[Thanks to Tyler for today's post -yfbb]
Throughout the offseason the excitement surrounding new Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg has been palpable, and as we inch closer and closer to the beginning of training camp it will only continue to strengthen. One of the reasons for that has been his purported offensive genius. I've touched on the subject in-depth previously, but there's a more individualistic aspect of it when focusing on Nikola Mirotic.
Mirotic had the usual ups and downs that rookies experience in their first NBA season, and we were able to see glimpses of his potential (i.e. stretch during March). At 6'10, Mirotic possesses the ability to stretch the floor with his shooting, yet also the skillset to put the ball on the floor to create for him and others.
While struggles during his first season in the NBA were very much expected, former coach Tom Thibodeau's stagnant offense didn't bode well for his skillset either. But as we transition into the Hoiberg era, the offense that he ran while at Iowa State is being pegged to be an idealistic fit for Mirotic. During his tenure with the Cyclones, Hoiberg had the pleasure of utilizing Georges Niang has his point forward. The way in which he used Niang within his offense and the success that followed has me envisioning Mirotic in the same role.
Keeping that in mind, we can take a closer look at how Nikola Mirotic could be exploited in Hoiberg's offense.
Iowa State 5 Out Series
In the video presented above, we have Hoiberg's 5 Out Series, which features Niang, or in hypothetical terms, Mirotic, initiating the offense. Throughout the various clips, we are able to see Niang initiate the offense with some dribble-handoff action that results in either a three-point attempt, drive to the basket, pick-and-roll or a post-up for Niang. It's fairly easy to envision Niko in a role very similar to this, handing the ball off to either Derrick Rose or Jimmy Butler coming hard off a handoff going downhill to the basket. On the other hand, we could also see a role in which Tony Snell, Mike Dunleavy or even Doug McDermott receiving a pitch for a three-point attempt.
Double Drag & Double Zipper Fan
(Fast forward to the 1:02 mark)
(Fast forward to the 24 second mark)
Here we have Iowa State's Double Drag and Double Zipper Fan sets, where the "double" indicates two consecutive screens. In both of these clips, Niang is the second screener, who then in one formation or another, ends up getting an open look for three. These two plays are where it's viable to see Mirotic acting within the same capacity. Furthermore, I believe this is where we'll see Mirotic the most, acting as the first or second screener for either Butler or Rose. Why? Because doing so puts the defense at an enormous disadvantage where the defender guarding Mirotic has to decide whether or not to help on the drive or stay with his man (Niko) popping out for three.
Ram Weak Double
(Fast forward to the 3:32 mark)
Finally, here we have just a basic set, a pick-and-roll on the left side, with a double screen for the shooter on the weak. This is another in which it's feasible to see the pick-and-roll featuring either Rose or Butler with Mirotic, while a double screen is being set for one of Snell, Dunleavy or McDermott. It's also another that creates an advantage for the Bulls, in that while the pick-and-roll between Mirotic and one of Rose or Butler is going on, there's a double screen being set for one of the previously mentioned sharp shooters. In it's essence, this type of set prevents the help defender(s) from cheating too far over to help the PnR, dangerous in itself, because of the weakside double screen that presents it's own dangers.
In the past couple of years the stretch four has become a prominent value for NBA teams. It remains to be seen whether or not Hoiberg will be using Mirotic verbatim as with Niang. But based on past experiences, we are able to see the numerous ways that Mirotic could be featured in the offense for the foreseeable future.
Having Nikola Mirotic presents that exact value for the Chicago Bulls, and his presence on the floor provides ample spacing for the likes of Rose and Butler. Hoiberg is coming in at a an opportune time in which his offensive schemes combined with Mirotic's versatility and skillset should mesh well.