Bulls

Fred Hoiberg believes NBA experience with multiple 'strong personalities' could help him coach new-look Bulls

Fred Hoiberg believes NBA experience with multiple 'strong personalities' could help him coach new-look Bulls

The team Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg inherited last season is vastly different than the one he’ll start training camp preparation for next week, along with the external expectations looking more like a question mark than one of conference contention.

Still, though, he couldn’t contain his excitement as he made a trip to his native Iowa and sat down with CSNChicago.com for an interview.

He’s still dealing with being the man who replaced Tom Thibodeau as coach but in his second season, he believes he’s much more comfortable in his position and his adjustment to the scrutiny that comes with being in a large media market.

And with a roster makeover that featured Derrick Rose get traded to New York along with Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol leaving via free agency, perhaps he gets a second chance at a first impression after an up and down season that saw the Bulls miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

“We did have a lot of injuries but there’s no excuse for me,” Hoiberg said. “I’ve got to get them playing more consistent basketball. “

“We’ve got to be more consistent on a nightly basis and that’s on me.”

The Bulls added veterans and former champions Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo in free agency, a surprise to many around the NBA as the Bulls opted for talent and experience as opposed to natural basketball fit — an awkward setup on paper that will fall at Hoiberg’s feet when camp begins next month.

“The biggest thing is we have multiple playmakers now, we have guys who can get in and break down the defense,” Hoiberg said. “That’s the most important thing to have on an NBA roster is multiple ballhandlers, multiple playmakers. Bigs who are gonna set screens and put pressure on the rim.”

[MORE BULLS: Ten games to mark down on the Bulls' 2016-17 schedule]

Hoiberg parroted what the Bulls front office has been saying since Rondo and Wade have been brought aboard, highlighting the fact they made free agency additions without sacrificing some of the youth on the roster.

“Rondo is a point guard who I think will thrive in the system we like to run and then to get Dwyane, we didn’t have to give up any of the young pieces in the process,” Hoiberg said. “We’re able to stay competitive with players with championship experience. To pair those two guys with Jimmy Butler, it’ll be a dynamic and exciting backcourt.”

Figuring out how to handle three ball dominant perimeter players, including one in Wade where his minutes and workload will be monitored from Day One, will be among his biggest challenges he and the trio faces.

None are great perimeter shooters and Hoiberg has made no secret of wanting to play a fast pace offense where 3-pointers can fly early and often.

“It’s gonna take sacrifice,” Hoiberg said. “When you have guys who can put up big numbers every night, there’s gonna be sacrifice involved and guys will have to buy into their roles. It may not be your night every time you take the floor. But if everybody buys in, we have a chance to do a lot of good things this year.”

He worked Rondo out last week, helping him with a hitch in his shot that he hopes will lead to improved outside shooting (36 percent last season). With Wade, the two exchanged texts about what Hoiberg foresees as an evolving vision of what the offense could look like early.

“Those guys will be in, in September to help the young guys along and start developing that important chemistry which is the most important thing for our group next year,” he said. “You have two guys who’ll be good in that department. You have Jimmy, a young player, young superstar who’s grown into that role. It’s gonna be good and hopefully it’ll click early.”

With “hopefully” being the key word, he admits there isn’t an expectation for things to look smoothly from the onset, as figuring out ways to maximize the shooting while likely having two of the three perimeter players on the floor and getting enough defense and rebounding at the same time.

“We’ll have to have the right rotations out there,” Hoiberg said. “It probably won’t be the first week where we’re clicking and everything is determined.”

He made the comparison in terms of the circumstances to perhaps the best team he played on, the 2003-04 Minnesota Timberwolves. Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell were added to a team that couldn’t escape the first round and they went to the Western Conference Finals on the back of MVP Kevin Garnett.

“We had three strong personalities, three very good players,” Hoiberg said. “It took a while but once it got going we were off and running and had the best record in the West.”

In context, no one can expect the Bulls to be the best team in the East, but people should expect a better working relationship between Hoiberg and Butler — especially when you factor in Wade’s presence in the locker room as a mature adult who won’t be fazed by little issues that seemed to plague the Bulls last season.

But Butler and Hoiberg have improved their relationship on their own, according to the second-year Bulls coach.

“Jimmy and I have had a lot of conversations,” he said. “There’s a lot of things (that happened) last year. The big thing was the comment after the New York game…We got it handed to us and the comment was made.”

In what has been repeated ad nauseam, Butler called for the mild-mannered Hoiberg to “coach us harder” after a two-game stretch in December that saw the Bulls lose a four-overtime game against the Pistons followed by getting waxed by the Knicks the next night.

It put Hoiberg in an awkward position of sorts and Butler received criticism for calling out his coach publicly. No matter where people sat in terms of the comments, it made for scrutinized co-existence that will only be more scrutinized until the wins start piling up.

“We had a lot of conversations and I don’t see any issues with Jimmy Butler and I,” Hoiberg said. “The biggest thing as a staff is we have 15 guys that we gotta coach and hopefully put them in situations and utilize their skill sets and get the most out of them.”

The Bulls aren't trading for Kawhi Leonard, but what would a potential deal look like?

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USA TODAY

The Bulls aren't trading for Kawhi Leonard, but what would a potential deal look like?

The Bulls aren't trading for Kawhi Leonard.

Let's get that out of the way before continuing on.

At this stage in their rebuild the Bulls are interested in acquiring pieces - they dealt a Kawhi-like Jimmy Butler 12 months ago for three core parts - and have two picks in next week's NBA Draft.

The Spurs will have myriad options on where to send Leonard, the two-time All-Star and 2014 Finals MVP, and offers will pour in from everywhere. Leonard could also dictate where he plays next season, as he has one year remaining on his deal and will be a free agent after the 2019 season. Certainly a team giving up the assets required to get Leonard would want to know their All-Pro intends on staying.

So that's why. Whichever team deals for Leonard (assuming he is dealt) will be able to put together a more enticing package than the Bulls could (think Boston, the Lakers, Philadelphia). Leonard also reportedly prefers to play in Los Angeles or New York. No mention of Chicago.

But! It's Friday afternoon and we can only churn out so much draft content before our own heads begin spinning. So we figured we would put together the best deal the Bulls could offer for Leonard.

First off, the Bulls would need a gaurantee from Leonard that he intended to re-sign. Like Butler, Leonard wouldn't be able for the supermax extension if he leaves the Spurs. Instead, Leonard could sign a five-year, $188 million max deal with the Bulls, averaging $37.6 million per year.

The Bulls would get a 26-year-old All-Pro just about to enter the prime of his career. Make no mistake about it: Kawhi Leonard is a superstar. It's easy to forget because he played in just nine games last year, but Leonard is just a year removed from a season in which he averaged 25.5 points on 48 percent shooting, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals in 33.4 minutes. Oh, and he's won two Defensive Player of the Year awards in 2015 and 2016.

The Bulls would have Leonard through his age 31 season and would give the Bulls a souped-up version of Jimmy Butler, and perhaps one that could get them closer to contention in an Eastern Conference that may be without LeBron James.

The price would be steep. All-Rookie Lauri Markkanen would be the centerpiece of any deal. The Spurs have utilized versatile, small-ball lineups well in the past and adding Markkanen would be like a cheat code for Gregg Popovich. He'd slot in well next to LaMarcus Aldridge, who played 62 percent of his minutes at center last year, according to Basketball Reference. That was the most minutes he had played at center since his rookie season.

The Bulls would also have to include the 7th and 22nd picks in next week's draft, which only makes the deal more unlikely (from 0.01 percent to 0.005 percent). San Antonio could pursue a wing like Mikal Bridges or Kevin Knox and add him to a core that would include Dejounte Murray, Markkanen and Aldridge. The Spurs also have the 18th pick, so they could conceivably have five core players (Markkanen, Murray, 7, 18, 22) 21 years or younger to complement the 32-year-old Aldridge, who bounced back in a big way last season (ironically without Leonard).

Adding Justin Holiday's $4.615 million salary to the deal makes the money work and gives the Spurs another perimeter shooter.

What would the Bulls look like? Well, needless to say they would have found their wing.

Building around Leonard would include Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Bobby Portis. With Markkanen gone, Portis would be in line for a significant contract extension and a much larger role in the offense; his per-36 numbers were on par with Kevin Love's and Joel Embiid's a year ago.

PG: Kris Dunn
SG: Zach LaVine
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: Bobby Portis
C: Robin Lopez

Alas, this deal is not happening. We can only hope to have angered some of you at this hypothetical, fun mock trade.

A history of teams moving in to the top 5 of the NBA Draft and what it might cost the Bulls

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USA TODAY

A history of teams moving in to the top 5 of the NBA Draft and what it might cost the Bulls

It’s difficult to move up in the NBA Draft. Like, really difficult. More often than not it costs more than it should – like free agency – because teams are aware you’re moving up to go after a specific player. Few, if any, teams move up in the draft to position themselves better on draft night. So, you want Player X and don’t think he’ll be around when you pick? Ante up. Show us how much Player X means to your franchise.

Moving up in the top 5 is even more difficult and expensive (duh). The most recent examples are Philadelphia dealing with Boston last year, going from No. 3 to No. 1. The cost was Sacramento’s 2019 first-round pick, which will likely be in the first half of the lottery. In 2009 the Timberwolves dealt two key rotation pieces – Randy Foye and Mike Miller – to the Wizards for the No. 5 pick. In retrospect that doesn’t seem like much, but Foye was three years removed from being the No. 7 pick and had just averaged 16.3 points in 70 games; Miller was 28 and one of the better 3-point shooters in the league.

And when trying to move inside the top 5, you have to go all the way back to 2005. And that’s where Bulls fans should start paying attention.

The Utah Jazz were in desperate need of a point guard after cycling through the likes of Carlos Arroyo, Raul Lopez, Howard Eisley and Keith McLeod (who?) in the two years after John Stockton’s 2002 retirement. Utah had the fifth best odds in the Lottery after a 26-win season and, like the 2018 Bulls, were bumped back a spot after Milwaukee jumped from sixth to first.

Moving back one spot didn’t seem like much on the surface, but it was significant; there were three point guards near the top of the class – Illinois’ Deron Williams, Wake Forest’s Chris Paul and North Carolina’s Raymond Felton – who all had the chance to go in the top 5, along with the consensus top pick Andrew Bogut and the potential-oozing freshman Marvin Williams. Utah GM XXXXXX said the team was interested in Paul or Williams.

So here the Jazz were, sitting at No. 6 with the potential to see the three point guards go ahead of them. In hindsight, the next point guard wouldn’t be taken until Nate Robinson at No. 21. There were three clear-cut top point guards in the class, and Utah needed one of them.

So they found a trade partner. The Portland Trail Blazers had selected high school phenom Sebastian Telfair with the No. 13 pick the previous season, and were ready to hand him the keys to the offense with Damon Stoudamire set for free agency. Not necessarily needing a point guard, Portland became the perfect trading partner for a team looking to move up. Enter the Jazz.

In addition to the No. 6 pick, Utah also had the 27th pick thanks to a draft-night deal the previous season with Dallas.

Armed with assets, hours before the start of the 2005 draft the Jazz sent No. 6, No. 27 and a future first-round pick to the Blazers for the No. 3 pick. The caveat here – as it will later pertain to the Bulls – is that the future first was actually Detroit’s first-round pick in 2006; the Jazz had traded point guard Carlos Arroyo to the Pistons for a first-round pick, which was widely expected to be near the end of the first round. Detroit went 64-18 in ’05-06 and the pick wound up being No. 30; Utah kept its own pick in 2006, which wound up being No. 14.

That was the cost. Three first-round picks, though admittedly No. 27 and the contending Pistons’ pick weren’t oozing with value. Utah selected Williams over Paul, Portland got Martell Webster at No. 6 and used the other two picks on Linas Kleiza and a year later Joel Freeland.

How does this affect the Bulls? They’re in a similar situation as Utah…kind of. The Jazz had missed the playoffs each of the previous two seasons post-Stockton but felt they were turning a corner with 23-year-olds Carlos Boozer and Andrei Kirilenko leading the way. In fact, their eight leading scorers from the previous season were 28 or younger. They were on the right path if they could find a point guard to play with Boozer, Kirilenko, Matt Harpring, Mehmet Okur and Raja Bell.

The Bulls aren’t exactly one specific piece away like Utah clearly was – they’d miss the playoffs the following year but then win between 48 and 54 games each of the next four seasons after. But they could be targeting someone specific in the top 4 of the draft. And they just so happen to have assets, and just so happen to have two teams reportedly willing to move back in a deep class.

Memphis reportedly would like to move back, and if possible add Chandler Parsons’ absurd contract to a deal. This seems like a plausible idea at face value, but the Grizzlies are going to want something substantial in return. They tanked hard – Marc Gasol “rested” eight games after the All-Star break, with Memphis losing all eight of those – for a reason, and they aren’t going to attach their main asset to a deal just to get rid of Parsons’ remaining $49 million. Freeing up cap space is nice, but at what cost? Memphis isn’t in a positon to win now. True, they’d like to try and contend with Gasol (two years left) and Mike Conley (three years left) but attaching the 4th pick to Parsons is different from the Raptors attaching two picks to DeMarre Carroll in a trade with Brooklyn last year; that Raptors pick wound up being No. 29, as the Raptors knew they’d be contending.

The Bulls might entertain a deal of the Nos. 7 and 22 picks for No. 4 and Parsons. If Parsons weren’t included in the deal, it could still get done if Bobby Portis were added. The Bulls love Portis, but he’ll need a significant contract extension in 13 months and Lauri Markkanen has the power forward position on lockdown.

The Hawks are also a potential trade option. They reportedly are looking to move down and still be able to draft Trae Young, who could supplant a disgruntled Dennis Schroder at the point. Again, a package of the Nos. 7 and 22 picks plus Portis could be enough to get the deal done; Atlanta drafted forward John Collins a year ago but he doesn’t offer much as a pick-and-pop power forward. Portis would give them a solid complement. Then again, Atlanta couldn’t be sure Young would be available at 7, especially considering Orlando is picking No. 6 and has a serious need at the point.

Who would the Bulls be targeting at No. 3 or No. 4? Rumors are everywhere so it’s difficult to pinpoint. Michael Porter Jr. could now go as high as No. 2 to the Sacramento. That would mean international sensation Luka Doncic falls. Marvin Bagley’s name has been quiet for a while, while Jaren Jackson Jr. is having “monster workouts” that have him flying up draft boards. We won’t speculate.

For now just know that trading in to the top 5 is difficult. You need the assets to do it (check), a team with enough talent that moving up will push the franchise forward (check), a willing trade partner (check) and a player you really want (check?). The pieces are there for a potential move-up, but actually pulling the trigger is far more difficult than just writing about it.