The Athletic’s Zach Harper recently shared whom he believes should be taking “the clutch” shot on each team in the Eastern Conference, and some of his answers got me thinking.
Harper began his study, by answering four important questions for each squad – here’s how the Bulls fit into things:
- Where will they go? – Zach LaVine
- Where should they go? – LaVine, maybe Markkanen
- Where shouldn’t they go? – Kris Dunn or Otto Porter
- Best safety value option? – Thaddeus Young
Harper has his own reasoning for each of these responses – you can check out his article right here for more – but let’s work through some of this stuff on our own.
To begin with Question #1: We can say with confidence that the Bulls will plan to have the ball in LaVine’s hands, when most key moments arise this season. And when you consider his natural scoring presence and ball-handling ability, this isn’t much of a surprise. The Bulls may not have won many games last season, but LaVine showed up in the clutch several times. The most exciting LaVine performance came when the Bulls upset the 76ers on March 6th. That night, LaVine was instrumental in the teams final eight points, including the go-ahead, game-winning basket with a little over a second to go.
The answer to Harper’s second question appears just as easy. Where the Bulls will go probably is where the Bulls should go. However, my only bone to pick here is that “should” is a very relative term. LaVine is a top-notch scorer, but he isn’t Kemba Walker or Bradley Beal or Jimmy Butler. In other words, he isn’t a superstar. The Bulls don’t have the “one” guy they should go to because, ultimately, they don’t have that one guy who leads the team.
We can say LaVine is the right guy to take the last-second shot all we want, but, at the end of the day, none of these projected starters have experienced winning at a higher level. The closest is Porter, so let’s talk about that.
Harper puts Dunn and Porter in the “where shouldn’t they go” category, and while I agree with Dunn, I’m surprised on Porter.
Sure, Porter doesn’t appear to be as gifted a scorer as LaVine, but he has one heck of a basketball IQ. Oh, and he’s also a pretty good all-around player. I’m not saying I trust Porter more than LaVine when it comes to creating his own shot, but he did shoot 48 percent from both the field and behind the arc after joining the Bulls last season. When you compare his three-ball to LaVine’s, he’s shot better from downtown the past three seasons. And if you don’t believe Porter has the clutch gene in him, I recommend going back to the 4OT game against the Atlanta Hawks last season, he came up huge at the end of regulation and also had several big-time buckets in overtime.
In fact, Porter came up big during clutch moments in the game several times throughout his first 15 appearances with the Bulls.
- 2/11 – Scored seven of his eighteen points between 7:05-3:53 in the third quarter to bring the Bulls within two of Bucks.
- 2/22 – Scored seven of his seventeen points during the final 9:16 against Orlando with a major three-pointer to give the Bulls 106-104 lead with 2:03 to go.
- 3/6 – Nailed a three-pointer with 2:44 to go against the Philadelphia to make it 101-101.
Harper lists Thaddeus Young as the best safety option, pointing out he’s 8-of-13 on “hero shots” over the course of his career. I can’t argue with this claim, but I do think Porter could pop into this category down the road. Another veteran presence, Porter has apparently only gone 2-of-8 during these opportunities, but let’s also remember that, up until now, he played with John Wall and Bradley Beal. Yeah, he wasn’t going to get many shots at winning the game … literally.
We have a small sample size in Chicago, which could show us everything and nothing all at the same time. Either Porter was hot and this isn’t who he is, or Porter is a reliable late-game target when trying to win a game, all he needed was a chance.
I understand LaVine being the go-to shooter, but it’s possible Porter should be heavily involved during clutch moments this season.