Gasol-Mirotic, Noah-Gibson parings make more sense for Bulls


The Chicago Bulls are leaning towards playing Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic together, with Joakim Noah coming off the bench and playing with Taj Gibson.

Noah has started 463 games in his career for the Bulls but has stated that he’s willing to do whatever is best for the team.

Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg showed his cards in Tuesday’s exhibition game vs the Pacers in terms of lineups he will be using during the season. With all the big men healthy, Hoiberg started Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic together, while bringing Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson off the bench. These pairings make more sense for the Bulls going forward.

Noah and Gasol, who are two natural centers, didn’t play well with each other last season, as both looked uncomfortable. Hoiberg realizes that having Noah and Gasol on the floor together would not be efficient in regards to having good floor spacing.

Because Mirotic is a stretch four, it gives Gasol more room to operate from the post. Gasol and Mirotic played together this summer for Spain in the Euro-basketball tournament, and their chemistry on the floor is very good. They have a strong understanding of each other and connect on the floor well.

Noah and Gibson have always played well together in the past because it allows Noah to play at the center position, where he is most comfortable. Noah uses his passing ability to get the ball into Gibson on high-low plays, where Noah is at the top of the key and Gibson is battling down low.

We have seen in the past where Noah delivers perfect alley-oop passes to Gibson, and that should continue this year. The floor spacing is much better when Noah and Gasol are not on the floor together. The two seven footers occupy too much space which limits the offense when they are on the floor at the same time.

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Hoiberg hasn’t announced his starting lineup for opening night but there is a growing sense that Noah and Gasol won’t be paired together. Because Hoiberg favors floor spacing and having shooters on the floor at all times, Mirotic starting at the power forward seems likely, with Gasol at the center position.

Mirotic’s ability to space the floor with his shooting ability opens up the offense and gives Gasol the opportunity to dominate in the post.

All of this floor spacing will be beneficial to Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler, who will have more lanes to drive towards the hoop. Last year with Noah and Gasol starting, driving lanes were hard to come by for Rose and Butler because of the lack of space there was on the floor.

The Golden State Warriors won the title last year by playing small ball. The NBA is a copy cat league and that is why teams are starting to play small, quicker lineups this year. The Bulls are catching onto that theme quickly.

Gasol is a good rim protector and Mirotic has shown slight improvement in his defense, but both can’t be counted on consistently to play defense at a high level. That is where the Noah-Gibson pairing comes into play, as both players are elite defenders at their position.

Hoiberg can play offense-defense with these two pairings and has the luxury of having great depth in the front court.

Noah stated earlier in training camp that he wanted one more chance to play with Gasol, and while Hoiberg hasn’t ruled out the two playing together, it doesn’t seem likely. The offense is more fluid and efficient when those two are not on the floor together.

Hoiberg was pleased to see how Noah reacted to coming off the bench.

“He didn’t fight it one bit,” said Hoiberg. “I think he’s excited to play with Taj and the chemistry those two have together is good.”

Hoiberg is using this preseason to see which combinations of lineups are best for the team going forward. It is pretty clear that the parings of Mirotic with Gasol and Noah with Gibson are best for the team.