Posts tagged Fred Hoiberg
Ball Don't Lie - "Phillip Rivers is the white Antonio Cromartie"

The squad's all here. Scott Flows and Pierce lament over the firing of Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg and the lack of faith in the organization before moving on from Sunday's Bears loss and onto this week's marquee matchup with the LA Rams! Plus, more football goodness from week 13, predictions for this Sunday, our thoughts on Kareem Hunt, Urban Meyer, the College Football Playoff and more!

Topics:
Bulls fire Fred Hoiberg
Do you have faith in Garpax and the rebuild?
Chase Daniel brings back Bears fans' PTSD
Bears-Rams predictions
NFC East outlook
Chargers' chances in the AFC
Why no one gives a damn about the Texans
NFC Wild Card chase
Week 14 predictions
Goofy Mog of the Week! (who else would it be?)

The mystery surrounding Fred Hoiberg

Hello Bulls fans,

Getty Images

Getty Images

This season has been quite the roller coaster for the Chicago Bulls. The belief was this season would be an automatic tank year because of how young the roster is, but hroughout the course of the season we’ve enjoyed the rapid development of the young players.

The underrated reason why this has happened is because of Fred Hoiberg’s guidance and teaching to the young players.

Fred was brought to Chicago after Thibs was prematurely fired. Hoiberg coached at Iowa State, where he gave that program an identity and made the Cyclones relevant in college basketball. They played as fast as any team in the country, firing three-pointers at will and placing an emphasis on meaningful off-the-ball motion. This is a philosophy that Fred Hoiberg tried to bring into Chicago for the Bulls to run offensively.

Instead of running a fast paced, run and gun, 3 point shooting offense his first couple of seasons as the head coach Fred Hoiberg had to endure players who didn’t respect or trust his system. Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler are two great players who are not known for 3 point shooting. I’ve mentioned in another post that I believed the Bulls were going to rebuild after trading Derrick Rose in 2016. I believed Fred Hoiberg would finally get the opportunity to implement his college based 3 point run and gun system but he was handed an even worse situation. The “three alphas” Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, and Jimmy Butler make up the worst 3 point shooting back court and small forward triplet ever. These already established players clashed with a young new head coach and were already set in their ways. Jimmy Butler is recently on record saying that Hoiberg didn’t have the respect in the locker room from the veteran players.

The trade that sent Butler to Minnesota and brought Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and Lauri Markkanen to Chicago finally meant Fred Hoiberg has the horses to teach his style of basketball. Watching the style, tempo, and success from the 3 point line being implemented has been quite a thrill to see. Denzel Valentine, Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic have all benefited from playing with a younger and quicker point guard in Kris Dunn. Lauri Markkanen has enjoyed the most successful 3-point shooting season from a rookie in NBA history.  I am looking forward to the development of these players in this system. They all seem to be a fit and I’m glad to see things coming together for the Chicago Bulls future.

How this year's Bulls differ from last year's team
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Hello Bulls fans,

It’s been an interesting year for our beloved Chicago Bulls to say the least. A lot of people believed this team wouldn’t win more than 20 games this season once they traded Jimmy Butler. The move signified the franchise was moving in the direction of a long and tedious rebuild. If this is the case, then how does a team in year one of a rebuild have a better record than the Lakers - a team in year 4 of their rebuild?

After the summer 2016 trade of Derrick Rose to the NY Knicks, the assumption was the Bulls were in rebuild mode.  The moves that followed - signing Rajon Rondo, and then Dwyane Wade - was a little confusing to the Bulls fan base. The idea was that the three "alphas" in Butler, Rondo and Wade would make the Bulls a playoff team and surprise contender.

But Fred Hoiberg was way over his head and didn’t have the players necessary to run his offensive system, or that respected him as a head coach. Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler were both used to Tom Thibodeau's system. Rondo and Wade both won championships so they had little to no respect for a young head coach like Hoiberg. The product on the court showed that these players were not willing to buy in on what was being sold from the staff. Hoiberg’s system requires guards that can consistently shoot the three, and he didn’t have that in Rondo and Wade. The 2016-17 Chicago Bulls somehow squeezed into the east playoffs as the 8th seed. The team overachieved and went up 2-0 against the Boston Celtics but proceeded to lose 4 in a row once Rondo went down with an injury.

The following off-season bore the changes that were believed to be necessary the year prior. The Bulls sent Butler and their first round pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves on draft night for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the 7th overall pick in that year's draft, which they used to pick Lauri Markkanen. Bulls fans unfairly criticized Gar Forman and John Paxson for the move, but I personally loved it, and the direction the team should’ve elected to go in a while ago. The Bulls were stuck in the perpetual cycle of not being good enough to win, but not being bad enough to get a top lottery pick. In this instance the patience to make the deal yielded a bigger haul for GarPax. It was believed that draft night 2016 the Bulls were willing to trade Butler to Minnesota for the 5th overall pick to take Dunn to make him the point guard of the future. The patience allowed us to not only bring in Dunn but also Lauri Markkanen who has shown the ability to play at a high level at just 20 years old.

The 2017 Chicago Bulls started off a bit rocky. A skirmish between Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis led to Niko being hospitalized and Bobby being suspended by the organization. The silver lining of this event is that it allowed Hoiberg to start Markkanen at power forward to get a good look at the rookie under the lights. Markkanen didn’t disappoint, setting a record for most 3-pointers made in a rookie’s first six games in the NBA. With a quick release and the confidence to shoot without hesitation, Lauri is a lethal weapon in the pick and pop game.

Dunn was thrusted into a starting role because of the inept play of Jerian Grant. The playing time he has received has caused him to not only develop better as an pro point guard, but also allowed him to gain confidence. I knew Dunn took that next step with his confidence when he hit crossed over an Indiana Pacer en route to a game winning shot and yelled out “F#$k him”.

The player considered at the time to be the best player acquired in the trade - Zach Lavine - has yet to step on the floor this season thanks to injury. He's a legit scoring threat and a very good fit for what the Chicago Bulls are missing right now.

This young Bulls roster bought in to Hoiberg’s system and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. It’s quite enjoyable to see cohesive basketball being played with young players who are deemed the future of the franchise. There isn’t much standing around like last year with the older veterans who didn’t feel it necessary to listen to a head coach or play within his scheme. In most instances, veterans don’t respect younger unproven coaches and that was abundantly clear with the previous core. With how they're playing as a unit and also developing, this team is a more enjoyable product than what we were exposed to.

The Bulls aren’t tanking - and that may not be a bad thing
(Winslow Townson/AP)

(Winslow Townson/AP)

Let’s face it... the Chicago Bulls are too good. Yes I’m aware that’s a weird thing to read but it’s true. Despite the Bulls’ 13-24 record, they’ve won 10 of their last 14 games and have one of the best records in the NBA since Dec. 8.

Our hopes of #SecuringtheBagley or #LosingforLuka have gone down the drain. The Bulls will likely pick between 7 and 14.

But don’t worry Bulls fans - there are a few reasons this may not be a bad thing.

 

Draft Picks

Look, it’s no secret a top 5 pick helps you win an NBA championship. The best player on 11 of the last 15 NBA champions was taken within the first five picks of their respective drafts.

The other four? Steph Curry, the best player for the 2015 Warriors, landed at No. 7 in the 2009 NBA draft. Dirk Nowitzki, the best player on the 2011 Mavericks, was taken with the No. 9 pick in 1998. Kobe Bryant, the best player on the 2009 and 2010 Lakers, went 13th overall to Charlotte in 1996.

See, it’s possible to get a franchise changing player outside of the top 5.

According to a 2018 NBA mock draft by Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman, he projects the Bulls to take Texas' Mohamed Bamba with the No. 6 pick. At 6’11 - with an 8' wingspan!!! -  225 pounds, the 19-year-old from Harlem is averaging 11.7 PPG, 10.7 rebounds and 4.5 blocks a game in his freshman season.

The latest projection from NBADraft.net has Chicago drafting another emerging freshman in Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. with the No. 7 pick. Jackson is averaging 10.5 points, 7.1 board and 3.3 blocks per game. He’s also shooting 37 percent from the three-point line while averaging just under three attempts per game.

Both players are long, athletic big men who could fit nicely next to Lauri Markkanen. They're currently the seventh-worst team in the league. But if they keep winning, Bulls fans would be wise to turn their attention to prospects further down mock draft boards.

One of them is Miami freshman guard Lonnie Walker, a 6'4" athletic wing with a 6’101/2” wingspan who could fit right into the uptempo, pace-and-space style head coach Fred Hoiberg wants to play, averaging 8.5 PPG in just 21 minutes a game.

(credit: ACC Digital Network)

In this video, you’ll see some highlights of Walker’s ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket and some of his three-point range.

According to ESPN Insider Jonathan Givony, Walker is projected to be selected with the 15th pick.

The steal of the draft could be Villanova junior forward Mikal Bridges.

Bridges is playing like an All-American for the No. 1 ranked Villanova Wildcats. He’s averaging 17.8 PPG on 52 percent shooting from the field and 45 percent shooting from the three-point line. But it’s his play on the other side of the ball that makes Bridges one of the most complete players in this draft.

Bridges is a 6’7” wing with a 7’11/2” wingspan and he puts all that length to good use. He’s averaging 2 steals per game and 1.5 blocks per game.

Imagine a defensive lineup with Dunn, Nwaba and Bridges - each with the ability to guard multiple positions and give ball handlers problems.

Fortunately for the Bulls, Bridges is 21-years old and will be 22 when the NBA draft comes around in June. His age could turn away some teams who may be looking for a young star - leaving a rebuilding Chicago Bulls with the chance to select a hidden gem in this year's draft.

 

Player Development 

 

The thing about winning in a tanking season is the wins usually mean your young players are developing faster than you expected. The Bulls are no different.

Fans are understandably excited about the growth of Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, two of the three pieces in the Jimmy Butler trade. Both players’ performance this season – and the hope budding star Zach LaVine will return to his star form from prior to his ACL tear - have some already naming the Bulls winners of the draft day trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Markkanen is averaging close to 15 PPG and has proven to be a willing rebounder, averaging just over 7 boards on the season.

The Finland native is also showing he is a capable defender, something no one could have predicted when he came out of Arizona. Check out the defense here on New York Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis. (Credit: @_MarcusD2_/NBC Sports Chicago)

Dunn is in the running for the Most Improved Player award. He’s up nine points per game, to 13.2 ppg this year from 3.8 ppg from his rookie season with the Timberwolves.

His shooting has gotten slightly better with increased playing time. According to CleaningTheGlass.com, Dunn is shooting 55 percent at the rim, 40 percent from mid-range and 32 percent from three.

Last year he shot, 50 percent at the rim, 36 percent from midrange and 28 percent from three.

His 2017-2018 shooting numbers show his offensive game still needs work but with more time those numbers could continue to rise.

Dunn has more than doubled his assist numbers as well, averaging six per game as opposed to the 2.4 last season.

Dunn and Markkanen aren’t the only one’s getting better. Young role players like Denzel Valentine and David Nwaba have also improved.

Nwaba can’t really shoot the ball but he’s shown the ability to attack on the catch and push the ball on fast breaks. (Credit/Chicago Bulls Twitter)

In addition, the Bulls get exponentially better with him on defense as opposing teams have a 105.6 offensive rating when he’s on the floor and a 111.4 offensive rating when he’s on the bench.

As for Valentine, for a while he seemed to be nothing more than a floor spacer. However he’s taken major steps forward in his game this season.

Last year, according to NBA.com, 79 percent of Valentine’s threes were assisted. This year, that number is down to 61 percent, meaning he’s taking more pull-up threes.

In addition, Valentine is taking more shots inside the arc, averaging 26.1 percent of his points in the paint (as opposed to 13.7 in 2016-2017) and 12.8 percent of his points on midrange jumpshots (as opposed to 6.2 in 2016-2017).

Even Bobby Portis, who struggled to maintain any consistency last season, has been a positive for the Bulls, averaging nearly 13 PPG on 53 percent shooting and 39 percent from the three-point line over the last 14 games.

 

Free Agency

 

There’s a certain sense of pride when your “own guys” help you win a championship. But the draft isn’t the only way to get good players. The Houston Rockets are 26-9 and the only draft pick in their starting lineup is Clint Capela.

The Bulls have loads of cap space and some good players will test their luck in free agency in the next two years. And since they have been winning recently without any all-star talent, they are now a more attractive destination than if they were 5-31 and playing an atrocious brand of basketball.

The 2018 Free Agency class includes names such as Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, LeBron James DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George.

In 2019, the list gets even more interesting with players like restricted free agents Devin Booker and Karl Anthony Towns, and Kyrie Irving.

You read those names and think they are unrealistic for the Bulls. To be fair, their biggest free agent signing in the last 15 years is a 34-year old Pau Gasol.

(Editors note: I find it baffling he disregarded Bulls legend Eddie Robinson like that.)

However, this Bulls team feels different. They are a young team that’s playing basketball the right way with pace, three point shooting and intense defense.

Maybe it’s not so unthinkable that a major star would want to lead a team that seems to be headed in the right direction.