Bulls still have some glaring issues, but the bench isn’t one of them

Since training camp started, the reserves have been doing everything they can to push the action on both ends of the floor.

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The Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan and Goran Dragic celebrate a basket against the Toronto Raptors.

The Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan and Goran Dragic celebrate a basket against the Toronto Raptors.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan knew what was coming.

‘‘There were some days that they were kicking our ass,’’ he said recently when discussing the Bulls’ reserves and the intrasquad scrimmages the starters played against them during training camp. ‘‘That was their mentality.’’

That mentality hasn’t let up.

While the Bulls have muddled through the first 13 games of the regular season, their bench players have backed up their play from camp and then some.

Goran Dragic is leading the Bulls with a plus-minus of plus-74. Alex Caruso is at plus-72, Andre Drummond at plus-42, Javonte Green at plus-34 and Derrick Jones Jr. at plus-25.

The highest-ranking starter in that category is Zach LaVine at plus-7, and a lot of his playing time has been staggered with the second unit.

‘‘You can see when [the starters] get a little stagnant and we’re not playing with the right energy,’’ Dragic said. ‘‘I look at it as it’s my job to bring that energy, try and make sure we’re organized and doing what we need to do.

‘‘The best way to do that is through your actions. That’s my mentality and the mentality of a lot of these [bench] guys. And if we want to be objective, we’ve been missing a few of our guys with ‘Drum’ [Drummond] and Coby [White] injured.

‘‘We can be even better.’’

Coach Billy Donovan hopes so.

It isn’t that the Bulls’ starters have been awful, but they have been inconsistent, especially with the way they’ve started and finished games. Too many careless possessions, too many turnovers and not enough urgency.

Donovan has been trying to change that, and there were signs in the loss Wednesday to the Pelicans that the bad habits early in games were being dealt with. Still, a 6-7 record isn’t cutting it.

The Bulls have been terrible in ‘‘clutch’’ moments this season, which the NBA defines as five-point games with five minutes or less to play. They have been in that position six times and have lost all six games.

But the bench? That has been a real strength. With Dragic, Drummond (when he has been healthy), Caruso and a mix of Green and Jones to go along with LaVine, Donovan has stumbled on a unit he hopes has staying power.

‘‘When you’re playing against each other every day in practice, you see the second unit playing really well together, but it’s only against us,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘As we started to see other opponents and then staggered it a little bit, putting Zach in there with that unit, they’ve played really well for us.

‘‘They play really fast. They’ve gotten out in transition. Andre is an elite runner, an elite screener. Goran and Alex are really good in transition with the ball in terms of advancing it or creating action. It’s been encouraging to see them play the way they have because I didn’t know what it would look like.’’

That’s why Donovan might not be done tweaking things. He used DeRozan, rather than LaVine, a bit more with the second uint in the third quarter against the Pelicans and saw some success.

‘‘I just think, with some of these guys, you’ve got to try different units and see what it looks like,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘How sustainable it will be for us, we’ll see.’’

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