Little by little, Hoiberg implementing his exhaustive offensive system


Little by little, Hoiberg implementing his exhaustive offensive system

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.

[MORE: Bulls: McDermott seemingly starting from scratch in Summer League]

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.

[RELATED: New Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has low-key opening in Summer League]

“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.”

The 1995-1998 Bulls belong on the list of 10 greatest lineups in NBA history


The 1995-1998 Bulls belong on the list of 10 greatest lineups in NBA history

Listen, Tom. We like you. A lot. You do incredible work and you give us shoutouts. But we had to read through your latest piece, “Ranking the 10 greatest lineups in NBA history,” a few times before realizing you had a massive omission.

We present the following: The 1995-1998 Chicago Bulls.

PG: Ron Harper
SG: Michael Jordan
SF: Scottie Pippen
PF: Toni Kukoc
C: Dennis Rodman

Total All-Star appearances: 23
MVP Players: 1
DPOY Players: 2
Finals MVP Players: 1
Titles won together: 3

We thank you for mentioning Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in your piece. They were pretty good, we agree. We’ll dig a little deeper on those two to begin our argument. From 1995 to 1998, Jordan averaged 29.6 points on 48% shooting, 6.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.9 steals. He also didn’t miss a game, playing in 304 of a possible 304 games. He was also named league MVP twice and Finals MVP all three years. Pippen wasn’t too shabby a sidekick, averaging 19.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists in that three-year span.

These guys were all-time greats, but you might have forgotten that they weren’t alone.

All Dennis Rodman did in this three-season span was lead the league in rebounding all three years (15.3 per game). He wasn’t the same All-Star talent that he was in his Detroit days – also a two-time Defensive Player of the Year – and his San Antonio stint but he was still critical to the Bulls’ success. The Worm had a little bit of Draymond Green in him, not afraid to take on any defensive assignment to allow the Bulls a little more versatility. He got assignments of Shawn Kemp and Karl Malone in the Finals.

Kukoc is where we bend the rules a bit, but we hope you’ll allow it (mostly because our argument turns to dust if we need to talk about Luc Longley). Kukoc was the 1996 Sixth Man of the Year (hey, you said they could be closing lineups, too) and was a model of consistency in those three seasons. He averaged 13.2 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists and gave the Bulls another ball handler and distributor, as well as versatile defense. He’s at times the forgotten gem of the Jerry Krause era, and he’s more than just a funny story from the Dream Team era.

The Bulls had their Iguodala, too. Ron Harper averaged a modest 7.7 points and 2.7 assists in these three seasons with the Bulls. But he also did it with a 14.9% usage rate. That was lower than Bill Wennington’s usage rate of 17.0% in that same span! Let’s not forget that Harper had averaged 19.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists in eight seasons with the Cavaliers and Clippers before signing with the Jordan-less Bulls. He would have had a much larger and more effective role had Jordan not returned (we’re glad he did). In 1998, Harper also had the pleasure of guarding Gary Payton and John Stockton in the Bulls’ three Finals victories. Have you had enough of the Iggy comparisons yet?

So there it is. Five incredible players to put together three remarkable championship seasons that included the Greatest Team in the History of Basketball (our capitalization intended). Feel free to update your story as needed.

NBA removes Omer Asik's contract, giving Bulls additional $3 million in cap space


NBA removes Omer Asik's contract, giving Bulls additional $3 million in cap space

The Bulls will have an additional $3 million to use in free agency this summer after the NBA ruled in favor of clearing Omer Asik's contract from their books, according to Stadium's Shams Charania.

Two months ago the Bulls applied for cap relief to have Asik's $3 million contract removed from their books. Asik, who was ruled out in September 2018 with inflammatory arthritis, never played again and was waived in October. The move saved the Bulls $8 million at the time, and the arthritis that forced him out of basketball will now save the Bulls an additional $3 million.

The Bulls now have upwards of $23 million to use in free agency. Mark Schanowski looked at how they might use that cash this summer.

Asik was originally traded to the Bulls in 2018, along with a first-round draft pick, in exchange for power forward Nikola Mirotic. Asik played in just four games after the trade, averaging 1.0 points and 2.5 rebounds in 15.3 minutes. The Bulls used that first round pick on Chandler Hutchison, while Mirotic thrived in the second half and postseason for the New Orleans Pelicans.