One Way Or Another, the Bulls Shooting Must Improve (And Other Bulls Bullets)

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One Way Or Another, the Bulls Shooting Must Improve (And Other Bulls Bullets)

Chicago Bulls

I must admit, I didn’t envision offense sinking this Chicago Bulls ship back in October.

The roster was built around three players who built their reputations almost solely on that side of the ball. And while I expected hiccups on the defensive end – especially as we began to watch injuries hinder this group – I thought the Bulls would have an elite enough scoring trio to stay afloat.

In some ways, I guess this did prove true. Without Patrick Williams for most of the season (plus the inconsistent availability of Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball), the Bulls were still able to pull off their best record in five years. They also still finished the regular season with a top-13 offensive rating (despite holding just a 25th-ranked OFFRTG since March 1st). Once the playoffs began, I knew stopping Giannis Antetokunmpo and Co. posed its own insurmountable hurdle, but I was still left surprised by the fact that the lack of reliable shooting basically ended up as the self-knock-out punch.

•   The Bulls averaged the fewest 3-point shot attempts per game over the regular season. While they were technically able to knock down those attempts at a 36.9 percent mark (4th-best), it also felt like that insufficient volume could come back to bite them in the rear. Cue the playoffs where they went up against arguably the worst possible matchup in the Milwaukee Bucks – a team that allowed their opponent to shoot the most 3-point attempts per game by design. With Giannis Antetokounmpo manning the frontcourt and Jrue Holiday manning the backcourt, the goal was to simply wall off the paint and force teams to beat them behind the arc. The Bulls were used to doing the exact opposite, and it resulted in just a 28.3 percent performance from downtown in the playoffs, which ended up as the second-worst clip of the first round.

•   Losing Lonzo Ball hurt the Bulls in several ways, but one of the worst came behind the 3-point line. Ball had been averaging a career-high 42.3 percent from 3 on a team-high 7.4 attempts per game before his injury. He was an extremely reliable kick-out option that helped the offense consistently space the floor. Opposing defenses had to worry about what he brought to the table, and it only made life much easier on the team’s “Big 3.” With that said, adding a healthy Ball back into the equation doesn’t entirely fix the Bulls’ shooting woes. This is a personnel problem, and we saw that on full display as the Bulls’ role players clanked 3-pointer after 3-pointer in the postseason.

•   Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley have to prioritize more reliable shooting in free agency. I suppose they could also look to solve this problem in the draft, but I suspect they will have a better chance at landing a much-needed backup big man in their current draft position (which I wrote a little bit more about here). As good as players like Javonte Green and Derrick Jones Jr. were at times throughout the year, those are the kind of roster spots that might have to be replaced with more dependable shooters. Could guys like Robert Covington or Nic Batum get a call from the Bulls? What about Chris Boucher or Nemanja Bjelica? I’ll be very curious to see what kind of names circulate in the Chicago conversation this summer.

•   Coby White and Nikola Vucevic also MUST step up next season (assuming they both stay on board). White did shoot a career-high 38.5 percent from downtown this season, but we watched that number sit at just 27.6 percent in the playoffs and just 34.8 percent from March 1st to the end of the regular season. Vucevic, on the other hand, shot his worst clip from 3 since the 2017-18 season, which is the opposite of what the team invested two draft picks and Wendell Carter Jr. into last trade deadline (when he was shooting 40.0 percent). For what it’s worth, I have faith we can see Vucevic’s numbers creep back up as he becomes more comfortable alongside his fellow stars. White’s numbers I believe will always look fairly efficient from 3 moving forward, but I’m not sure that will account for his aggressively hot and cold nature.

•   Darnell Mayberry presented an important point about Zach LaVine in his latest work over at The Athletic:

It’s not the Bulls’ job to correct a contract they didn’t put on the table. But it is their job to reward their deserving stars with the money they’ve earned. Or somebody else will and word will spread about the Bulls. At this point, the money is a formality.

•   Aside from the fact that I believe LaVine’s talent is worthy of the investment, we have to keep in mind what NOT paying him would look like to players around the league. The last thing this still relatively new front office wants to do is damage its reputation behind the scenes, especially after they built it up decently well since taking over. Refusing to pay LaVine – who by all accounts appears very well-liked among the NBA community – will surely be noted by a handful of star-caliber players. A lack of trust and appreciation feels like a massive problem the last front office had, and Karnisovas/Eversley have already had to work so hard to get rid of that reputation.

•   As I’ve written before, LaVine was the lowest-paid non-rookie contract player to finish top-13 in scoring this season.

•   The coaching carousel is operating at full speed. Rumors about several teams have started to circulate, and we should keep a close eye on each situation. After all, a coaching change can likely be one of many big moves for an organization, and we all know those big moves tend to have ripple effects around the league.

•   For those who think he didn’t deserve it at the time: You’re wrong. K. Bye.

•   Let’s hope that works out.


Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.