There have been plenty of jokes made about “Hoiball,” the faster-paced offense Fred Hoiberg has tried to implement since becoming head coach of the Chicago Bulls in 2015.
With their rebuilt roster, the Bulls have made the preseason a referendum on Hoiball.
The Bulls’ long-range shooting has soared. They’re tossing up 36.2 attempts from 3-point range in preseason, way up from last year’s 22.3. At the same time, the Bulls are shooting a better percentage from 3-point land and their assists are up.
Preseason doesn’t mean much in the long run, but the change in style has been unmistakable.
Based on what we’ve seen, Hoiball requires constant ball movement. Players appear to have the green light to shoot whenever they are open and also are expected to attack closeouts and drive to the basket.
“Something we are stressing and emphasizing is breaking down the defense, getting in the paint and making the right play,” Hoiberg told reporters after Tuesday’s victory in Cleveland.
Those drives often to the basket lead to open 3-point shots after defenders collapse to help near the basket. That’s essentially been the Bulls’ offense so far, with very few set plays and a de-emphasis on anyone trying to create their own shot in isolation.
One promising sign in the Cleveland game is this style seems to fit 7-foot rookie Lauri Markkanen. In his second preseason appearance, Markkanen found his shooting touch and scored 15 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter.
Markkanen’s reputation has been as an accomplished shooter, but he’s also shown some nice athleticism and is someone who can put the ball on the floor and attack the basket like a small forward.
“He’s got a little nasty streak to him, which we love,” Hoiberg said. “One thing we are never going to worry about Lauri is his shot. He has a beautiful stroke. He’s going to keep shooting. He has great confidence in himself, which as a 21-year-old in this league is a great quality to have. I loved his aggressiveness in the second half.”
The Bulls have one three of five games in preseason and Hoiberg has pointed out they’ve seen some quality opponents. In two games against New Orleans, big men Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins played more than 30 minutes. The Bulls saw plenty of Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and won. The game in Cleveland marked the debut of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade back on the court together, and the Cavs played their main guys until the very end.
But no Bulls opponent has gone all-out to win. They haven’t used their best players down the stretch in the fourth quarter, which is inevitable when the Bulls can keep games close. So whether Hoiball can create regular-season wins with the rebuilt lineup remains an unknown.
Justin Holiday has been another bright spot. It’s easy to see why he jumped at the chance to join the Bulls’ rebuilding project as a free agent. Finally getting a chance to start and play major minutes in the NBA, the undrafted Holiday is averaging 16.6 points in preseason.
“I’m embracing it for sure and trying to enjoy it,” Holiday said Tuesday, according to bulls.com. “I’m glad I’m in this role. I’m enjoying every second of it. I know it’s early, but I hope I can continue to grow and continue to help this team grow and we can do something special this year.”
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