Fred Hoiberg’s first campaign as a head coach was headlined by the Bulls’ mediocrity and Jimmy Butler’s sporadic behavior. This all culminated in a move that Chicagoans would never have even consider just a few years ago, the departure of Joakim Noah and more importantly Derrick Rose.
The departure of those two players really put an end to the Thibodeau era Bulls. Hoiberg was brought in to fix the Bulls’ offensive struggles, and he may now have those pieces in order.
The Bulls offense did not live up to its expectations last season. In fact, there was hardly a difference between their production in the final year with Thibodeau at the helm to the new regime of Hoi-ball. In the 2014-2015 season, the team averaged 100.8 PPG and an offensive efficiency rating of 104.7. Last year, the team averaged 101.6 PPG and digressed in terms of offensive efficiency with a rating of 102.1, which ranked 25th in the league.
The high-flying offense that was the Iowa State Cyclones from 2011-2015 was absolutely a product of Hoiberg’s style. Headlined by former Cyclone and current Indiana Pacer Georges Niang, the team mirrors the current Bulls roster. Obviously, the NBA is extremely different in terms of competition and talent, but that doesn’t mean that Hoiberg’s system won’t work.
The obvious comparison between the two rosters is Jimmy Butler and Georges Niang. Niang was a do it all player for ISU that Hoiberg built the team around and he found players that would complement his game well. The same can be said for Butler. He can score, pass, defend, and lead the team.
In addition to the Butler/Niang comparison, the “supporting casts” are also quite similar. Derrick Roses’ departure was no mistake. This is Jimmy Butler’s team, and Hoiberg wanted to find the Monte Morris type point guard that is in the NBA.
Rajon Rondo is arguably the best passing point guard in the league, so it only makes sense that the Bulls went after him. It all relates back to Butler and how the Bulls can bring out all of the skills he has.
We can talk about all of the comparisons to the Iowa State program and how the pieces are starting to fall into place, but there is one drawback that comes with this plan. The Bulls, unlike a lot of NBA franchises, never really like to be in the rebuild/restructure mode. This past season was the first time the Bulls did not make the playoffs since the 2007-2008.
Say what you want about Gar Forman, Jon Paxson, and company and about how they don’t connect with the players and coaches, but they do get results. I wouldn’t say that it is time to hit the panic button if the Bulls do underperform for the second straight season, but it would definitely start to raise some questions.
Again, the Bulls are not the Utah Jazz or the Minnesota Timberwolves. Success is demanded every year, and in a top market the Bulls should be demanding the best free agents on the market every off-season.
However, you can also stop and think that Hoiberg has all the leverage he needs. He is not the first coach in the league today that was hired straight out of a division one school. Brad Stevens was hired by the Celtics after coaching Butler, and we’ve all seen how they have turned out.
Stevens wasn’t the sole engine in the cog that is the Celtic’s organization, but as the head coach he clearly plays a role. It took the Celtics two seasons to get into the playoffs (2013-2014, 2014-2015). So, what does that tell us?
If Hoiberg does have a clear idea of what he’s doing, this team can make noise. The mountain to climb in the Eastern Conference is once again the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Bulls certainly will have a tough time trekking it.
This is somewhat the dawn of new era for the Bulls. They aren’t starting off with a clean slate by any means, but there are eight new players on the roster right now. That number will most likely shrink, but any past perceptions of the Bulls as tough and gritty team with the kid from Chicago is a thing of a past. I for one am excited to see how it will pan out.