When the Bulls hired Fred Hoiberg, they touted his offensive acumen and system that would bring more pace, movement and 3-pointers. The first couple of seasons of #Hoiball didn’t really pan out, in part because the personnel wasn’t suited for that style, and last season the offense ranked toward the bottom of the league thanks to a lack of talent.
However, the Bulls at least tried to run Hoiberg’s system the way he prefers. They were in the top 10 in pace, assist percentage and 3-point attempts. And in NBA.com’s John Schuhmann’s One Team, One Stat season preview series, he focused on all the movement in the Bulls’ offense:
The Bulls had the league’s largest increase in player movement and the second-largest increase in ball movement. They also were one of three teams (Warriors, 76ers) to finish in the top five in both player and ball movement.
Looking ahead to this season, the question is if the Bulls can continue to embrace Hoiberg’s offensive philosophy while also improving their efficiency. Losing Lauri Markkanen for almost a quarter of the season won’t help matters, but a healthy Zach LaVine and an influx of offensive talent should theoretically make the Bulls a better offensive team.
Of course, there are some concerns about fit and whether a roster with LaVine, Jabari Parker and Kris Dunn as three high-usage players in the starting lineup will keep the ball moving and be efficient. These guys are talented players with potential, but there’s some tendency for one-on-one play and taking tough shots among them. Schuhmann noted that Parker ranked 11th out of 12 Bucks rotation players in assist ratio.
So far through three preseason games, the results have been mostly poor without Markkanen. The Bulls have played at a blistering pace of 108.17 (preseason pace is always higher), but they have a terrible offensive rating of 96.6, per NBA.com. Their assist percentage is a puny 52.1 and their 28.7 3-point attempts per game is in the lower half of the league. All five of the starters have an on-court offensive rating under 90, with Robin Lopez under 80.
LaVine has had two outstanding scoring performances sandwiched around a dud, though he only has four total assists and one in the last two games. Parker has been absolutely dreadful shooting the ball (24.3 percent) and has had a rather questionable shot profile, with a heavy dose of though mid-range jumpers. Dunn has shot the ball well but is barely taking any 3-pointers. The entire team has really struggled from 3-point land (24.4 percent).
It’s obviously only a small preseason sample, and some of these numbers are going to drastically improve. They’ll make more 3s and Parker won’t be this awful. But the Bulls haven’t done much to alleviate the concerns surrounding this roster (the defense hasn’t been any good either).
- While the Bulls’ offense tanked last season, they had the league’s largest increase in the percentage of their shots that came from 3.
- A few stats contributing to the Bulls’ offensive offensive suckage last year: League’s biggest drop in offensive rebounding percentage, worst offense against top-10 defenses, worst isolation success rate in league, lack of free-throw shooting. The lineup of Dunn, Markkanen, Lopez, Denzel Valentine and Justin Holiday tied for the lowest free-throw rate among high-usage lineups. The Bulls should see an improvement in some of these areas.
- The Bulls were awful defensively last season, giving up the highest percentage of shots in the restricted area or 3-point range. They had the league’s biggest increase in the percentage of shots allowed from 3. They were last in blocks per game and had the league’s biggest increase in opponent free-throw rate. They couldn’t defend inside or out, and they were the worst in the league in defending in transition. All signs point to the Bulls not being much better this year on that end, though the selection of Wendell Carter Jr. should help the rim protection.
- Dunn had the biggest jump in usage rate among high-minute players. His true shooting percentage was still poor at 48.8, but hopefully that improves with a little less responsibility.
- Holiday had the biggest home-road differential when it came to 3-point shooting (42 percent at home, 30 percent on the road). He was also one of four players to shoot under 50 percent in the restricted area on at least 100 attempts. Holiday is a solid role player and was part of the Bulls’ two-man combinations with the highest offensive rating (with Bobby Portis) and lowest defensive rating (with Lopez) among returning players, but his flaws were glaring when he was asked to do too much. He has had a rough start to the preseason, and it will be interesting to see if he sticks in the starting lineup even with Markkanen out. Valentine may get a chance down the line if Holiday struggles, though I still marvel at Valentine’s comically poor free-throw rate.
- Markkanen was one of six players to average seven rebounds and two 3-pointers per game, and he was the first rookie in NBA history to do it. He also had the highest defensive rebounding percentage among high-minute rookies, though his assist rate was the lowest among that same group of 29 players.
- Lopez had the lowest rate of fourth-quarter playing time among players who played at least 1,000 minutes. Don’t be surprised if that continues with the addition of Carter and Hoiberg’s desire to play smaller in crunch time. I wonder if Lopez will have a Keith Bogans-esque role this season, or if Carter winds up starting sooner rather than later.