After Kris Dunn went down and exposed the Bulls lack of roster planning at the point guard position, I really expected the Bulls to become a league-worst disaster. Maybe bad enough for Bulls management to look past any nebulous performance benchmarks from Fred Hoiberg and pull the plug on their head coach.
But especially after the night the Warriors embarrassed them at home, the Bulls have not been playing that poorly. Some of it has been flukey single-game performances and a relatively soft home-heavy schedule, but Hoiberg has done some actual coaching to keep things relatively afloat. They’re still very much adrift, but not sunk (and other boat analogies).
As Stephen Noh more intricately details at The Athletic, the Bulls have temporarily given up their goal to jump on league trends three years after everyone else, and instead have slowed the game down.
Rather than exciting and high-powered, the Bulls’ attack has been mostly slow and dull. But it has also kept them in games and been a smart and purposeful strategic adjustment....The debacle against the Warriors in the Bulls’ seventh game of the season was a turning point for this team. In giving up 92 first-half points, the coaching staff realized that they did not have the talent on the roster to try and outscore other teams in fast-paced games.
Not only is it a slower attack, but even after pace adjustment the defense has been solid
Since the Warriors’ blowout, the Bulls rank sixth in the NBA in defensive rating, allowing 103.6 points per 100 possessions.
There’s been rotational changes made by Hoiberg as well. There was a ‘Cameron Payne game’ that gave the Bulls one of their wins this season, but he received a DNP-CD on Saturday. Ryan Arcidiacono started, Shaq Harrison was the backup, and each provided a more defensive mindset.
A similar change was made at Center. Wendell Carter Jr. is getting a bulk of the minutes and that has positively impacted team defense. But now backing him up is Robin Lopez instead of Cristiano Felicio. The Bulls have an 81.7 defensive rating in the last 50 minutes Lopez has been on the floor.
So as the Bulls are then ‘in’ games, it allows Zach LaVine to basically run completely in isolation plays down the stretch to try and win it. Sometimes, like against the Knicks, it works!
These moves by Hoiberg, both strategically and personnel-wise, are seemingly thumbing his nose at the organization and instead going on actual performance so his team is indeed more competitive. We’ve been told publicly from management that’s what they want, so it really shouldn’t be a problem.