NBA First Half Awards
With the season just over halfway done, let's look at the major awards. Feel free to disagree but it's James Hardens world right now and we're just living in it.
As the injury-riddled Chicago Bulls begin to regain their health, the pressure lies on head coach Fred Hoiberg to win more and better develop his young players. According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Hoiberg will soon be “coaching for his job” and his performance over the next month will be critical in determining if he lasts the remainder of the season.
The Bulls (5-19) have the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference. Injuries have decimated them this season. Second-year forward Lauri Markkanen made his season debut on Saturday night after dealing with a sprained right elbow. Starting point guard Kris Dunn, currently dealing with a knee injury, has appeared in just one game. Forward Bobby Portis played in only four games before hurting his knee. Dunn and Portis are expected to be cleared for contact practices in the next week, signaling they will return to game action at some point in December.
Hoiberg is in the fourth season of his five-year, $25 million contract and holds a 115-155 mark since taking over the coaching duties. He made one playoff appearance in 2017. His contract is fully guaranteed, which means he will be paid in full even if he gets canned early. Cowley notes that the Bulls owed Tom Thibodeau $9 million when he was fired, so money might not even factor into the decision of owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
While Chicago’s front office will take into account wins and losses in its evaluation, development of the young core players will be deemed most important, according to Cowley. The Bulls are rebuilding, so judging Hoiberg’s performance solely on wins (or lack thereof) would be unfair. The growth of rookie Wendell Carter Jr., Markkanen, Dunn and Zach LaVine—who is currently having an All-Star caliber season—will be assessed heavily by the Bulls' front office when determining if Hoiberg is the right man for the job.
Reinsdorf will have the final say in Hoiberg’s future. But he will gather input from general manager Gar Forman and VP of basketball operations John Paxson. Assuming the Bulls actually get healthy this month, Hoiberg needs to immediately demonstrate to the front office that he can be a part of the franchise’s turnaround—or else he could be axed before the calendar flips to 2019.