After a surprisingly hot start to the season, the Bulls offense has not so surprisingly regressed to what we thought it would be.
Even though this year’s roster makes little to no sense any way you look at it, there are still ways to adjust for it and get creative. Unfortunately to this point, we’ve seen no sort of creativity from the once heralded, “offensive guru.”
What follows are just a few of the ways that Hoiberg could, but has failed to be creative with the Bulls plummeting offense.
The biggest storyline following the Bulls right now is their point guard situation. We don’t need to dive too much into it considering I think most of us by now know everything that’s transpired over the season, and well, days.
There’s not one good option on the Bulls roster right now for point guard, which is due to poor decision-making from the front office, but also development from the players themselves. But though we know this, we’ve still too rarely seen Hoiberg throw out non-point guard lineups, letting Wade or Butler become the lead ball-handler. In fact, the one lineup that would appear to make the most sense; Butler, Wade, McDermott, Niko and Taj Gibson, has only seen TWO MINUTES the entire season. The other variation of this lineup, with Robin Lopez in place of Gibson, has only seen a total of THREE minutes.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that either one of those two lineups would be the best that Fred could put out on the floor. And yet we haven’t seen those lineups at all. With Niko (even with his inconsistencies) and McDermott it would provide optimal spacing for Butler and Wade. Moreover, with their spacing of the floor, it will create more room for Butler/ Wade and Gibson/RoLo pick-and-rolls etc. Then you can get into the off-ball cutting that it’ll create or the weak-side action that can be implemented with either Niko or McDermott.
Needless to say, there are more options and opportunities available when you put out a lineup consisting of the teams five or six best players.
Drag screens were a huge aspect of Hoiberg’s offense while at Iowa State, and it was thought that that would continue with the Bulls. But as we’ve seen over the past year and a half, that too hasn’t been the case. Last season around this same time, I wrote about the Bulls need for more drag screens as a way to generate the offense in the halfcourt, and that remains true again this season.
Rarely have we seen it at all this season, but the few times we have it’s been effective.
For a team that has struggled with heavy stagnation and isolations, encouraging the bigs to set more drag screens would serve them well in reducing that issue. Setting these type of screens for Butler and Wade can get them going downhill quicker, which in turn can result in more looks in the paint, and trips to the foul line. In addition, it generates more movement in the halfcourt, earlier in the shot clock. But probably more importantly, it puts the defense on its heels, essentially in a scramble situation as they recover from the early PnR roll action.
As a coach who used these type of screens often in his offense at Iowa State, it’s disappointing to see it left in the dark, especially for a team who could desperately utilize them.
Fred’s creativity out of the PnR is particularly upsetting, considering he has the likes of McDermott and Niko on the roster. With shooters such as those two, using them as the screener and roll man out of the PnR can present an offense with a lot of different looks. However, Hoiberg has hardly entertained the idea of doing such, using bigs like RoLo, Gibson, Cristiano Felcio almost exclusively as the screener and roll man.
On the season, McDermott has only registered 0.1 possessions per game as the roll man out of the PnR, or a frequency of 1.1% if you’re keeping track at home. For Niko the numbers don’t get any better, with only mustering one possession per game as the roll man, a frequency of 10.1%.
While at Creighton, McDermott as we all know was one of the best power forwards in NCAA history. His father Greg, used him heavily in the PnR (among other ways) on his way to over 3,000 career points. So it’s not as if Doug has no idea how to play out of the PnR as the roll man.
That 0.1 possession per game from Doug? Above is one of two I believe on the season, which absolutely absurd. Look how much attention Jimmy draws off the PnR, and how wide open McDermott is for three:
These two, more so McDermott should be used in the PnR with Butler and Wade damn near every time down the floor. If the defense sticks with Butler or Wade then you get wide open looks like above. But if the defense stays with the roll man, have it be McDermott or Niko, then there’s more room to drive.
It’s amazing how simple some of these concepts, which makes it all the more baffling that we haven’t seen them this season. Yes, Fred’s been given a shitty hand in terms of roster construction, but even then he has to be able to adapt and utilize his best players strengths. To this point, he hasn’t done himself any favors as he’s failed to do any of those things.