The hiring of Fred Hoiberg while not making any changes to the player roster suggests the Chicago Bulls believe in their personnel on the court, only they don’t think the previous head coach used them in the right way.
Hoiberg, hugely successful at Ames with Iowa State compared to what the Cyclones have become accustomed to, is now trying to turn a team that’s been one of the best in the league on defense for the past few years into a refined offensive machine. With more small ball, with more outside shooting, and less stagnation on offense, even though we saw some improvement on that front, probably due to Derrick Rose playing more than half a season (quite an achievement for him) and Pau Gasol joining the team.
Jimmy Butler is going to be a bigger part of the playmaking. While Hoiberg would like to reduce Butler’s minutes (38.7 per game over the last two seasons) he does want to make him a more active player in terms of ball handling. This will obviously drag on the Rose’s team or Butler’s team debate, but it doesn’t matter. If taking the ball out of Rose’s hands for some possessions makes the team better, the media can call it whoever’s team they like.
One player who has a big season ahead is Joakim Noah. Without Rose playing for most of the 2013-2014 season and Jimmy Butler still not emerging as a star for the team, Noah became more than just a center and the defensive anchor for the team. He became the main playmaker as well, crunching out triple doubles and finishing with 5.4 assists per game alongside 12.6 points and 11.3 rebounds. He also won the Defensive Player of the Year award, although it didn’t help the Bulls in the playoffs, knocked out in the first round by the Washington Wizards.
Noah played in just 67 games last season, and wasn’t 100% healthy for a big chunk of them. He looked embarrassing offensively at times. Not just averaging just 7.2 points per game while shooting a career low 44.5% from the field. It was often better not to move the ball through him. Part of the planning going into this season is playing less and less with two classic big men. Noah might be the one who pays the price earlier on.
It’s hard giving up on him because of what he means defensively. It’s also a contract year, which means Noah won’t take getting less minutes too lightly. When the season begins, he’s probably going to be in the starting lineup, but it’s not going to be surprising if his role is diminished as the season progresses, unless he shows that last season was about an injury weighing down on him, not him beginning a decline as he turned 30.