Nikola Mirotic Reportedly Expected to Start Bulls Season Opener Over Joakim Noah

Joe Pantorno@@JoePantornoFeatured ColumnistOctober 21, 2015

Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic (44) and center Joakim Noah (13) sit on the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks, Saturday, March 28, 2015, in Chicago. The Bulls won 111-80. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press

Chicago Bulls big man Joakim Noah has been a starting fixture in the Windy City for the better part of the past six seasons. But that was under former head coach Tom Thibodeau. 

With new man Fred Hoiberg taking over in Chicago, Noah's starting status looks in doubt, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. "While Hoiberg said he hasn’t decided who will start the Oct. 27 regular-season opener against the [Cleveland] Cavaliers, sources said the first-year coach is leaning strongly toward starting Nikola Mirotic," Johnson wrote. 

Mirotic, who is entering just his second season in the league, averaged 10 minutes less per game than Noah, but he still managed to score more points per game and provided an option from long range, spreading out the Bulls offense a bit more.   

While Noah brings more to the glass and defensive game, 2014-15 was his worst season statistically since his second year in the league in 2008-09.

Hoiberg comes from the college ranks with an offensive-minded approach. Mirotic, who has been aggressive throughout these exhibitions, was impressing his new coach, who spoke with Johnson

"I loved it. He was firing it up. He had a really good rhythm," Hoiberg said. "You could see it in his shot. He had great balance. His legs were good. I was really happy with the way he played."

All signs are pointing to a very different Bulls team than the ones that prided themselves on defense under Thibodeau, especially with a starting lineup that could feature Mirotic next to Pau Gasol this season. There's a better chance that games could be shootouts rather than the defensive stalemates Chicago fans are used to.

Playing in a reserve role doesn't necessarily mean that Noah is going to see a drastic decrease in playing time. When the Bulls are getting bullied down low or are in need of a defensive spark, Noah will likely get lots of playing time. 

Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.

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