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Monday, July 21, 2014
Bulls rounding out the new Bench Mob

By Nick Friedell

CHICAGO -- Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is going to walk into training camp in September with a roster full of something it lacked the past two seasons: depth.

Aaron Brooks, Stephen Curry
Aaron Brooks, who is closing in on a deal with the Bulls, would give them a scorer off the bench.
As the Bulls continue to announce new deals, Thibodeau's group takes a shape that the veteran coach has to like. On Monday they signed second-round pick Cameron Bairstow and re-signed veteran Kirk Hinrich; later this week they likely will sign first-round pick Doug McDermott and free-agent guard Aaron Brooks.

Like the rest of the organization, Thibodeau was disappointed that the Bulls were unable to land Carmelo Anthony in free agency, but the next best option was to land several players who should make the Bulls a stronger team from top to bottom. Bulls general manager Gar Forman and executive vice president John Paxson believe they have done that over the past few weeks when they signed four-time All-Star Pau Gasol and European star Nikola Mirotic and drafted college player of the year McDermott.

On paper, the Bulls' 2011-12 roster was deeper heading into the season. That one featured Derrick Rose coming off winning the MVP trophy the season before, Joakim Noah, Rip Hamilton, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng in the starting lineup with Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver, Omer Asik, Jimmy Butler, Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson, among others, coming off the bench.

While the 2014-15 roster can't match the talent right now, it may come close over time. Thibodeau has the chance to go 11 deep to start training camp, which makes the Bulls one of the deepest teams in the league. Rose will be back in the starting lineup alongside Noah, while Gasol likely fills out the rest of the group with Dunleavy and Butler.

The bench consists of Hinrich, Tony Snell, McDermott, Mirotic and Gibson. With the addition of veteran combo guard Brooks, a move that is likely to be finalized in the next couple days, the Bulls have the type of depth that every coach in the league would love. Brooks gives the Bulls an insurance policy should Rose or Hinrich go down with an injury and could be even more valuable if Thibodeau decides to play either of those two off the ball more this season.

While this group may not have the pure talent of the 2011-12 group, it does have more outside shooting. Dunleavy, McDermott, Snell and Mirotic can all knock down long-range shots, which should give Rose, Hinrich and Brooks more room to operate. The Bulls still don't have a create-your-own-shot scorer other than Rose, a fact that may prove to be a fatal flaw in the playoffs, but they have a talented group of passers that should create open looks for one another.

The only other real question for this group on paper is at the center position. Forman and Paxson will continue to look for another backup big man to play behind Noah, who will turn 30 years old this season and needs to save as much energy as he can for the grind of the playoffs. Veteran Nazr Mohammed has said he would love to be back in Chicago for his third year. Rookie Bairstow may prove to be an answer for a few minutes each night over time, but the Bulls would be best served to bring in one more big man to back up Noah, Gasol and Gibson.

In the meantime, Forman and Paxson can take solace in knowing that they have created a luxury for Thibodeau in regard to a deeper roster. It will be up to Thibodeau to take advantage of that depth over an 82-game regular season.

The Bulls have Bench Mob 2.0 in place. It will be interesting to see if it can be as successful as its predecessor.