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CHICAGO Bulls

Oct. 26, 2015
Oct. 26, 2015

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Oct. 26, 2015

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CHICAGO Bulls

By B.G.

MODEST PROPOSAL

This is an article from the Oct. 26, 2015 issue

GIVE THE ROOKIE COACH SOME TIME

EAST 3

Steve Kerr did his coaching colleagues no favors by winning an NBA title as a rookie with the Warriors. As if adjusting to a new job, a new environment and a new roster wasn't enough, Kerr had to then go and evaporate the grace period usually afforded to newbies. Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, in particular, will bear the brunt of Kerr-driven comparisons, especially given their other similarities: former sharpshooting guards who starred in Chicago and have front-office experience. Like Kerr, Hoiberg favors a modern "pace and space" approach to offense. Like Kerr, Hoiberg takes over for a successful, stubborn and polarizing coach (Tom Thibodeau) and is tasked with lifting a 50-win team to greatness.

The parallels end, however, once the two teams' rosters are laid side-by-side. Chicago lacks an MVP-caliber centerpiece, and it's difficult to build a space-oriented attack around the nonsplashy three-point shooting of Derrick Rose. Many of the Bulls' key pieces, including big men Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah, will likely struggle to adapt to an up-tempo approach. And, perhaps most important, Chicago's wings aren't loaded with proven marksmen, especially after Mike Dunleavy underwent back surgery in September and won't return until late November at the earliest.

Hoiberg's successful turnaround at Iowa State depended largely on his welcoming transfers, and Chicago's roster might need a similar overhaul. Given the pieces he has inherited, and Rose's ongoing health questions, the Mayor shouldn't be judged too harshly on early returns.

ENEMY LINES

A rival scout sizes up Chicago

I think Fred Hoiberg is going to try to jump-start their offense by separating the two big men [Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah] and going smaller. The big question: Will that affect their elite defense? ... The other obvious question is whether Derrick Rose can stay healthy. Hoiberg needs to explore early whether Rose and Jimmy Butler can coexist and whether Gasol and Noah can coexist or whether he needs to spread out their minutes. They've usually found their best fit when someone is injured. Hurt feelings could sink this team if Hoiberg is not careful.... Rose is trying to find out how to be effective without taking a pounding going to the basket. He's looking for his jump shot more, but he's a shotmaker, not a shooter. Defenses should give him the jumpers all day.... Butler is one of the best two-way players in the league. He turned himself into a playmaker, a top threat on offense. I don't see Chicago being Butler's team as long as Rose is there. That could create some drama for sure.... Gasol was unbelievable at EuroBasket. He was easily the best player on the floor. But I don't think he can start at center on a championship team from a defensive standpoint. Good teams will just go right at him.... It was strange to see how far Noah fell last season. In the past, when Rose was out, they ran the offense through Noah at the elbow. Last year he gave them nothing—less than nothing, because he killed the spacing.... Hoiberg might have Nikola Mirotic and Taj Gibson coming off the bench. Are you kidding me? They have four bigs who could be legitimate starters on almost any team.

PROJECTED LINEUP

2014--15 stats

COACH FRED HOIBERG

(1st season with Bulls)

2014--15 RECORD 50--32

(2nd in Central)

PG DERRICK ROSE

17.7 PPG; 4.9 APG; 40.5 FG%; 28.0 3FG%

SG JIMMY BUTLER

20.0 PPG; 5.8 RPG; 3.3 APG; 46.2 FG%

SF MIKE DUNLEAVY

9.4 PPG; 3.9 RPG; 43.5 FG%; 40.7 3FG%

PF PAU GASOL

18.5 PPG; 11.8 RPG; 1.9 BPG; 49.4 FG%

C JOAKIM NOAH

7.2 PPG; 9.6 RPG; 4.7 APG; 44.5 FG%

BENCH

SG KIRK HINRICH

5.7 PPG; 2.2 APG; 37.3 FG%; 34.5 3FG%

PF TAJ GIBSON

10.3 PPG; 6.4 RPG; 1.2 BPG; 50.2 FG%

PF NIKOLA MIROTIC

10.2 PPG; 4.9 RPG; 40.5 FG%; 31.6 3FG%

TELLING NUMBER

11

NBA rank in defensive rating last year for the Bulls, who conceded 104.3 points per 100 possessions—despite the presence of All-Defensive second-team guard Jimmy Butler. In the previous four seasons Chicago was tied for first, second twice and sixth.

PHOTODAVID E. KLUTHO FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED