With the addition of Nate Robinson, the Chicago Bulls' roster now stands at 13 players. While that may not be the final number, it's close enough to take a quick look at how the roster shapes up and how each position compares to last season.
Point guard: Kirk Hinrich, Nate Robinson, Marquis Teague, [Derrick Rose] - Robinson gives the Bulls a legitimate backup for Hinrich who can slide into the #3 point guard role once Rose returns. Be that as it may, the position is still a big concern heading into the season. Hinrich has had injury problems the past two seasons, Robinson isn't a true point guard, and Teague is nowhere close to contributing. I gave the Bulls a D here rather than a C because there were better options than Hinrich for the money ($3.9 million a year). Grade versus last season: D.
Shooting guard: Rip Hamilton, Marco Belinelli (Hinrich, Butler, Robinson) - While his defense, at least pre-Thibs, might be suspect (career defensive rating of 111, yikes!), Belinelli is an upgrade over both Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer on offense; some expect him to compete for the starting position, but Hamilton is a much better ball handler, passer and defender. Butler will also see some minutes at the position, and could get significant playing time if he performs like he did at the Summer League games in Las Vegas. The versatility Korver and Brewer offered will be missed. Grade versus last season: B.
Small forward: Luol Deng, Jimmy Butler (Radmanovic) - Even with an injured wrist, Deng averaged a league-leading 39.4 minutes a game last season. I don't see that happening again - Deng needs more rest, and Butler needs more minutes. A big difference over a year ago is that Butler will be heading into the season with real summer league experience, a real training camp and real practices, and good things are expected. I think he'll respond and bloom. The wild card is Deng's wrist; he could miss significant time if he opts for surgery after the Olympics. Grade versus last season: B.
Power forward: Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, Vladimir Radmanovic - It's the same basic combo as last season, but with Radmanovic, who likely won't see much PT, in place of Brian Scalabrine. Boozer may be a favorite fan whipping boy, but the Boozer-Gibson combo is actually pretty darned good, and I think it'll be surprisingly good this season. Boozer should see more touches and a cleaner lane with Rose out of the lineup, and I'm expecting a breakout year from Gibson, who honed his skills this summer by playing on the USA Select team. Grade versus last season: B+.
Center: Joakim Noah, Nazr Mohammed (Gibson) - Mohammed may be a serviceable backup center, but he's no Omer Asik, and the Bulls will sorely miss The Turkish Hammer's presence in the middle. Mohammed used to be a premier defender, but has a defensive rating of just 105 and 102 the past two seasons (as compared to Asik's 97 and 92). Given that Noah is always an ankle turn away from missing significant time, it's also a position of concern, although the Bulls can use Gibson at center in a pinch or in certain situations. Grade versus last season: D.
Bench: Yes, The Bench Mob has been dismantled, and it's going to have an impact; how much remains to be seen. The chemistry will be difficult to duplicate; it was a great example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Some optimistic fans say the Bulls' bench will be just as good, but, hope I'm wrong, I just don't see it. The new bench mob will be able to score, maybe in bunches, but it will be challenging for coach Tom Thibodeau to shape the second unit into something he can trust on defense. Grade versus last season: C.
Who they'll add: No one? With a hard cap of $74.3 million, the Bulls may not have enough room to offer a veteran minimum contract.
YCN featured sports contributor Steve Merritt is - for better or worse - a lifelong Chicago Bulls, Bears and Cubs fan. He's followed the Bulls since 1969, when he tuned in after bedtime on a cheap dime store radio tucked under his pillow.
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