Tag: Fred Hoiberg

Bulls Training Camp Preview

September 25th is the day players report to camp and practice as a team for the first time. The Bulls go into training camp with most of the same players from last season. But with two 1st round picks and new free agent additions, the Bulls rotation will have a new look. The new rookies Wendell Carter Jr and Chandler Hutchison will be looking for playing time, and they will be competing with veterans for minutes. The two rookies will need to use preseason to show they can have a positive impact in the regular season, and help the team win games. I see three potential training camp battles. The Bulls first game is October 17th against the Philadelphia 76ers, how these battles play out will determine the rotation for that game. 

Robin Lopez vs Wendall Carter Jr

Battling for starting center position. 

Dunn, Lavine, Parker, and Markkanen are locks as starters for opening night. The center position however is not as clear. Robin Lopez in his two seasons in Chicago has been the starting center, and has been reliable and consistent. You know what you are going to get from Lopez. Robin knows how he is effective and doesn’t try to play outside of his ability offensively. Offensively he is more effective than defensively. Effective inside the paint and from mid range. He is comfortable on the low block and finishing with a hook shot. Knows where he is more effective shooting the ball, takes most of his shots from the paint area and around free throw line.  Not a liability defensively but not a strength either.  Struggles away from the paint, but understands help defense well. Basically he understands how to effect the game in a positive way, and Hoiberg can trust him. But in June the Bulls had the 7th overall pick in the 2018 draft, and chose to draft 19 year old center Wendall Carter Jr.

Lopez is a 10 year pro, and is 30 years old. He normally would be the correct choice over a 19 year old rookie drafted 7th overall. But Wendall Carter Jr showed a defensive potential that Lopez does not have, and never will. You saw a player who can impact the game defensively, an area the Bulls should be most concerned with heading into the upcoming season.

 

(credit: NBA.com)

The video highlights what Wendell Carter Jr can bring defensively. He has good instincts and understands rim protection. The last clip is something you would rarely see from Robin Lopez, Wendell shows he is able too defend on the perimeter as well as at the rim. Wendell also is skilled offensively. While he likely isn’t ready to have a huge role offensively, he doesn’t have too on this team. He can spread the floor with his range, from mid-range to the 3pt line. He will need to get stronger but seems he can be effective near the basket as well. But really what the Bulls should value for now is his defensive presence.

The one difference maker in the Robin Lopez vs Wendell Carter Jr camp battle is how much can Wendell affect the defensive end right away. Offensively Lopez likely will be more effective on a consistent basis, but defense is more of a need from the center position on this Bulls team. He was great in summer league, but that doesn’t compare to the regular season. The Bulls need to really use training camp and mainly preseason to see how much Wendell can affect the defensive end right away. If his impact on that end is consistently more effective than Lopez, than the Bulls should consider starting Wendell instead. But at 19 years old, expecting him to be that good right away is more unlikely than likely. But he should get every opportunity in preseason to play with the first unit. And even if Wendell doesn’t start, maybe he should be considered to finish games especially when defense is needed. 

For now Lopez is likely the favorite to start, while Wendell will get around 20-22mpg to start. But depending how good he looks in training camp and preseason, that number should rise as well as possibly start. 

 

Justin Holiday vs Chandler Hutchison

Battling for rotation time 

Realistically only about 10 players will play in a game, sometimes even less. 5 starters, 5 bench players. At this point we know Cameron Payne, Denzel Valentine, Bobby Portis, and WCJ or Lopez will be in the rotation. The question really becomes who can become that 10th guy? Like the 1st battle I covered, this is again rookie vs veteran. 

Unlike the first battle, the veteran Holiday isn’t as established and productive as Lopez. Holiday most of his career has been a low end rotational type player. While last year started at the wing for 72 games, he was more of a filler in a rebuilding year. He averaged 12 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assist. Shot inefficiently at 37% from the field, which is below average for his position. From 3 shot 35% which is about average for his position. Defensively he is about average as well. Just using on/off ratings the Bulls were better defensively with him, but still a poor defensive team either way. Holiday at this point is a catch and shoot 3 point shooter while providing average defense. Again like with Lopez, with Holiday you know what you are going to get. With Hutchison it is not as clear, but we did get a glimpse of his potential in summer league. 

 

 

(credit: FreeDawkins)

This highlight reel really showcased the potential Hutchison showed in summer league. Hutchison was labeled as an athletic SF who can play defense, and we saw that. Hutchison showed he can move well laterally, has good hands, and a good IQ and understanding on how to play defense. The one thing that surprised me was his play vision and ball handling. Hutchison was 2nd on the team with assist in summer league with 18 assist. He handled the ball well, and was able to get to the paint and create for others or himself. While he didn’t finish consistently at the rim, he did shoot the 3 ball well. He was 8-16 from 3 in summer league. 

Hutchison showed a potential to affect the game in a way Holiday can’t. Hutchison showed not only more defensive potential, but showed an ability to be more of a play maker than Holiday on the offensive end. But this is just from summer league. Training camp and preseason will determine a lot in this battle. To me this battle should be considered an open competition. Hutchison potentially can bring more than Holiday can, but the question is how good can he be right now. That’s what preseason will have to determine. Can Hutchison adjust to the NBA quick enough to help the Bulls win right away? We know what Holiday can do, and what he will bring to the team and he can help. But if Hutchison can outplay Holiday in preseason, then Hutchison should be considered ahead of him in the rotation. Both should equal time with the 2nd unit, and see who has more impact with that unit. 

 

Ryan Arcidiacono vs Antonius Cleveland vs Derrick Walton Jr

Battling to make regular season roster 

The Bulls must have their roster at 15 by Oct. 15th, and as of right now the Bulls have 17 players under contract. The Bulls must waive two players by Oct. 13th, so they can clear waivers by Oct. 15th. The Bulls have 17 players under contract, only 14 of them are guaranteed. There are three players under contracts that are fully non-guaranteed. Those 3 players are Arcidiacono, Cleveland, and Walton Jr. 

Those players are the 3 that are likely to be battling it out for that last spot. It’s possible none of them make the team, and the Bulls only carry 14 going into the season. Or even possible Bulls keep 2 of the 3, and waive someone like Asik who is likely to see DNPs most of the season. But Asik’s 11.2 million guaranteed makes that an unlikely scenario. What is most likely to happen is only 1 of the 3 make the team.  While the two other two are waived. One of them can be brought back on a two-way contract after they clear waivers, and one or both can be brought back on a G-League contract as well. 

Arcidiacono and Walton Jr are both point guards, while Cleveland is more of a shooting guard. Neither of the three have much NBA experience, all 1 year players with none of them playing more than 24 games. And neither of them played a significant role with their respective teams. There isn’t anything the 3 players do that separates them from each other. Really what it comes down too is what do the Bulls need more?  Point guard? Shooting guard? The Bulls have only have two point guards on the roster, Kris Dunn and Cameron Payne. While the Bulls have Lavine, Holiday, Valentine, and Blakeney at shooting guard. That’s four shooting guards compared to just two point guards. Cleveland would have too really impress in camp to make the roster. To me the real competition is between Walton Jr and Arcidiacono. The Bulls could use an extra point guard, and one of the two has to show why they are the one. Arcidiacono has a slight advantage over Walton Jr. Arcidiacono played in the system last season, and has a better idea of what Fred is looking for and how too run the offense. 

Arci stats(Arcidiacono stats via basketballreference.com)

Walton Jr stats(Walton Jr stats via basketballreference.com)

The stats are their G-League numbers. Watching both players and looking at the stats, Walton Jr seems to be the better scoring point guard. Arcidiacono shot the ball exceptionally well last season. His passing vision and and shooting ability is what he brings to the NBA. I imagine Arcidiacono has the edge on Walton Jr in this battle purely based off the fact he played with the team last season, and the team seems to like him. He was one of the better G-League players last season, and thrived running the system down there. Walton Jr likely will have to really impress to win the spot over Arcidiacono, but either one could be brought back as a two-way player as well. I believe Arcidiacono will win this battle, but the idea of bringing Wralton Jr back as a two-way player could happen if he plays well. 

If the idea of the new season wasn’t exciting enough, these 3 battles will make preseason really interesting to watch. There is a lot to look for, and how these players play should have impact on how the rotation and roster looks come October 17th. 

 

 

 

 

How Good Can Bobby Portis Become Offensively?

The 3rd year player Bobby Portis has had a solid 2017-18 season. He is finally getting over 20 minutes per game, and is showing he can be a productive offensive player. Let’s look at Portis’ career numbers.

Portis Numbers

You can see with minutes, Portis is showing his offensive potential. For a big he is a decent shooter, he gets offensive rebounds, and can get 15-20 points in starter minutes. Here’s a quick look at Portis’ per 36 minutes numbers.

Portis per 36.png

The per 36 stats just gives you an idea with more minutes, what Bobby can do. No it doesn’t necessarily mean he will put up these exact numbers. I do think however it’s fair to say with about 25 minutes plus a game, Portis is good for 15 points or more on average. Portis has shown he can be a solid offensive player, but the question really is how good can Portis become? Could he become a reliable starter? Or could he even become an All-Star? A more in-depth look at how he gets his points will help us figure out his potential.

Looking into Portis’ numbers, it’s clear he likes to shoot the ball away from the rim more than the average big.

Portis shooting freqency.png

The chart you see is from Cleaning The Glass. It is a site run by Ben Falk, previous Vice President of Basketball Strategy for the Philadelphia 76ers, and former basketball analytics manager of the Portland Trail Blazers. The stats from this chart exclude “garbage time stats”. You can see here what garbage time is defined as,  garbage time. Portis shoots 38% of his shots at the rim, which is below average compared to his position. You see he shoots 26% of his shots from 3 which is above average and 36% from mid-range which is above average at his position. Portis unlike most bigs, relies on outside shooting just as much as at the rim shooting. Let’s take a quick look at how he shoots from each of these areas.

Portis accuracy.png

You can see why Portis likes to shoot as many jump shoots as he does. At the rim Portis shoots 57% which is in the bottom % compared to his position. Portis is a good mid-range shooter though as you see he is in the top % compared to his position from there. From 3 he is slightly below average. We will dive deeper into whether or not Portis can improve at the rim, but looking at these stats his game reminds me of someone similar. Someone who is a former 4 time All-Star. That player is Paul Millsap.

I’m talking about the Paul Millsap from 2013-14 to now. The Paul Millsap who became a better shooter once he signed with Atlanta. Let’s take a quick look at how Millsap likes to score. Here is where he likes to shoot from since 2013.

Millsap 2.png

You can see the numbers are very similar to Portis. Millsap takes more shots from mid range, than he does at the rim. For a big, Millsap shoots a lot of jump shots. Let’s take a look at how he shoots from these areas.

Millsap 3

The numbers are very similar between Portis and Millsap. They both shoot about the same from 3. They both like to rely on jump shots really when you break it down. For 4 seasons in Atlanta, Paul Millsap was an All-Star. Let’s take a quick look at those numbers.

Millsap ATL

These are Millsap’s numbers all four All-Star seasons. When you compare these numbers to Portis’ per 36 numbers, they really start to look similar.

Portis per 36

The question becomes can Portis be as good as Millsap? What are the differences between their games? One thing difference you notice is Millsap gets to the line more than Portis. Let’s take a look at their drawing shooting foul numbers.

Portis foul.png

Millsap foul.png

Looking at the SFLD%(shows the % of the shots player is fouled on), clearly Millsap gets to the line more than Portis. One of the reason for this is likely speed. Millsap blows by his man more, which causes defenders to foul him more than they would with Portis. Defenders are caught out of position more guarding Millsap. This is important because neither are great shooters. Not just relying on shooing and being able to get to the line produces more consistent numbers, which has helped Millsap put up All-Star numbers.

But one advantage Bobby Portis has over Millsap is offensive rebounding. Portis offensive rebounds 10% of his team’s misses, which is way above average for his position. Being able to rebound and get easy baskets should help Portis, but he needs to get better around the rim. You saw as we talked earlier, Portis doesn’t finish well around the rim. But why is that? It seems to me it is mainly a lack of explosion. He is athletic but just not explosive. He also struggles to finish over players with similar or longer height. Here are a few examples of this:

I don’t expect Portis to ever become great under the rim, or even good. But he needs to get closer to average for his position. Getting stronger, working on jumping, and getting better footwork will help Portis. I also think getting more comfortable with his left will help a lot. Portis at times forces shots with his right, when the shot would be easier with his left. Working on these little things can get Portis 2-6 extra points a game.

I think the potential for Portis to become good offensively is there. The things I would like to see Portis improve is his shooting, footwork down low, his left hand, his strength, jumping, and offensive awareness.

I think Portis can become a better shooter than Millsap. He is a better free throw shooter, and I do believe Portis has a nice shot. I think the more he works on his shot, he can become closer to a 38%-40% shooter from distance. Footwork down low can improve which ties in with his left. Portis most of time is looking to finish right. All his set up moves in the post are to set him up going right. Defenders know this and will play him that way, getting them to respect his left will only help his game. Getting stronger comes with age, and the stronger Portis becomes the more separation he will be able to get for his shot down low. And just offensive awareness but more so his shot IQ. This has improved but still needs work. Portis at times settles for bad shots. Contested 3’s or just quick 3’s in general. Usually experience will fix this, Portis just needs to learn what a good shot is and when it’s better to just pass the ball.

If I had to guess I don’t think Portis will ever become an All-Star but I do think he will become a good offensive player teams can rely on. Portis has at least shown the offensive talent that can keep him around the NBA for another 5-6 seasons. Maybe more with hard work.  The Bulls for now should realize they have an offensive talent in Portis, that could help their bench for a long time moving forward.

 

 

Bulls Are Not Tanking, They Are Developing

The Chicago Bulls aren’t very good this season, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. The Bulls’ 2017 off-season was an off-season of a team who is rebuilding, going in a completely new direction. The Bulls as of the All-Star Break were 20-36 and went public with the fact they will sit veteran starters Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, and play younger players like Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne. Many would call this a “tank” move, which you could argue it is. It is a move decreasing the Bulls chances of winning, which is pretty much what tanking is. Tanking values loses over wins, with the results being a better draft pick and a higher percentage of winning the draft lottery. But what the Bulls have demonstrated since the All-Star break is they are not a team that is tanking, but a team focused on development.

The Bulls have been 2-6 since the All-Star break, both wins coming over teams with worse records in Dallas and Memphis. Not great, but a good record for a tank team. But those two wins were against teams they needed to lose too. I mean if the Bulls are tanking of course. Those two games could have helped the Bulls in draft positioning. The way the Bulls finished those games suggest they aren’t necessarily tanking, but focusing on player development. The Bulls have finished not only those two games, but most of these last 8 games with their best available players. A team that is tanking would likely finish the game with their bench, a line up that would decrease their chances of winning in the most important quarter. The Bulls have chose to play Dunn, Nwaba, Lavine, Markkanen, and Portis to close games. That’s arguably the Bulls best lineup, why would they finish games with those players if they were tanking? It’s because they aren’t tanking.

USATSI_10388677

The front office made it clear to Hoiberg not to play Lopez or Holiday, Hoiberg listened. If the front office wanted Hoiberg to lose games, it would only makes sense they mandate the bench to finish games. But seeing how the Bulls have finished games with their best lineup, it is clear the Bulls aren’t necessarily tanking. The core of Dunn, Lavine, Markkanen must develop chemistry with another. The only way that can happen is if they play. The Bulls made that obvious when they sat other starters Lopez and Holiday, but chose to keep those 3 instead. They want those 3 to get as many minutes as possible with each other the rest of the season. They never played a game together until January 13th. The trio didn’t even train together in training camp. At this point, they have only played 10 games with each other. They are being forced to learn each other on the fly, which is not easy. This to me makes sense as to why the Bulls are wanting these 3 to finish games. They do need as much time as possible to get better playing with each other and finishing games with each other as well. The Bulls still really don’t know how their core trio works together, let alone with the other players. The other young guys are simply playing to show their value to the team moving forward. To see who can work with their current core, who can’t.

I understand this approach, but I also understand the consequences. Playing yourself out of a better chance at a higher pick seems counter productive. The higher the pick, the better chance you have at drafting the players you really value in the draft. You could argue the Bulls could still finish games with their bench; while Lavine, Dunn, and Markkanen would still see around 25 minutes a game. Which is true. But there is also the argument that learning how to close games, and going through the growing pains of that this season could really benefit them moving forward. Experience makes you better, experience is what helps slow the game down. You don’t get experience on the bench or in the off season. The Bulls are valuing the minutes those 3 get together over the possibility of losing the game, and gaining better draft position.

I tend to agree with this way of thinking. The Bulls do have 3 young players who do have potential to be 3 good players. Arguably they can be great as well. It would be different if that were not the case. The Bulls seem to believe they can afford to drop down a few spots in the draft because of this. The Bulls also recognize how bad the bottom 5 really is this season. The Bulls could arguably finish these game with their bench players and still end up with better record than those teams. But a part of me still wants the Bulls to try and give themselves the best chance to lose games, but I don’t mind the approach the Bulls are taking as well. Creating good habits now, over creating a losing culture has it’s benefits. I guess the question is, what do you value more. Do you value player development or do you value draft positioning more? The Bulls seemingly for now value development. Focusing on player development could help you in both development and draft positioning. Just focusing on draft position could delay player development, Bulls at the moment aren’t risking that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Two Main Goals for the 2nd Half

 

With the 2nd half of the season beginning Thursday, the Bulls find themselves 9.5 games back of the playoffs with a record of 20-37. The Bulls to little surprise, have a slim chance to make the playoffs at this point. But the Bulls still have a lot to play for the last 25 games. What they do these next 25 games will be a factor in where they will draft. The goals for the last few months should clearly be two things, player development and draft positioning.

 

The rotation moving forward should be focused more on player developing and draft positioning over winning. By this, I mean the Bulls need to value playing younger players over veteran players with little upside. Let’s cover the starting lineup. Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine, Justin Holiday, Lauri Markkanen, Robin Lopez will likely be the starting lineup moving forward, if healthy of course. This line up is fine if the minute distribution is divided properly. There are two players in that lineup whose minutes should be cut dramatically. I’m speaking of Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez.  Lopez the first half of the season averaged 28 minutes a game. That needs to be cut to no more than 20 minutes a game, then Felicio and Vonleh should be given more minutes. At this point we know exactly who Lopez is, and will be 30 by the end of the season. If the focus is player developing and draft positioning, playing Lopez more could hurt those two things. Felicio was given 32 million guaranteed over 4 seasons this past off season but has only played in 31 out of 57 games. Also, in those 31 games has only played 12.8 minutes a game and isn’t even top 10 in total minutes played this season for the Bulls. He hasn’t played well, but at this point moving forward Felicio should be given 18-20 minutes a game. Giving the 25-year-old center every opportunity to succeed with the current goals makes sense. Vonleh also only 22 years old and former lottery pick should be given some minutes as well. 10-12 minutes a game also makes sense if again you are focusing on player developing and draft positioning.

 

Noah+Vonleh+Alfonzo+McKinnie+Toronto+Raptors+vLF183zR3UQl

 

Justin Holiday as well should see a dramatic minute cut. Holiday is currently playing 34 minutes a game. Which I could argue never made sense but going into the 2nd half makes even less sense. Again at this point we know who the soon to be 29 year old Holiday is, and like Lopez their future’s with the team moving forward aren’t high when their contracts end. Players like David Nwaba and Denzel Valentine need to be given more opportunity to play in the 2nd half.  David Nwaba is heading into possible restricted free agency this off season. Nwaba has shown he can make your team defense better, but has shown he has work to do offensively. Giving him more minutes the last 25 games again just makes sense in the current state the Bulls are in. The Bulls also invested a 2016 first round pick in Denzel Valentine. Having Holiday playing more minutes than Valentine is just counter productive.

 

Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine, and Lauri Markkanen should be locks in most starting lineups. Those 3 will likely be the core of next year’s team. Giving them as much opportunity to grow together only makes sense. I wouldn’t mind if they give those players a few rest games moving forward, especially if it is clearly helping draft position. But with 25 games remaining, those 3 should play in at least 20 of them.

 

As for the bench, there are some more changes that should be made there as well. Besides allowing Vonleh to play about 12 minutes a game, Cameron Payne should be given more playing time as well. I think I speak for most Bulls fans as I have seen enough of Jerian Grant this season. Grant has had plenty of opportunity to shine and has mostly been a disappointment. He hasn’t been bad, but he hasn’t been average either. I am mainly disappointed in the lack of development. Look at how much Kris Dunn developed in one off season, now look at Grant. The Bulls traded for Cameron Payne last deadline, and he hasn’t had much time to play due to injury. The 2nd half of the season is a perfect showcase for Cameron Payne and for the Bulls to see what they have in their young point guard. Another player I like to see more is Antonio Blakeney. I admittedly don’t know where he is in terms of his 45-day limit on the NBA team, but I do know once the GLeague season ends that limit no longer exist and Blakeney can be on the team the rest of the season. That date is March 24th, which at that point the Bulls should give the young guard some playing time while decreasing Holiday’s minutes more.

 

Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers

 

The Bulls are in position to develop their young players, while helping their chances at a better pick in this upcoming draft. If the Bulls do all this and still win, you can’t be mad. If anything could be a great thing because that means their younger talent played well. But if the Bulls continue to play their veterans all to squeak out a few more wins while worsening their draft position, it would be a mistake in my opinion. This could be the best draft pick the Bulls see in a while, while playing the younger players to help them get that great pick. Hopefully they don’t screw it up.