When a fully healthy team with playoff aspirations loses by 20 in their season opener, you have a bad taste in your mouth. When that same team also shoots 41.8 percent from the field, you throw up a little in your mouth. And when you learn about a players-only meeting in the locker room afterward, you projectile vomit.
Even if that team meeting was constructive – as the players insist it was – it’s hardly an ideal way to start the year.
But I’ll cut them the tiniest bit of slack. At the end of the day, we’re talking about one game. Is it possible that it serves as a sign of what is to come? Sure. Probable, even. However, teams are trying to figure themselves out and establish an identity over the first few weeks of the season. And, for what it’s worth, the Chicago Bulls did at least make a concerted effort to improve one key area of their game.
Creating more 3-point shots has been a point of emphasis for this organization since the moment last season came to a bitter end. The front office revamped their player development department, hiring long-term shooting coach Peter Patton to lead the charge. Meanwhile, head coach Billy Donovan has attempted to reinvent the offense around a more uptempo and downhill style of play. The idea is to hunt more transition 3-pointers and dive-and-kick opportunities.
The preseason created some concerns about whether or not the Bulls could truly make this a more consistent part of their game. After all, this is a nearly identical roster to the one that finished dead last in 3PAs per game the previous two seasons. But opening night against the Oklahoma City Thunder showed progress, as the Bulls tossed up an eye-popping 42 shots behind the arc.
Here’s the shot chart (via NBA dot com):
Those 42 attempts matched a season-high from the entire 2022-23 campaign. Of the 28 teams that played over the first two nights of the regular season this week, this tied Chicago for the 7th-most in the league. At least that’s progress, right?
But, dude, they literally made just 12 of those shots.
Valid point! While it’s great to see the Chicago Bulls stick to their word and match their previous season-high in just one game, it’s not great at all to see them shoot a painful 28.6 percent. This is particularly true when we consider they also allowed the Thunder to outscore them by 21 points behind the arc with a 19-39 performance. So what good is shooting more 3s if they’re just going to shoot this poorly AND their perimeter defense is going to take a step back this season?
I guess all I’d say to that is the hope, obviously, is that they don’t shoot this poorly moving forward. And, let’s be honest, they won’t. Zach LaVine isn’t going to shoot 2-9 from downtown on most nights, Coby White isn’t going to shoot 2-7, and even Patrick Williams isn’t going to shoot 0-4. Not to mention, NBA Stats has 20 of the team’s 42 attempts as “wide-open” looks, which means a defender was 6+ feet away. I’m not trying to claim that Chicago is going to be some sort of epic 3-point shooting team, but they were generating decent looks and there is no denying that Wednesday was simply a cold shooting night.
Speaking of which, the question now is whether or not the Chicago Bulls can put this cold shooting night behind them. While there are many things we want to see changed about the season opener, this newfound willingness to hunt shots from behind the arc isn’t one of them. I’ll have my eye on how many attempts we see against Toronto and Detroit this weekend.