Jimmy Butler and Nate Robinson helping make Bulls' bench formidable once again

Jonathan Daniel

The Jimmymergence and Good Nate has the Bulls' bench looking much better than many expected it would at the start of this season.

It's no secret that many of us around here were ticked off at what happened this offseason. The decimation of the Bench Mob was roundly criticized, and there were a ton of questions about whether the rebuilt bench could even come close to matching the production of that group.

The questions were justified throughout the first part of the season, as the bench play was a roller coaster ride of good and terrible. Nate Robinson was a roller coaster ride of his own, Taj Gibson had some offensive struggles, Marco Belinelli was erratic, Jimmy Butler wasn't getting consistent minutes and Nazr Mohammed, well, you know.

But the month of January has been a whole different story. It's been mostly a treasure trove of good. And what do we have to mostly thank for that? The Jimmymergence and Good Nate, both of which were on full display in the victory over the Bucks on Wednesday night.

Let's first look at the individual numbers of these guys in January, starting with "Mr. Unimpressed" himself Jimmy Butler.

MPG PPG RPG FG% FT% 3PT% EFG% TS% Off. Rtg Def. Rtg Net Rtg +/- per 48
Jimmy Butler in January 26.1 9.9 4.9 50.5 86.3 33.3% 52.8% 60.5% 104.6 94.1 10.5 7.0

But of course, about half of January he still spent getting those inconsistent minutes. Breaking it down even further since the Celtics game when Luol Deng went down with a hamstring injury, and the numbers are naturally even more impressive.

MPG PPG RPG FG% FT% 3PT% EFG% TS% Off. Rtg Def. Rtg Net Rtg +/- per 48
Jimmy Butler from 1/18-1/31 38.8 15.1 7.4 53.1% 88.6% 28.6% 55.6% 62.8% 103.9 91.7 12.2 7.9

Butler has always shown a ton of promise on the defensive end, but his offense was a huge question mark. He's acquitted himself quite nicely on offensive end lately, showing that he can score in a variety of ways despite having a work-in-progress jumper. Also great about his offensive game is that he's a low usage player, so he doesn't need the ball all that much to make an impact.

Nate of course is a lot different, but in January it was fine that he used up all those possessions. After a really rough December, Nate bounced back in a big way.

MPG PPG APG FG% FT% 3PT% EFG% TS% Off. Rtg Def. Rtg Net Rtg +/- per 48
Nate Robinson in January 22.4 12.3 3.6 48.1% 85.0% 43.3% 56.3% 58.4% 104.6 91.7 12.9 12.3

The instant offense off the bench is certainly great and has helped the Bulls win a ton of games, but perhaps the most impressive aspect of Nate's January was the defensive improvement. Nate posted negative net ratings in both November and December because the team was really poor defensively with him on the floor. It was borderline horrific in November, as Nate had a defensive rating of 104.3. While the huge improvement can certainly be explained by some other factors (like playing with Jimmy more), there's no doubt Nate has gotten better on the defensive end. He's doing a better job staying in front of guys and isn't getting torched quite as much on the pick-and-roll. We saw Nate harass the hell out of Brandon Jennings on Wednesday, and he wound up getting the Bucks' point guard tossed due to frustration.

Next, I wanted to take a look at some lineup combinations in January. So below, we'll have a 2-man combo of Nate and Jimmy, a 3-man combo of Nate/Jimmy/Taj, a 4-man combo of Nate/Marco/Jimmy/Taj, a 5-man combo of Nate/Marco/Jimmy/Taj/Joakim Noah and then a full bench unit of Nate/Marco/Jimmy/Taj/Nazr.

MIN Off. Rtg Def. Rtg Net Rtg +/- per 48
Nate/Jimmy 226 112.5 87.4 25.1 20.6
Nate/Jimmy/Taj 177 114.8 87.6 27.2 21.2
Nate/Marco/Jimmy/Taj 133 117.0 90.0 27.0 22.7
Nate/Marco/Jimmy/Taj/Jo 64 126.7 93.7 33.0 24.9
Nate/Marco/Jimmy/Taj/Nazr 24 105.3 87.5 17.8 20.0

Yeah, so pretty freaking impressive. And it's not like we're talking about a ton of garbage time minutes here. Sure there are some, but much of this great production has been when the outcomes are still in doubt.

I'm still hesitant to dub this new group of reserves Bench Mob or Bench Mob 2.0 or whatever, because that old group was a true "mob" of players that could all come in at once and dominate games. With the new guys, it's mostly Nate, Jimmy and Taj doing the work with a few Marco game-winners thrown in. Belinelli has been mostly bad lately, and Mohammed is a complete stiff, regardless of what some of the numbers show. What would have been truly awesome is if Kyle Korver and Omer Asik were still here, and the Bulls were trotting out a bench of Nate/Kyle/Jimmy/Taj/Omer. Of course, that would have meant a huge luxury tax bill and no Kirk Hinrich, so no chance.

All that being said, this new bench comes pretty darn close to the Bench Mob simply because of how outstanding some of these individual performances have been from Nate and Jimmy. We're probably bound to see both guys come back down to Earth a little bit in the near future, but as long as they don't fall too hard, the Bulls' bench will remain strong.

All stats courtesy of NBA.com.

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