Fred Hoiberg Must Make Rajon Rondo Work, Change Starters

Fred Hoiberg is showing his weakness as an NBA coach by playing Rajon Rondo with weak shooters and playing Bobby Portis at center. Rondo plays well with shooters, while Portis defends slashers best and not the center.

Hoiberg may not be an NBA caliber coach if he can’t even figure out his rotation. He racks up losses by not planning for matchup problems and expects players who cannot defend to play out of position.

Rajon Rondo recently got benched for not being able to defend well. But that’s not really Rondo’s problem in the same way that Doug McDermott or Nikola Mirotic are post defenders.

Bobby Portis should be paired with Rondo to help out on perimeter to stop slashing players and pair with Cristiano Felicio as the wall. Portis slows a slasher enough for either Michael Carter-Williams or Felicio to block shots and get defensive rebounds. It worked well last year with Justin Holiday as the defensive stopper and with Spencer Dinwiddie in the Las Vegas Summer League.

If Rondo is asked to defend his position by his lonesome, it won’t work.

Fred has a nasty habit of losing consecutive games running the same combinations before deciding what to do.

He may get better advice from Pete Myers than from Spurs alumni Jim Boylen, whose questionable strategy of placing Mirotic and McDermott as mere corner-3, catch-and-shoot specialists is not working. That is an obvious San Antonio Spurs half-court set.

Why isn’t there any more elevator plays or hammer plays? Any fan who has watched the Bulls knows that Doug is a monster posting up or coming off elevator plays and never sitting in the corner in five-out formations that do not work. Same with Mirotic. He did not become Spanish League MVP just being a corner-3 catch-and-shoot target.

Pete Myers’ Summer League lineup was better: Two strong rebounders (Felicio, Portis and Jack Cooley) in at all times, and a strong defensive guard to pair with the PG and two shooters.

Hoiberg’s  reliance on Taj Gibson as a post defender is costing the team plenty of scores on the opponents’ side. Taj cannot for the life of him defend slashers like Giannis Antetokounmpo, nor Kawhi Leonard or guards like Damian Lillard. Portis can defend the perimeter from slashers and Fred completely forgot about it. That was Portis’ game in college over four years, not post defender and shot blocker.

With Carter-Williams defending the playmaker, Portis’ job is to blitz him and make passing angles tighter. Then Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler or even McDermott and Jerian Grant can pick off passes.

Remember what Justin Holiday and the two forwards did last year? If not, that’s why the Bulls are losing.

Fred Hoiberg probably thinks anyone on his team can hold their own on defense. It doesn’t work that way. Today, Rondo needs shooters to be effective and rim runners or a pick-and-roll monster like Felicio. They’ve had successful lob plays with Lopez before, but Rondo decides fast if he can pass to someone who can score immediately like Felicio or McDermott, not Butler. And off-loading Gibson’s offense onto McDermott should make the frontline scoring immediately a stronger option. Doug can do 20 points in his sleep at the post if given that role. Why make him a corner-3 guy? That’s Isaiah Canaan.

The Bulls have so many variations that Hoiberg has gone lazy the Tom Thibodeau way: Starters play six minutes, then subs in shooters for Wade and Gibson. Staggering the starters is also backfiring when each starter takes shots in rotations that subs like Mirotic and McDermott only get limited shot attempts in the slim windows they are on the court. Come on now, just three shots in the Indiana game in the final six minutes of the third quarter for McDermott and Mirotic? Then they overhaul the lead in the fourth because they get most of the shots. After subbing Butler back in, the offense loses momentum, sputters and the Bulls lose.

Why is Hoiberg running Thibodeau substitution patterns and Butler ISO hero-ball from last year? Review tape from the first three wins and you know the difference immediately. The starters sit the second half. Rondo plays with shooters and not with Jimmy. And Felicio and Portis play together with Carter-Williams to defend slashers.

The start of the Bucks game showed some promise for the next two months. I hope Hoiberg figures out his lineup real fast or it may be his last season. If he can see Doug doing the same things Jabari Parker was doing against his team, he should play Doug in the same role.

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