The first week of the NBA season is in the books. The Bulls find themselves 0-2 after a season opening thrashing to the 76ers 127-108, a game that was competitive for all about one quarter before the talent level of Philadelphia really eclipsed anything the Bulls had. Last Saturday in the home opener, the Bulls were much more competitive, but made too many mistakes and ended up losing to the Pistons 118-116 on an Ish Smith GW layup. So that’s where were at, Bulls fans. I’ll be the first to say it, I’m not happy one bit with this start to the season.
We could list all the reasons for the Bulls two losses: Lauri Markkanen, Denzel Valentine, and Kris Dunn didn’t see the floor the first two games. The Bulls played seemingly better opponents than what others around the league project the Bulls to be. The Bulls are the youngest team in the NBA by average age and are inexperienced. That’s all fine if you want to stick to that narrative. The fact of the matter is, this team has failed twice now to get any defensive consistency and in both games, Fred Hoiberg was drastically outcoached.
The Bulls are 6th currently in points allowed giving up an embarrassing 122.5 pts/game and are one of 5 teams still without a victory. The Bulls have allowed two players to drop 30 on them in Joel Embiid and Blake Griffin, both of whom are perennial all-stars in which Fred Hoiberg has seemingly failed to create a defensive game plan for. On the bright side, the Bulls have scored points but it’s all for not when the Bulls give up so many open 3s trying to play help defense for teammates, like Jabari Parker who seemingly give up on that end of the floor.
Second, Fred Hoiberg has done a terrible job putting out lineups and finding favorable matchups. To begin, Fred decides to start the rookie Wendell Carter Jr. against two of the BEST big men in the East in Joel Embiid and Andre Drummond. Early foul trouble and lackluster rebounding haunted Carter Jr. who in turn, could not find rhythm offensively. To be clear I’m all for getting the rookie involved early, but when you know you’re playing these teams with great big men and you have a seasoned veteran in Robin Lopez on the bench, you NEED to play him if you are expecting a win, which I’d hope you are. In the first game, the Sixers began pulling away around halftime because of Ben Simmons dominating the point guard matchup with Cam Payne and the Bulls defense leaving every three-point shooter Philly had WIDE OPEN. Hoiberg failed to recognize the Cam Payne mismatch and send out a bigger lineup and also did not change his defensive schemes to get out to the Sixers shooters. In the second game, Hoiberg decides on playing Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis down the stretch to guard Drummond and Blake Griffin, who was hitting shots like he was Larry Bird from the arc. I understand they were in the game for offensive purposes, but if you examined that game, Bobby was having a horrible shooting night and Jabari’s only offensive capability was to sit in the corner and wait for LaVine to kick it out to him.
Eventually the Bulls will get their injured players back and a rotation will begin to take shape and cement itself. But until then, Fred needs to prove he can adapt his lineup and game plan to different opponents night in and night out until he has a full roster and more games under his belt with this young group.