Can the Bulls live without three point shooting? If not where does it come from?

If you ignore "getting a superstar" as a goal, the Bulls had two glaring holes that a balanced team would not have; interior scoring and three point shooting.   Their first two signings reflected the team attempting to fill those holes by adding Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver.   I'm quite happy with Boozer on the inside.   In fact, a front court of Noah, Boozer, and Gibson is well rounded and quite potent on both ends of the floor.  

However, does Kyle Korver really solve our three point shooting woes?   As a team last season, the Bulls had 1066 three point attempts (29th) at
33% accuracy (28th).   It's not hard to see why Derrick rose struggled
to find room to operate at times.  
I believe I stole the idea from BrooklynBulls on realgm (though it was so long ago, I may misremember), but it's interesting to look at the players coming and going to see what type of three point shooting the Bulls have left:

Leaving the team in terms of shooting:
Kirk Hinrich 104/280 (37.1%)
Brad Miller 37/132 (28%)
John Salmons 73/192 (38%)
Jannero Pargo 38/138 (27.5%)
Flip Murray 28/90 (31.1%)
and some scrubs who combined for 9/45 (20%)
Total: 289/877 (33%)

Remaining on the team from last year:

Derrick Rose 16/60 (26.7%)
Luol Deng 32/83 (38.6%)
James Johnson 15/46 (32.6%)
Total: 63/189 (33.3%)

Coming to the team in terms of shooting:
Kyle Korver 59/110 (53.6%)
CJ Watson 45/145 (31%)
Keith Bogans 70/198 (35.7%)
Ronnie Brewer 8/31 (25.8%)
Total: 182/484 (37.6%)

Total of holdovers + arrivals;
245/673 (36.4%)

If everyone on the team performs comparably to last season, the Bulls will have 400 attempts less than last season and 347 less than the lowest in the NBA last season.   So this brings up a couple questions:

1: Do the Bulls need three point shooting?

To answer the first question, we saw how much less space there was last year for Rose to drive in, and how that could cause the Bulls to really struggle in the half court offense.   Carlos Boozer is also going to have a much harder time operating in the post if there isn't a guard on the floor to keep defenders honest.

If the Bulls can't knock down shots from outside, then teams will pack the paint, and the Bulls will need a whole ton of precise passing to find open shots.   However, the one advantage the Bulls will have is that one extremely deadly shooter probably does more for spacing than multiple mediocre shooters, and the Bulls did add that one extremely deadly shooter.  Teams really aren't defending 33-35% shooters at the hip anyway, so having larger, but inefficient volume doesn't really do anything for spacing.

As such, while Kyle Korver is on the floor, I think spacing will be improved from last year even if there isn't much more in the way of shooting available.   Korver is a guy that teams can't leave at all, so a skillful placement of him in a play should open up far more space than we saw last year and allow for the room we need Derrick to operate.

Still, it's an imperfect solution, because Korver is unlikely to play more than 25 minutes a night and could easily end up playing 15-20.  When he's not in the game, the Bulls really have no one at all who's even a mild thread based on last year's numbers.

2: Outside of Korver where will the shooting come from?
Things may not be quite as hopeless as they appear on the surface.   Tom Thibodeau discussed Luol Deng taking more attempts from the three point line particularly out of the corner.   I think we're going to see Luol Deng's three point attempts rise to at least two per game.   I think his percentage may dip below 38% he had last year, but I expect him to still maintain a 35% clip on increased volume.

C.J. Watson also struggled somewhat from the three point line last season at 31%, but two seasons ago shot 40% on similar volume.   Watson certainly has a chance to become more of a goto shooter with the Bulls as well, though the problem is that unless the Bulls go small with him and Rose playing together, he's unlikely to get enough playing time to make a big impact with his shooting.

Keith Bogans can also provide enough shooting to help keep teams honest when playing the two guard, especially if his role is to knock down the corner threes.

The real culprit to the Bulls problem is that most teams get shooting from their guards.  While there were initial reports about Derrick Rose shooting the three better, we saw him struggle mightily with the international three, so it's hard to feel confident that he's going to provide a boost in terms of NBA three point shooting this season.

The Bulls will also play Ronnie Brewer considerable minutes, and he's most definitely not a three point shooter either.

Final thoughts
In order to really have this problem solved, the Bulls need either Rose or Deng to step up their three point shooting in terms of volume while still hitting 35% or better. Luol Deng seems like the more likely candidate given he had the better year last year and is more likely to play in an off the ball role to get the open three point shots.

If both struggle the Bulls face the daunting task of finding efficient scoring in the half court against defenses that pack in the paint.  


Leave a comment
  • 1. They need 3-pt shooting in the worst way. It is definitely a momentum changer. I don't have any hopes for Rose being a 3 pt threat this season. That will be a pleasant surprise. With the pressure to win, be a leader, distribute etc.., I don't think Rose can make 3 pt shots consistently during pressure packed games. Deng has to adapt and I think he can to this better than Rose as he not supposed to be the alpha guy like Rose
    2. Agree with your point of a great shooter than mediocre shooters. A mediocre shooter like Larry Hughes/Kirk Hinrich will not only miss the 3 more often but the rebound will end up in a fast break two points for the other team. Basically, it is a 5 pt turnover every time there is a kick and shoot for Hinrich/Hughes kind of players.
    3. The Bulls need to upgrade the SG starter position. They have 4 decent/good players at the other spots who are good for starting in the league. A defensive SG like Brewer screams bench player. I hope they get Rudy to have a decent starting five. Brewer/Taj/Korver are perfect second unit players/bench players.

  • First, at the beginning of the tournament when Rose was getting more consistent shots, he wasn't struggling. His shot will be improved. You don't have to worry about it.

    Second, Deng takes a ton of 20 footers and hits them. That creates space, so the lack of threes is kind of miss leading.

    Finally, the problem was the bulls basic offensive sets last year. A team needs to be able to reverse the ball to get open looks. The bulls had very little of that the last two years. It was BG or Rose putting up a shot, or driving off of a pick and dishing to a guy who shot. You don't get a ton of open looks that way, especially if you run the same three plays the whole game. Just being able to run a pick and roll with a guy like boozer is going to change things, and a renewed emphasis on reversing the ball back to Deng, like 2006-07, will make it look like a completely different team out there.

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    about your second point:

    deng is hitting those 20 footers at a 40% clip. thats .8 points per possession, so if im the other team i dont care about guarding those. if deng takes a good step back and shoots 35%, thats 1.05 points per possession. thats something i would have to guard. plus: have you ever seen a live nba game? an extra 3 feet of driving space is enormous.

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    It's funny how we go from puncher's chance of going to the Finals or at least the ECF to Worst in the League.. in three point shooting.

    If it is true that the Bulls will be last or near the botton again in threes attemtped then we have no chance of being anywhere near a top three/contending team in the East.

    Look at the Finals teams and and Conf. finals and L.A., Boston, Orlando, and Phoenix all shoot at least 1,350-1,400 or higher threes in a season. Go back the last few seasons, and you'll see the top four teams/contenders have a three point element to their offense.

    So if we are going to assume the Bulls are going to be at the bottom of the league then very likely we're going to be a shaky team no where near 50 plus wins or the ECF.

    Just look at what happens to players when they go to winning programs with overall talent, or to a team like Phoenix which features ways to get very open threes. Did they bring in guys who can shoot 35%? Sure. But the attempt numbers in winning situations with multifaceted talent goes way up.

    Let's just wait, and see how guys like Deng, Watson, Korver, Bogans, and even Brewer who shot well for a full season on limited volume attempts in college. And I do think Rose will if he ups his game scoring wise will shoot at least more threes and hit for a decent percentage/can them in some games.

    If the major upgrade, IMO, in talent along with Thib's and staff hopefully competent offensive schemes will see where those attempts per game land. If they don't rise at least to 1,350 or so then it does nto bode well for the team. But I'm not expecting that to be the case at all.

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    Agree. If the Bulls do not improve their 3 pt shooting to top 10/12 in the league, I think it will carry over to their results. They will win against the average/bad teams but get beaten by good/great teams regularly and will flame out early in the playoffs. I know defense is important but their winning percentage will be down.

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    I'll take transition layups and free-throws produced by good defense over 3pt. shooting.

    Getting extra possessions through defense and rebounding should be a strength this year.

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    Yes, the Bulls do need that extra offensive weapon at SG, someone who can shoot 3s and create his own shot. It is the single largest weakness remaining on this team.

    Watching FIBA, Kevin Durant was a total game changer with his 3pt shooting. Of course we can't get Durant, but we need a serious 3pt shooter/offensive wing in our starting lineup.

    Though I personally prefer the type of basketball that relies on fundamentals such as defense and rebounding, we must recognize that the game has changed and 3pt shooting is far more important now than in the Jordan era, for example. Back then a team's main 3pt threat could come off the bench, now teams need 1 or 2 serious 3pt threats in their starting lineup. Bulls currently don't have that and it makes them less competitive.

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    Rather than look at 3 point shooting stats in a vacumn, I would like to see those same statistics for every team that made the playoffs vs those that didn't. The teams that made the conference finals vs those that didn't and the 2 finals teams vs everybody else in the playoffs.

    that might add some value to the debate over whether we need three point shooting to be successfull or not.

    the Bulls will rank higher this season in 3 point shooting that they did last season. Will it be the biggest reason that they vastly improve their record and advance past the first round of the playoffs, I doubt it.

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    I really like the addition of Korver, who, like you said, has that killer rep for 3's so teams can't leave him alone. Also, won't part of the Bulls offensive woes be helped by having Boozer now, in the sense that Rose alone won't be the only option in the paint? I envision Rose dishing off to Boozer over and over again, hopefully. double-team Boozer and you still have the threat of Rose driving, or passing to Deng or Korver or...if Loul can maintain a mid-range shot, I think the Bulls will cause a lot of teams a lot of problems. Hopefully, Deng will have a great year seeing as how he really has no pressure.
    If you have Noah, Boozer, Brewer/Watson, Rose, Korver on the floor, it's maybe small but interesting. Put in Deng for Korver and I still think it's interesting.
    Hey, Deng is still key for us, what can we do?

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    Well I for one am confident Rose will nail the three at a high percentage. I think Rose got rusty due to a lack of shooting. besides the best shooters go through a slump till they regain their shots for multiple games in a row. here we're talking his last two games from what I hear. If Rose says its good I believe him. His jump shot improved so much better than the year prior last season. So theres history that he improves what he works on. That should bode well for his defense too.

    Thats why I don't understand all the love for 'Melo. He's not that great a shooter from the arc which is our biggest need. Rudy Fernandez is a much better fit for this team.

Leave a comment