Fred Hoiberg: Bulls starting five an evolving matter


Fred Hoiberg: Bulls starting five an evolving matter

Whether it was truly a last-second decision to change the starting lineup or a coy tactic to keep an opponent off track will always be a subject for debate in Fred Hoiberg’s first year. But switching out Tony Snell for Doug McDermott proves set ideals in this transition will probably be thrown out the window.

“It probably will be an evolving thing,” Hoiberg said. “We made the decision with Doug really just about an hour before the game when we made that final decision to start him. It wasn’t anything that we were not pleased with. It was just a rotation thing and we wanted to have a secondary defender with (Kevin) Durant in case Jimmy (Butler) got in foul trouble, which happened. Tony was able to come off the bench fresh and give some good quality minutes on Durant at the defensive end.”

Until Mike Dunleavy comes back from his back surgery, something that could be at least several weeks away, who starts could be dependent on matchups for that night.

[MORE: A more aggressive Derrick Rose benefiting Bulls]

McDermott said he was informed at Thursday morning’s shootaround and definitively told before the Bulls’ 104-98 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, where only at the latter did Hoiberg leave the door cracked for a change in the first five.
For what it’s worth, McDermott had enough time to call his mother back home and for her to get on a flight to Chicago for his first career start, a feat he didn’t take lightly no matter the circumstances.

“I think it was just a better matchup for me against (Andre) Roberson than against (Dion) Waiters or any of those guys,” McDermott said. “So yeah, I found out at shootaorund and informed me before the game again to make sure.”

In his first career start, McDermott scored nine points in 23 minutes but his presence didn’t stop the Bulls from getting off to a slow start, prompting Hoiberg to put in a couple new sets offensively to stimulate movement.

But it doesn’t mean for sure McDermott is starting Saturday against Dallas, although it would be a decent bet to assume so.
“I don’t know, it’s all depends on who Minnesota goes with to be honest,” McDermott said. “I’ll be ready for either, it really doesn’t matter to me. As long as I’m contributing to winning, that’s all that matters.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

If Hoiberg was oblivious to the possible mixed signals he sent before Thursday’s game, he was even less aware of the mini-panic that took place in the wake of Tuesday’s embarrassing loss to the Charlotte Hornets—quelled by the relief of Thursday’s encouraging win.

“You want to play your best when it matters most. Right now, we’ve had a couple really good performances. We beat Cleveland opening night and OKC,” Hoiberg said. “The other ones, we played really well for stretches. A big chunk of that Orlando game, we played maybe as well as we have all year. It’s trying to build towards that ultimate goal, playing your best basketball when it matters most. And that’s playoff time, which is a long way away.”

“It’s just the highs and lows of the season. The good thing is the way our guys bounced back after that awful loss we had. Now here’s the flip side: We had a great emotional win and you have to move past that one.”

Wendell Carter Jr. is now 6 feet, 9 inches---and other Bulls' height adjustments

USA Today

Wendell Carter Jr. is now 6 feet, 9 inches---and other Bulls' height adjustments

With player heights long a topic of question and debate, the NBA informed teams that all players must be measured by a team physician this training camp.

It’s all part of the league’s push towards transparency, which includes detailed reports on officiating and other initiatives.

So who grew and who shrank among the Bulls?

Wendell Carter Jr. dropped from 6 feet, 10 inches to 6-foot-9, which will do nothing to change the narrative that he's an undersized big man. Kris Dunn moved from 6-4 to 6-3. Daniel Gafford isn’t 6-11, as first advertised when drafted, but 6-10. And Denzel Valentine is no longer 6-6 but 6-4.

The Bulls even pushed down Coby White’s flamboyant hairstyle and discovered he’s 6-4, not 6-5.

As for those who grew, well, Zach LaVine’s All-Star candidacy now features him as a 6-6 guard, not 6-5. New big man Luke Kornet is really big; he’s 7-2, not 7-1. And Shaq Harrison somehow grew from 6-4 to 6-7.

That’s the official Bulls’ roster. 

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Insider K.C. Johnson calls Bulls the 'sexy pick' to make the postseason but tempers expectations

Insider K.C. Johnson calls Bulls the 'sexy pick' to make the postseason but tempers expectations

On the 2019 NBA Preview Show, NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson broke down what it would truly take for the Bulls to make the jump into playoff contention following a particularly tough 22-win season. 

Johnson, like most of the national NBA landscape, is optimistic about the prospects of the 2019-20 Bulls. He stated that it is "widely accepted that they had a pretty strong offseason," but cautioned us against simply penciling in the Bulls for a playoff spot this season. 

Despite the additions of savvy veterans like Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young, the Bulls still enter the 2019-20 NBA regular season as the second-youngest team in the NBA, as good of a reason as any to temper expectations.

That being said, the Bulls, from a simple talent standpoint, are much better than last year's squad that featured a ton of injuries and many Windy City Bulls/NBA G League call-ups. 

With a new coaching staff around head coach Jim Boylen and a new offensive philosophy, things will be very different in Chicago this season.

But as Johnson stated in Tuesday's 2019 NBA Preview Show, for the Bulls to achieve their ultimate goal of reaching the postseason, "basically, all of those [free agent] additions need to hit.

"You need to see Tomas Satoransky prove that he can be a full-time starter at that point guard position, you need to see Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen take a step towards stardom, you need to see Otto Porter Jr. stay healthy enough to contribute at that small forward position and you need to see Wendell Carter Jr. hit the two-way potential that the organization believes he has... and Coby White... needs to bring you something off the bench."

If that sounds like a lot, that's because it is and it appropriately represents the amount of work needed to make the leap from 22-wins to a playoff spot. 

What the Bulls have working on their side as of now is that everything we have seen and heard from the team throughout preseason has indicated that there is good shot that every one of the things K.C. Johnson named happens. 

Carter was limited to just 44 games due to injury last season and while he has looked rusty in the preseason, he has also had some explosive finishes and shown his trademark appetite for help defense and blocked shots. Carter blocked 2.0 shots per game over two preseason games but was abysmal in terms of his offensive efficiency (26.7% from the field), something to keep an eye on throughout the first week of regular-season games. 

Boylen recently made comments about managing Porter's workload, so clearly keeping Porter healthy amid the backdrop of the Bulls questionable wing depth is already something the organization has discussed and seems to have a concrete plan for. 

Satoransky has shown that he can comfortably handle the starting duties at the one as Johnson suggested, averaging 7.5 points, 4.8 assists, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.2 steals per game while being lights-out from 3-point range (80% on 1.2 attempts per game). And while Sato represents the steady hand, Coby White represents the true "boom-or-bust" option in the backcourt, capable of going off for 25+ points or fading into the background while playing more of an off-ball role. 

The factor that Johnson mentioned that will have the greatest impact on the 2019-20 Bulls season is if Markkanen and LaVine can take a step towards superstardom.

LaVine looks clearly poised to do so, finishing the preseason third in the league in scoring at 23.2 points per game on 59.3/56.0/ 83.3 shooting splits. Markkanen, on the other hand, struggled to find his shot and despite being one of the top-three scoring options on the team, struggled to get his scoring average just over 11.0 points per game (11.2). 

It is only preseason action, so all results are to be taken with a grain of salt. But as we gear up for the start of the Bulls games that count on Wednesday, it is clear that the national outlook on the Bulls is much rosier than it has been in the past.

Johnson stated that the Bulls are indeed shaping up as a "sexy pick" to make the playoffs and that alone is a monumental step in the right direction as the franchise looks to put last season's disappointment further in the rearview mirror. 

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