Chicago turns to new coach Fred Hoiberg in hopes he can help them realize their long-sought dream of a return to The Finals
POSTED: Sep 22, 2015 9:20 AM ET
2014-15 Chicago Bulls Top 10
Here are the Chicago Bulls Top 10 plays of the 2014-15 season.
Since the Warriors grabbed their first NBA title in 40 years in June, NBA teams have undergone a number of changes over the summer break. NBA.com will evaluate the state of each franchise in the month of September with a look at 30 teams in 30 days.
Today's Team: Chicago Bulls | All 30 Teams
Who's gone: Coach Tom Thibodeau
Who's new: Coach Fred Hoiberg, Bobby Portis
The Lowdown: The only major change the Bulls felt they needed to make was at a position in which some felt should stay unchanged. But Tom Thibodeau is gone and Fred Hoiberg is here and the Bulls hope this will allow them to take that last, slippery step toward the promised land.
Yes, we use the word "promised" because since Derrick Rose's Kia MVP season way back in 2011, the Bulls always seemed poised and destined to reach the NBA Finals. They had a young core, solid defensive instincts and a centerpiece player. What could go wrong?
Well, things happened. And here they are, still with Rose and enough quality pieces to reach The Finals, especially in the weak East. Because of that, the Bulls elected not to tamper with the front end of the rotation this summer and once again will place a fair amount of their chances on the health and ability of Rose.
Is that a risk? Well, if there was a gap between Rose and the rest of the Bulls, then yes. But the Bulls are far less dependant on Rose now than in 2011, which is both good and bad. It's good because Jimmy Butler, Pau Gasol and a few others can carry the load some nights. It's bad because that means Rose is no longer the superstar he once was.
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The biggest move besides changing coaches was giving Butler a massive $87.8 million contract. No question, Butler had a terrific 2014-15 season, became an All-Star and won Kia Most Improved Player honors. But it represented his only great season. He's being paid like a star but he doesn't always carry himself like a star in crucial moments, and this isn't his entire fault. Butler often yields to Rose in those moments, and this is where Hoiberg comes in. The new coach must reach through the superstar-exterior of Rose and explain how the game has changed.
Not only can't Rose carry a team like before, he doesn't need to, not with the support around him. That's a conversation Hoiberg and Rose need to have, if it hasn't happened already. When Rose learns to adjust his game and become more of a facilitator instead of playing hero-ball, the morale around the Bulls will likely change for the better. And it will improve his relationship with Butler, which wasn't the best last season.
Rose still has explosiveness and can reach the rim, but he's not very efficient offensively. His shooting percentage last season was just 40.5 percent (28.6 percent from deep) and too often he forced shots in a vain attempt to roll back the clock to 2011. Rose seemed so hell-bent on proving he could be an MVP candidate that he didn't even make the All-Star team. In the right situation and system, he can be good -- and even great -- again, but it'll take an adjustment on his part.
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The other hurdle facing the Bulls is with Joakim Noah. He was a mess last season, a shell of the player who was mentioned in MVP talk a season earlier. Noah's performance in the playoffs was just short of embarrassing and he was toasted by the likes of hard-working Tristan Thompson, who out-Noah'd Noah. Was Noah's drop-off due to overuse by Thibodeau, nagging injuries, or has his career simply careened in the wrong direction? This season is his walk season, so we'll find out quickly.
To help on the boards, the Bulls drafted blue-collar Bobby Portis, who isn't afraid to get his fingernails dirty. If Portis comes as advertised, it might make Taj Gibson trade bait, especially if Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott blossom and make the front line crowded.
Ultimately, much of the Bulls' failure or success will rest on whether they buy what Hoiberg is selling. Bulls management has loved Hoiberg for years, even before he took the coaching job at Iowa State. He was always on their radar and therefore always projected to be the Bulls' coach at some point, and that time is now.
He's a former NBA (and Bulls) player whose strengths are relating to players and formulating a system that fits the talent of his team. In Chicago, his primary job will be to put Rose in a position that benefits both the player and the team.
Right away, Hoiberg finds himself in a situation that begs for urgency. The Bulls have the personnel to go deep into the playoffs. All they needed is an offense that plays to their strengths and spreads the wealth. They should be one of the biggest threats to the Cavs, or maybe the No. 1 threat. Anything less is an underachievement.
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