangco12.

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