Bulls Rebuild Primer: 2017-18 Season Preview

Life comes at you fast, doesn’t it?  It seems as if it was just yesterday when Jimmy Butler was paired up with Rajon Rondo and Dwayne Wade to form a “Big 3” to challenge the elite in the Eastern Conference.  However, the Bulls start the 2017-18 season in a full rebuild with neither of the aforementioned players.  Although the rebuild is a path many Bulls’ fans wanted, there is no basketball buzz in the city.

The rebuild will not be pretty as the Bulls will lose plenty (hey, that rhymed).  However, all is not lost, as there is a lot to watch for this season.  I went through the Bulls preseason games, and I’ll be breaking down what the offense will look like, as well as some players to watch during the season.

What will the offense look like?

Over the past few seasons, head coach Fred Hoiberg’s style of basketball has not always been on display with Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler.  Here in Chicago, we’ve heard “pace and space” and “Hoiball” time and time again, but what does that actually mean?  Here are a couple of clips that show what Hoiberg’s offense will look like:

1. Feed Robin Lopez Early

The Bulls usually look to get Lopez going to start off the game.  Although he doesn’t have the offensive prowess of his brother, Brook, Robin is surprisingly effective in the post and in pick and pops.  Here’s a clip showing Lopez going right at Dirk to start off the game.

In this second clip of Lopez, we can see the same play is run for Lopez, only with more off ball action.  After Lopez gets the ball, Dunn sets a screen on Niko’s man to get him open for three.  Although Lopez chose to go to work on Dirk, this is a nice variation for Lopez to pass the ball to an open shooter.


2. Pace and Space

Hoiberg’s offense involves a lot of dribble hand-offs and pitches into a pick and roll to disrupt the defense.  This allows shooters to go to the three point line and get an open look.

In this clip, we see the ball being pitched around until Zipser gets into a pick and roll with Felicio.  This forces the defense to collapse, and Zipser had Portis open for a clean look, but the pass sailed out of bounds.

This is another variation of the dribble pitch Hoiberg uses.  Instead of handing the ball off, Mirotic does a subtle fake to receive the ball, and the ball is given to Lopez.  Both Lopez and Mirotic set screens to set up Holiday for an open three.

Hoiberg wants the Bulls to get out and run on offense as much as possible before the defense gets set.  Here’s an example of the Bulls getting out and running after a Milwaukee miss.  Mirotic gets an open look and misses the shot, but this is exactly the pace the Bulls are looking for.

This last clip is probably my favorite set piece I saw run this preseason.  Jerian Grant sets a screen on Giannis to get Portis an open three from the top of the key.  Grant gets absolutely blasted by the Greek Freak.  The shot goes in, and this even gets a rare fist pump from the usually mild-mannered Hoiberg.

For the sake of video overload, I’ll stop the “Hoiball” clips here, and will focus on specific players.  Hoiberg’s offense is very much a college-style offense where the ball is hopping around from side to side and everybody gets a touch.  In terms of how effective it will be remains to be seen, especially in today’s NBA where there is a lot of switching on the defensive end.  But if you do need a reason to watch the Bulls rebuild, seeing the offense change and evolve is a good place to start.

Player Spotlight: Kris Dunn

Kris Dunn comes to Chicago from the Jimmy Butler trade with a lot of potential as a second-year player.  He doesn’t quite have a consistent three ball yet (which pretty much every point guard needs in today’s NBA), but he is a tenacious defender with good size and speed to finish at the rim.

Here, you can see Dunn’s burst to the rim on display.  Although he blows by a defender who has very slow lateral movement in Greg Monroe, Dunn needs to attack in this offense.  Not only will this give confidence to Dunn to see the ball go in, but the roster is depleted of any attacking players with Zach LaVine sidelined.  Dunn’s attacking ability is also essential when the Bulls go cold and their outside shots aren’t falling.

It’s a shame that Dunn was injured in this game against the Bucks.  He had a terrible showing in the previous game against the Mavericks and Dennis Smith Jr., but he rebounded (pun intended) and it showed against the Bucks, with him even knocking down a three.  Teams will consistently sag off Dunn from three when he returns to the court, so it’s good to see him knocking this shot down with no hesitation.


Player Spotlight: Lauri Markkannen

Markkannen is a 7’0 rookie coming to the NBA with the reputation as a sharpshooter.  But as I reviewed the games, Markkannen showed he could do much more.  He will get plenty of opportunity to display his skills with his teammate Bobby Portis, knocking out Nikola Mirotic, which creates ample playing time for Markkannen to play.  Also, I deem Portis’s new nickname to be Bobby Portis, of House Razorback, First to be Suspended, the Puncher and Unpunched, King of the Crazy-Eyes, and the Breaker of Faces.

In this first clip, Markkannen does display his shooting ability, but off a catch and shoot.  He sees his defender turn his back towards him and immediately sprints to the three point line, and drills it.  Not only does this show good basketball IQ by the rookie; this shows how smooth of a shooter he is.  There aren’t many seven footers in the league who can do this.

The next clip shows Markkannen’s ability as a passer.  Markkannen will see a lot of attention at the top of the key as he operates there for pick and pops.  This was a set play to get the ball to Holiday going to the rim, and Markkannen hits him right on the money.  This play can be very effective when the high-flying LaVine comes back from injury, and gives Hoiberg options for both Holiday and LaVine on the floor at the same time if Markkannen can continue to make these types of passes.

In this final clip, Markkannen shows he has a little bit of a post-up game as well.  Sure, Kyle Korver is not a defensive stopper by any means.  But with Markkannen standing at 7’0, there aren’t a lot of people who could stop this beautiful over-the-shoulder fade.


To conclude, the Bulls are not going to be a powerhouse by any means.  They are projected to be one of the worst teams in the league, and that is a fair assesment after losing Jimmy Butler and having a roster full of young guys.  But I switched up my blog from a CBA perspective to a film breakdown to show that there is something to watch for.  Hoiberg’s offense will be on full display, Markkannen will get his time to shine, Justin Holiday has played very well, and Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine will get plenty of opportunity when they return from injury.

If you’ve made it this far, I appreciate you taking the time to read this.  It took me a while to get these clips posted because I’m terrible with technology, but I would like your feedback.  Was this too many clips? Too few? And also, what would you like to see during the season (salary cap or more film breakdown like this)?  Let me know on twitter, @mooselorenzo.  Thank you, and here’s to the 2017-18 season!

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