Despite the Bulls being a relatively stable team in terms of personnel, when they step on the floor for the preseason some unique player combinations will be used.
After all, preseason is the time for experimentation and Fred Hoiberg has to work this Rubik’s Cube to make the product more diverse and less predictable than previous seasons.
“I try to split up the groups pretty even. We mix and match,” Hoiberg said. “We had three separate scrimmages where we put a lot of combinations of guys together.”
Hoiberg revealed Pau Gasol only played the first few minutes in a couple scrimmages before completely sitting out the third, likely part of the “Saving Gasol’s Gas” plan considering his age and the fact he played for the Spanish National Team over the summer.
Gasol and fellow Spaniard Nikola Mirotic will be key pieces in the diversity of the Bulls offense this season, as the Bulls will employ the popular “four-out, one-in” offensive set many teams use to maximize floor spacing for drivers and open 3-pointers for shooters.
“We’ll run some four out and one in,” Hoiberg said. “We’ll run some four out and one in with two bigs on the floor, especially with Pau out there. He has proven he can make shots and he can also make plays. If you swing it to him and he doesn’t shoot it, you can get into a second side action.”
Mirotic, in theory and form, is a good 3-point shooter but the numbers say he’s a 31.6 percent shooter. Teams won’t be so quick to run out and defend a shooter with those numbers, no matter his skill set.
Apparently it’s been a point of emphasis in camp, as the Bulls hope to improve on their 35 percent efficiency last season, but they were middle in the pack in terms of attempts.
“His three-pointers are much more consistent this year,” said Bulls forward Taj Gibson, who’s had to guard Mirotic on occasion in camp. “He's been doing a lot better as far as taking the pressure, knowing when to shoot and when not to shoot. We've been trying to get him to shoot a lot more, and he's been playing well.”
Hoiberg said Mirotic is more comfortable at the power forward than small forward, so he doesn’t appear to be a prime candidate to take Mike Dunleavy’s place in the first five.
But nothing is decided yet for the long-term, hence Hoiberg’s desire to see different starting lineups all through the preseason.
He hasn’t ruled out starting Gasol and Joakim Noah together, and is noncommittal on just about anything so early in camp.
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“It was good to see different combinations, to start that process,” Hoiberg said. “As for who’ll be our starter for opening night, I don’t think we’ll probably start the same lineups for all the preseason games. We’ll see. We still have a few days before that first preseason game on Tuesday.”
And they have a long way before the regular season begins against the Cleveland Cavaliers, so all of this is in the embryonic stage.
“(Today’s a) very good teaching segment,” Hoiberg said. “Never been part of any staff, roster, player, coach where we walk out after our first scrimmage and say ‘all right guys, we got it all figured out’. We got a lot of things to work on and a lot of things to get cleaned up and work on.”