Player breakdowns: The ‘Bench Mob,’ they’re not — the Bulls’ backup guards
With the NBA season still up in the air, the Sun-Times will look at all the Bulls, the seasons they had and the upcoming seasons they could have, in Chicago or elsewhere. Next up are the backcourt reserves.
It isn’t exactly the “Bench Mob.’’
As a matter of fact, the Bulls haven’t had anything resembling the “Bench Mob’’ in quite some time.
There were financial reasons why that reserve unit from those 2010-12 teams eventually had to be dismantled, but the departure of former coach Tom Thibodeau also has played a large role in why the front office hasn’t been able to build a second unit with the same moxie.
Thibodeau had C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and Omer Asik believing they were better than the opposing second unit and also interchangeable enough to give the opposition’s starting unit some headaches.
Without question, Derrick Rose’s knee problems were reason 1B in why the Bulls didn’t get out of the Eastern Conference — right behind the presence of LeBron James (1A) on the Heat — but the loss of the “Bench Mob’’ wasn’t far behind.
Fast-forward to this season’s backcourt reserves, and it’s a reminder of how far the Bulls have fallen in the last eight years.
It’s not that Ryan Arcidiacono, Shaquille Harrison and Adam Mokoka can’t play. Individually, Arcidiacono and Harrison could find minutes on most NBA teams, and Mokoka is a G Leaguer looking to script his own journey.
But it’s not a backcourt that necessarily jells off the bench. It’s an either-or with Arcidiacono and Harrison. You play Arcidiacono if you need outside shooting and playmaking as well as someone who’s willing to take a charge from a rhino or Harrison if you need a defensive-minded wolverine who’s hell-bent on making someone’s life difficult.
As for Mokoka, he’s interesting from a developmental standpoint.
“Arch’’ shot 39.1 percent from three-point range this season and had moments of solid playmaking as a reserve. He started four games out of necessity, but the former Villanova standout is better suited for bench minutes. With Tomas Satoransky now a member of the second unit, Arcidiacono is a third option at point guard. He is signed through next season, with a $3 million team option for 2021-22.
Because he is the ultimate teammate, and with his ability to hit from long range, Arcidiacono is a keeper at a low price tag.
Expect Arcidiacono to stay a Bull and have a 10-year NBA career. He’ll then take over the coaching job from Jay Wright at Villanova just in time for the 2032-33 season.
Don’t be surprised if the Bulls let Kris Dunn walk and try to give that defensive-stopper role to Harrison — albeit as a reserve. The problem is that while Harrison did show some improvement from long range the last month, he’s an offensive liability.
Harrison is a free agent this offseason, and the Bulls will let him walk if Dunn is brought back. If Dunn is plucked by another team and the Bulls refuse to match, they can fall back on Harrison.
With a new front office replacing coach Jim Boylen, Harrison’s skills won’t be as coveted. He signs with the Celtics.
Playing on a two-way contract, Mokoka saw minutes because of all the injury problems. He had some moments — he scored 15 points in five minutes in a loss to the Pelicans on Feb. 6 — but is a project at best.
Stash him and see what he can become. The Bulls need to hit on an undrafted free agent at some point.
Mokoka becomes a must-see attraction . . . in Hoffman Estates as part of the Windy City Bulls.