Report: Bulls leaning toward starting Nikola Mirotic over Joakim Noah

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Joakim Noah made his case to start next to Pau Gasol after the big-man pairing produced lackluster results last season.

But Bulls coach Hoiberg appears to be going with the people’s choice: Nikola Mirotic.

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 Cavaliers, sources said the first-year coach is leaning strongly toward starting Nikola Mirotic.

The Bulls played better with Mirotic on the court last season, because he spaces the floor in a way Chicago’s other three rotation bigs – Gasol, Noah and Taj Gibson – don’t. Mirotic, just 24, is ready for a bigger role.

Noah is coming off his worst season since his rookie year. Injury certainly contributed, but Noah will turn 31 this season. At that age, it can’t be assumed his decline – in health and production – will simply reverse.

At his best, Noah is one of the NBA’s best defenders. a tremendous rebounder and helpful passer. That player belongs on the court more than Mirotic – even if the fit with Gasol is imperfect.

But Noah will have to prove he’s that player again.

It’s still possible Noah still plays more than Mirotic. This could be an issue of fit. But, while they aren’t required to play more than backups, starters usually do because taking the first shift makes it easier to stagger their rest.

This sounds like a changing of the guard in Chicago.