Over the summer, the Chicago Bulls’ front office decided to stop calling upon the services of Tom Thibodeau and offered Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg the job of head coach. The decision was rather surprising because Thibodeau had done an outstanding job in the five years he was in Chicago.
During the first year as a rookie head coach of the Bulls, he managed to win 62 games, which promptly delivered him the Coach of the Year award. Under Thibodeau, the Bulls won 64.7 percent of their games but that did not lead to playoff success, as they only made it to the Conference Finals once.
Where Thibodeau was known as a hard-nosed defensive coach, Hoiberg is said to be an offensive mastermind and this is why the Bulls’ ownership wanted to bring him aboard. They started the season 9-4 and the hand of Hoiberg can already be seen clearly.
The first aspect that changed this season is the pace. The Bulls average roughly 100 possessions per game, almost 7 possessions more than during the Thibodeau era. The Bulls are pushing the pace and take more shots early in the shot clock, resulting in an up-tempo game that should fit point guard and former MVP Derrick Rose a lot better. The victim of the new system seems to be Yoakim Noah, who lost his starter role in favor of Mikola Mirotic, who spaces the floor better than the hardworking Frenchman.
Unexpectedly, their defense has improved as well. They are holding their opponents to 40.9% shooting, second in the league, a 3% improvement from last year. The Bulls are still an elite team on the boards, ranking third in total rebounds per game, and that with Noah only playing 20 minutes per game.
It is still early in the season, but it seems that the Bulls are heading in the right direction. When, by the end of the season, the team has their habits on the offensive end figured out, Chicago will be a tough opponent in the playoffs. They will still be able to go back to their grind-out postseason type of play, but with the addition of a dynamic offense, only a handful of teams in the East will be able to slow them down in their quest for a championship.