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The Bulls' New Offense is Not What Fred Hoiberg Promised

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Fred Hoiberg's offense has been a mixed bag in terms of pace, shot selection, and ball movement.

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

The Bulls' offense has been a little below average so far to start the season, ranked 21st in Offensive Rating by NBA.com.

While it is disappointing that the team isn't scoring in bunches, what is even more disconcerting is that they have done pretty much the exact opposite of what Fred Hoiberg promised in terms of shot selection, pace, and ball movement.

Hoiberg was brought in to modernize what many critics called a "stone age" offense. The new NBA has a heavy emphasis on 3 pointers, shots at the rim, and generating early offense. These were supposedly the pillars of Hoiberg's offensive scheme. What has ended up happening so far though is that offensive freedom has become an excuse for players to take bad shots without repercussion.

Bad Shot Selection

The site Nylon Calculus has created a stat that tracks Morey Ball shots, named after Rockets GM Daryl Morey who champions 3 types of shots: 3's, shots at the rim, and shots resulting in free throws.

While Hoiberg was supposed to emphasize these types of shots, the Bulls are ranked 25th in the percentage of Morey Ball shots they take. Let's break down each category (per stats.nba.com):

  • 3 Point Attempts: 11th (up from 16th last year)
  • Shot Attempts Within 5 Feet: 28th (down from 11th last year)
  • Free Throw Attempts: 15th (down from 4th last year)

Hoiberg HAS upped the number of 3's the team has taken, but the Bulls are now near the very bottom of the league in shots at the rim and the strength of last year's team in getting tons of free throws has completely evaporated.

Meanwhile, the Bulls are 5th in the percentage of points their offense produces from the dreaded midrange zone (up from 20th last year).

Basically, the Bulls are taking a massive amount of jump shots. A team that was reliant last year on drawing fouls and finding clever ways to get shots or post ups in the paint is now a jump shooting team that takes way too many long 2's.

Early Offense and Pace:

Hoiberg has emphasized pace a ton. So far, the message hasn't gotten through to his team. The Bulls are 15th in pace, which is up from the 21st place ranking of last year but still not great.

It seems like Hoiberg and Rose have a massive fundamental misunderstanding on what is expected in terms of pace. Rose told reporters after playing the Hornets that he was pleased with his pace, while Hoiberg later specifically addressed it as something Rose had to work on. Rose also ended that game with the slowest pace of anyone on the team.

Hoiberg's whole message of pushing the pace though was the theory that it would help generate early offense, which would lead to better shots. The results have been mixed.

The Bulls are tied for last in the number of transition looks their offense generates. However, they have generally done a good job of getting shots early in the clock as opposed to last year. NBA.com tracks how often teams take shots in different sections of the shot clock. Here is how the Bulls fare:

Time Left on Shot Clock Bulls Rank Frequency
24-22 14th 4.90%
22-18 (very early) 21st 10.60%
18-15 (early) 3rd 19.70%
15-7 (average) 4th 48.40%
7-4 (late) 23rd 7.50%
4-0 (very late) 22nd 5.40%
Shotclock Off 13th 3.50%

The Bulls do pretty well in not taking shots with the shot clock winding down - most of their shots are early in the clock or with an average amount of time. Give Hoiberg credit - this was a big weakness of the team last year and it's an area that the Bulls have improved on. They're not taking the right shots, but at least they're not drawing 24 second violations regularly like previous Bulls teams.

What sticks out is that the team gets most of its shots right in that "average" window. That's a pretty good word to describe this offense - average.


Ball Movement

Another of Hoiberg's offensive principles was that the team would generate more ball movement. Again, that has not been the case. The Bulls are middle of the pack in number of passes they've made and assists per game.

While the Bulls don't pass the ball an extraordinary amount, they do generate the 4th-most amount of points through catch and shoots. Once again, this goes back to the idea that Hoiberg's Bulls are very reliant on jump shots to generate offense.

In areas that the Bulls depended on last year - post ups, pick and roll, and cuts to the basket - the Bulls are either right around league-average or a little below-average in the frequency that they go to these types of plays. In spot ups though, the team is among the league leaders.

Hoiberg can't be pleased with the offense at this point in the season. Of course it's still early, but this is a team that was supposed to generate a ton of quality looks by pushing the ball and attacking high efficiency shot zones.

Instead, we've been given a team that plays at an average pace, shies away from contact, shoots too many long 2's, gets almost nothing in transition, and doesn't get to the rim.

Hoiberg does have good offensive principles, but he needs to find a way to deliver his message because the Bulls aren't getting it. For a coach that emphasizes speed, he'd best do it soon.