Who returns for Bulls next season and who’s out? It’ll be a numbers game
Subscribe for unlimited digital access.
Try one month for $1!
Subscribe for unlimited digital access. Try one month for $1!
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg always shuns the spotlight.
So it wasn’t surprising when he gave credit to everyone but himself Thursday.
Way back in training camp, long before punches were thrown or the roster was jumbled, management’s stated goals for Hoiberg would be developing the younger players and — maybe more important — making sure they played with effort on a daily basis. Hoiberg accomplished both under trying circumstances.
Despite a handful of injuries and a rotation that looks more G League than NBA these days, the short-handed Bulls will go into Boston on a three-game winning streak.
So, Fred, it’s time to pat yourself on the back a bit.
Not a chance.
“I give our guys a lot of credit,’’ Hoiberg said. “I’ve said it all along: Our guys have played the right way. They’ve found a way to fight through adversity.
“That has been our message to our team — we’re not looking at the end of the game when we come in here, win-loss. The wins are obviously nice, but you’re looking at, did you play harder than the other team? And, for the most part, our guys have competed at a very high level every time they stepped on the floor.
“I’ve talked about the importance of coming to practice every day and the importance of coming to shootaround with the right mentality and learning and accomplishing things in those types of environments and film sessions. The approach our guys have shown with that has been off-the-charts. That is gratifying. It’s good to have a group that has come in here and had that type of work ethic all year long.’’
That’s all well and good, but is it a group that has staying power?
The Bulls have two first-round picks in June, so unless they package them to move up a spot or two, expect at least two new faces on the roster this summer.
Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn are considered the “core three,’’ so it’s safe to at least pencil them in as returners.
The front office loves the way Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday have led, as well as the sacrifices they’ve made in playing time, so if one or both aren’t moved, that’s seven spots taken.
Bobby Portis, David Nwaba and Denzel Valentine have shown they can be valuable rotation players off the bench, so that makes 10.
Holiday said he expected to see a lot of familiar faces returning next season.
“I believe so,’’ Holiday said. “I don’t have any reason to feel that [the front end of the rotation] will be changed. But things can happen. But I believe it will be the same.’’
If that’s true — a big if — that leaves Ryan Arcidiacono, Antonio Blakeney, Cristiano Felicio, Jerian Grant, Sean Kilpatrick, Noah Vonleh, Paul Zipser and Cameron Payne involved in some heavy competition.
That’s why these last four games matter so much to Hoiberg.
“It’s still important,’’ Hoiberg said. “You look at the standings, where we are and what we’re still trying to accomplish, and there are still some important minutes this season.’’
NOTE: Antonio Blakeney was named G League rookie of the year after averaging 32 points for the Windy City Bulls.