LAS VEGAS — Hard to imagine how the Bulls’ offense will work judging by the pared-down and less-skilled version of summer league, but there are glimpses of what Fred Hoiberg’s system looks like.
When seeing Doug McDermott going through cross-action from the left block to the right free-throw extended to catch a pass in a triple-threat position (shoot, pass or drive), he won’t actually get opportunities like that if the Bulls are at full strength.
But Jimmy Butler will.
When Vander Blue goes from the wing behind a top-side screen on a back cut to the basket waiting on a lob pass, that won’t really be him come November — even if he finds a way to crack the Bulls’ roster.
But Derrick Rose will certainly have those chances, assuming his athleticism doesn’t take some severe dip in one offseason.
The Hoiberg system — one based on movement, spacing and attacking — will look drastically different than what’s been seen over the past few seasons.
Multiple options, multiple reads, less rigidity.
By Hoiberg’s count, the Bulls had 39 uncontested shot attempts in their second summer league game, a 81-66 drubbing by the Toronto Raptors.
The Bulls will have more adept talent running Hoiberg’s sets while going against top-level defenses, to be fair. Missing all those open shots had to be a little disheartening for the new Bulls coach, considering a practice that was scheduled to run for less than an hour stretched near the two-hour range.
No, Hoiberg isn’t pulling off his best Tom Thibodeau impression.
“A little cleanup session,” Hoiberg said. “Talked about a couple things we didn’t do defensively. Things we didn’t do well yesterday.”
“Our offense at times was very good. (Thirty-nine) uncontested shots. Got most when the ball was moving.”
The word that’s on the tip of Hoiberg’s tongue is “rhythm”, which the Bulls honestly displayed a lot of at times last season when en masse. But when it mattered most, the Bulls looked like their old selves in the playoffs, struggling to do anything in their decisive Game 6 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
And while Hoiberg has only put in a fraction of what he’ll truly deploy when training camp convenes in October, he’s trying to find a decent balance of what he can do with the few pieces he has to work with — mainly in the three-day minicamp the team had leading into Summer League.
“Not much. Not much,” said Hoiberg when asked how much of his sets have been used now. “You can’t really overwhelm it at this. I probably put in a little too much to be honest with you. Just try to get them to ‘flow’. Didn’t run many set plays in. We’ve run a couple things for Doug.”
McDermott will be more shooter than creator when the time comes, but he’s at least learning different positions. Rookie Bobby Portis is getting a bit of a crash course in offensive philosophy.
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He had a shaky Game 2 after a sterling open to summer league, but picking up concepts will be perhaps his biggest victory this week regardless of the numbers.
“They have picked it up well,” Hoiberg said. “It’s different concepts for Bobby, when to roll, when to pop. When he sets a ball screen, not to move up to bunch up the spacing. But as far as picking up what we’re trying to put in, those three have been very good.”
The third is Cameron Bairstow, who’s been a crash-test dummy on the floor, picking up fouls and absorbing them seemingly on every possession. Grabbing 10 rebounds as an undersized center in this setup can only be viewed optimistically — especially if he’s picking up the small nuances of what will be a complicated offense.
“I really like Cam. He makes winning plays,” Hoiberg said. “The first game he took four shots. The two guys who got all the points were Doug and Portis and Cam was out there doing the dirty work, a lot of things that don’t show up in a box score. That’s what Cam does. That’s the type of kid he is. He just goes out there and makes winning plays. He picks things up well.”