If you had to choose a word to describe the Bulls offense under former head coach Tom Thibodeau, what would you choose? Brutal? Excruciating? Painful? Any of those words – as well as many others – would be perfectly acceptable. The Bulls offense was difficult to watch under Thibodeau and it started to become frustrating watching professional players struggle so heavily at scoring points. The Bulls under Thibodeau had a predictable offense that had the same options and variations each possession. The offense had such little creativity due to the control Thibodeau asserted over the team that it just became stagnant and, unless Derrick Rose was MVP Derrick Rose, it failed to generate the kind of points a championship team needs to become a championship team. Even as Gar Forman and John Paxson brought in new and improved talent, the recent Bulls never matched the 2010-2012 teams and ultimately fell short of the ultimate prize: an NBA title. It’s easy to look at the Bulls and characterize them as a defense only team and wonder if a trade would help the Bulls take the next step, but I think there’s a simpler solution than that and the Bulls have already made it. I call it “The Hoiberg Effect.”
What is “The Hoiberg Effect?” It’s the effect an offensive minded coach with a creative offense will have on a team that already has offensive talent. Remember, this Bulls team is loaded with offensive potential. Derrick Rose is a former MVP and still has game as evidenced in the Playoffs. Jimmy Butler is a star on the rise. Nikola Mirotic has shown flashes of at least being an All-Star level talent and possibly a poor man’s Dirk Nowitzki. Pau Gasol is a Hall of Famer who had arguably his best statistical season last year. Joakim Noah was a top five MVP candidate two seasons ago and one of the best passing big men of this generation. Tony Snell, Doug McDermott, and Mike Dunleavy are all on the roster for one thing: shooting. Aaron Brooks is that spark plug off the bench and a feisty scorer. This team has offensive talent, but were never able to capitalize on it. Here are the Bulls’ rankings in Offensive Rating (Points Scored Per 100 Possessions) under Tom Thibodeau:
- 2010-2011: 11th
- 2011-2012: 5th
- 2012-2013: 23rd
- 2013-2014: 28th
- 2014-2015: 11th
The Bulls were always mediocre under Tom Thibodeau offensively – with the exception of the 2011-2012 team, which I’ve written previously was a lost championship opportunity. Their raw scoring averages weren’t much better:
- 2010-2011: 98.6 (20th)
- 2011-2012: 96.3 (18th)
- 2012-2013: 93.2 (29th)
- 2013-2014: 93.7 (30th)
- 2014-2015: 100.8 (15th)
Granted, there were seasons where Derrick Rose missed all or most of the season, but even with Rose, the Bulls weren’t much more productive. It’s fair to wonder what kind of effect Fred Hoiberg will have on virtually the same team as last season. I think fans and analysts are understating the impact of Hoiberg. This team has a great roster and is one that many people thought would take the NBA Championship last season. Imagine what’s going to happen when they’re running an actual NBA offense! What’s going to happen when the Hoiberg-era offense lets loose the talents of these NBA players and stops trying to restrict them to the system? What’s going to happen when the system is molded to the strengths of the roster and not just a stubborn decision made by a control freak of a coach? What’s going to happen when more movement and energy is injected into this team and the shots these players are receiving are easier and more suited to their talents? What’s going to happen when we see these guys running fast breaks and throwing down dunks in the open court – like, you know, every other NBA team does? Will Bulls fans be able to take it? Will the United Center become the “Madhouse on Madison” again?
Personally, I’m excited to see “The Hoiberg Effect” and it should manifest itself quite quickly. The Bulls may have the same players, but they’re going to be so different. No longer will this be a slow, predictable, boring, and painful offense, but a faster, more fluid, modern professional basketball offense. The Bulls may be creeping into this season as a darkhorse candidate to take the East, but if “The Hoiberg Effect” is real, then they may very make a case that they’re a real contender. Only time will tell, but we’re going to see the impact of “The Hoiberg Effect” early on this season. You’ve been warned.
You can follow Brandon Pence on Twitter at @thebullscharge