Fred Hoiberg’s Offense, and It’s Potential Under The Bulls

It’s official, Fred Hoiberg is the Chicago Bulls new head coach. Shocking I know. The Chicago Bulls search for a new leader concluded Monday night as Hoiberg and the Bulls brass came to terms on a contract agreement. As the new leader, Hoiberg will inherit a plethora of talent, and it will be up to him to do what former head coach Tom Thibodeau couldn’t, utilize it to it’s fullest.

One of the many, and main talked about aspects of Hoiberg as a coach, is his knack for developing an efficient fast-paced, up-tempo style offense. This past season, Iowa State ranked 11th in the nation in offensive efficiency, and has ranked as high as sixth during his tenure, per Kenpom rankings. Whereas the past five years has seen the Bulls offense under Thibs become so structured and monotonous that it was like watching paint dry, envisioning the Bulls with some sort of competency offensively should have everyone giddy.

With Hoiberg’s offense everyone moves with a purpose, having the collective intent of freeing up themselves or their teammates as a means of putting the ball through that orange cylinder. In addition, Hoiberg’s offense is also known for wasting very little time in terms of getting into sets, which is a swift change from years past. Below are a few offensive sets from Hoiberg’s stint at Iowa State, along with how they have the ability to adapt to the Bulls.


Double Drag

This first clip is of Iowa State’s “Double Drag” action which sees the point guard come off two screens in transition. After coming off the screens, the first screener dives to the hoop while the second pops out for the three. In watching this clip, we can envision Derrick Rose coming off the Double Drag screen action, and attacking the hole if the lane is there. If not, it’s easy to see someone like Nikola Mirotic in the position of the second screener popping out for three.

Quick Point 

This next action from Iowa State in transition is called “Quick Point” and one of my favorites from Hoiberg’s offense.

It starts off with weave action on the side, number #15 handing the ball off to #21 who hands it off to #31, Georges Niang. Niang then passes it back to #15, however he fakes as if he’s going to set an on-ball screen, instead coming back to set an off-ball screen for #21 for an open three. This is a play suited perfectly for the likes of Mike Dunleavy Jr. (should he re-sign), Tony Snell and Doug McDermott. The “Quick Point” action, faking the on-ball screen and in turn setting one for the shooter off the ball, is something you will see in more than one set from Hoiberg.

Secondary Offense 

Power Mix Double 

The next two clips are Hoiberg’s secondary offense, specifically sets resulting in staggered screen action for a three pointer.

In this clip, dubbed “Power Mix Double” we see a dribble handoff above the break turn into a staggered screen for three. The real action in the play comes in the corner, along the baseline. Niang sets a flex screen for #25, who then hesitates for a split second before coming off a staggered screen set by Niang, and the big man who was just involved in the dribble handoff.

Thru Push Fence 

There is a lot going on this secondary action from Hoiberg, which is a great change from the constant stagnation of the Thibs’ era offense. What happens in this action is essentially the player on the right wing coming off a double flex screen finishing in the opposite corner. The player setting the second flex screen, #21, then comes off a double screen for three. This play, and the one above represent the ways in which players such as Dunleavy, Snell and McDermott can be fully utilized in Hoiberg’s offense.

Halfcourt Sets 

Double Zipper Fan 

This double screen which turns into a flare for the second screener, is an ideal set for players like Niko and the wings previously mentioned above. In the clip above, the wing player comes off a double screen on the wing, a flare screen is then set by the first screener for the second resulting in an open three. Having Niko as the second screener and someone like Snell or McDermott coming off the double could put defenses at a disadvantage.


At first glance of watching this play it seemed as though Niang and #13 were cutting off each other, #13 getting he dribble handoff. But at a closer look, I noticed that they are in fact, not cutting off each other, rather, after Niang passes the ball to the post player at the top of the key, sets a little screen on #13’s man, freeing him up for the dribble handoff and an open look at the hole. This is a set ideal for Jimmy Butler and Rose, being able to get freed up coming off that dribble handoff and putting their head down, driving to the hole.


Horns Back 

Almost every team in the NBA run some variation of HORNS, which includes two post players at the elbows with the wing players on the wings. And Hoiberg managed to incorporate this into his offense at Iowa State, so it should be a fairly easy transition for the Bulls. In this specific play, we see the wing player get a back screen, which doesn’t result in a lob, but allows the player to gain post position ending in a made bucket. Butler is one player who when he had the opportunity was very effective in the post this past season. And as I stated last week, an increase in post touches for him is a must heading forward, and this play is a great example of how that can be done.

Horns Dive Iso 

Here is a simple set out of HORNS, a post entry by the point guard into the big man at the elbow extended who then exits to the wing. As the post player receives the pass, the opposite big man at the elbow extended dives toward the block opposite his original side. As the big man dives toward the block, the one with the ball then drives one-on-one to the basket. What’s great about this play is that the post player drives as soon as the other dives to the hole, knowing his defender is out of position not paying attention to ball and man. For Mirotic, who has the ability to put the ball on the floor and take his man to the basket, this set has a lot of potential for him.

Other Observations 

– One thing you may have noticed when going through the various clips above is that there aren’t any heavily involving post ups. And with Pau Gasol on the Bulls roster that may seem like a bit of an issue to have. However, with that being said, Hoiberg does seem to have sets where the objective is to get a quick, deep post touch.

With Hoiberg, there are no clear out posts, instead he has his big man come off cross screens along the baseline, in addition to cutting and setting various screens, giving the player deep position to make a move right away. This is a welcome change from the previous, when the ball would be forced into the post and four remaining players stood nearby stagnant and watched.

– Niko. Niko. Niko. At Iowa State, Hoiberg used Georges Niang as his point forward in most sets due to his play making abilities. With the Bulls, I think it’s fair to say Hoiberg will be using Niko in much of the same way, which you know, is a good thing. On top of this, I would be shocked if we saw much if any of the Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah pairing. With the way that Hoiberg’s offense is constructed, there’s no way in which that paring could work effectively. Again, this is a welcoming change after Thibs’ stubbornly used the pairing when it was quite obvious it wasn’t effective.

– Tony Snell, Doug McDermott and Mike Dunleavy (should he re-sign) will be fully utilized in Hoiberg’s offense. During his tenure at Iowa State, they became synonymous with the three pointer, and given the aforementioned players shooting capabilities, we will be seeing them flying off multiple screens (flare, flex, single, pin down, staggered, double, and “Quick Point” action) on a given night.

– The point guard in Hoiberg’s offense was generally not ball dominant, considering the constant movement within the offense. Some may say this will present a problem for Hoiberg with Rose on board. However, I don’t think that will be a problem, as Hoiberg is a good enough coach that he’ll be able to adjust his offense as he sees fit. Furthermore, Hoiberg’s offense may get Rose moving off the ball more, in a Tony Parker esque fashion. Previously, Rose would pass to the wing and cut through only to be an observer. Getting Rose coming off screens, more so flex screens, curls or pin-downs will present the Bulls and Rose, with more options.


Whether or not Fred Hoiberg transfers his offense verbatim to the Bulls remains to be seen. But based off of the clips above and what he has done in the past, it is fair to assume that his principles, and various schemes can translate with this Bulls roster. Time will tell, but the prospect of the Bulls finally having a competent offense should leave Bulls fans with plenty of optimism.

(The clips above were extracted from Zak Boisvert, MBB coach at the University of Maine.) 

Twitter – @Tyler_Pleiss 


Posted on June 2, 2015, in Articles, NBA Basketball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

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