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Early Observations on the Fred Hoiberg Bulls

Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bulls are one of three teams so far to start the 2015-16 NBA season at 2-0. This, of course, means next to nothing, but Fred Hoiberg has already put his imprint on the Bulls. Even after two games, Chicago looks like a completely different team.

Floor spacing

This video, courtesy of @hungarianjordan, exemplifies Hoiball floor spacing to a tee. The Bulls’ starting lineup of Derrick Rose, Tony Snell, Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic and Pau Gasol is something Tom Thibodeau wouldn’t have been caught dead attempting unless injuries forced his hand. Hoiberg on the other hand realizes how lethal this lineup can be offensively.

The floor spacing on this play is something the Bulls saw very little of last season. Rose, who usually is the Bulls’ primary ball handler, was instead spotted up in the opposite corner of Snell. Mirotic commanded space on the right wing as Gasol crept up to set a screen. Butler denied the screen and drove into the paint. J.R. Smith was badly beaten on the play, giving Kevin Love little to no opportunity to help. Tristan Thompson was also late on the help and Jimmy dunked an easy and important late-game basket.

We’ve seen a lot of that from the Bulls through two games. As my colleague Ryan Davis pointed out, Hoiberg is throwing out different lineups left and right. No matter who’s in the frontcourt, Hoiberg is prioritizing spacing.

The backcourt of Aaron Brooks and E’Twaun Moore, though devoid of playmaking, keeps the defense honest in a way that Kirk Hinrich couldn’t last season. Doug McDermott, who’s been a mixed bag so far, stretches the defense regardless of if his shot’s on or off.

The willingness of Hoiberg to mix and match creates extra space for the Bulls’ offense. That space has created better shot opportunities for Rose.

Paint-oriented Rose

Here’s another four-out look for the Bulls, but this time Rose was handling the ball. Gasol set a screen and the Cavs’ defense, namely Mo Williams, really had no chance of stopping Rose on this play.

Rose, well at least the post-injuries Rose, proved to be a less than ideal fit in Thibodeau’s offense. He was forced to create his own shot out of nothing too often, which led to bail-out three-point heaves and wild shots in the paint. Hoiberg’s pace and space offense has given Rose lanes to the paint where he can utilize his crafty floaters and breakaway speed.

Rose’s shot chart so far has been promising, even if he’s still only hitting 39.4 percent of his shots.

Derrick Rose 2015-16 shot chart (13 of 33, 39.4 percent from the field)


The field goal percentage is middling, but remember Rose has double vision from the lingering affects of a broken orbital bone under his left eye. He’s only taken three three-pointers in two games while keeping everything else headed towards the basket. 60.6 percent of his attempts have come in the restricted area, a dramatic increase from his 37.7 percent mark a season ago.

Rose isn’t thriving in Hoiberg’s offense yet, but he will if he stays healthy and continues to abandon three-pointers.

Point Jimmy

Another revelation of Hoiberg’s offense so far has been utilizing Butler as a primary ball handler. Hoiberg has run the offense through Butler late in both games so far, displayed by his slick pick-and-roll shown at the top of this page. Look at the spacing on this pick-and-roll via Today’s Fastbreak Managing Editor, Jason Patt:

Here, Butler split the pick-and-roll and kicked it out to a wide open Mirotic (who’s killing it so far) at the three-point line for a dagger of a shot. He utilized another pick-and-roll a couple possessions later to knock down a three of his own when Lopez sagged back:

Hoiberg is smart enough to know that Butler, not Rose, is the Bulls’ primary offensive threat. Rose acts as a nice decoy on these plays, but he shouldn’t be the one taking most of the clutch shots down the stretch for the Bulls this season. Butler is excellent at creating his own shot and even creating shots for others (4.0 assists to 0.5 turnovers per game so far).

If Hoiberg can maximize space, create easier shots for Rose and feed Butler the ball late, the Bulls can make the strides necessary to do some damage in the Eastern Conference. He’ll also need the defense and rebounding, which have been sub-par so far, to follow suit.

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