The Chicago Bulls’ recent road games against hot-handed Western Conference opponents have highlighted the team’s concerns about shooting from beyond the arc.
Bulls take the fewest 3-point attempts in the NBA (28.9 per game) and have the fourth-lowest percentage of 3-pointers made (35.4%) despite their average effectiveness from beyond the arc (10.2). However, their problem is not solely the result of hits or misses.
The formula for teams who don’t shoot many 3-pointers is simple: if you’re not a long-range shooting team, you can’t let your opponents score from beyond the arc. For instance, while allowing the sixth-most 3-pointers per game—the Bulls’ opponent on Friday night—the Golden State Warriors nonetheless manage to outscore their rivals by 3.1 made 3-pointers per game.
The Bulls, on the other hand, have experienced the reverse in the season’s first quarter. The Bulls allow the fourth-highest shooting accuracy from beyond the arc, or 12.7 made 3-pointers per game on average.
This translates to a big 7.5-point deficit for the Bulls as they are outshot by an average of 2.5 three-pointers each game. Only the Minnesota Timberwolves (minus-2.6) and the New York Knicks (minus-2.6) have poorer 3-point scoring margins (minus-2.8).
Zach LaVine, a guard, stated during Wednesday’s loss to the Phoenix Suns, “If we’re not going to take or make a lot of them, we’ve got to remove them because there can’t be that large of a discrepancy.” Some nights, it seems like the odds are practically 10 to 1.
Only five teams with negative 3-point differentials this season—the New Orleans Pelicans, Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers, and Charlotte Hornets—have winning records. A negative 3-point differential is unsustainable for any club in the modern NBA.
The 3-point line isn’t always the deciding factor; for example, the Bulls outshot the Milwaukee Bucks 18-12 from beyond the arc in a victory last week, then outshot the Oklahoma City Thunder 12-7 but lost in OT. But the Bulls will find it difficult to maintain their position above.500 if they can’t narrow this gap.
The Bulls’ problems may be divided into two parts: upping their 3-point shooting and strengthening their perimeter defense.
Even though the Bulls identified their 3-point shooting as a concern in the offseason, they only signed Goran Dragi as a shooter.
Many of the players on our team don’t shoot 3-pointers, according to LaVine. That isn’t their strategy. Therefore, the players who attempt 3-pointers must succeed. Naturally, I need to improve and hit more threes, but we must focus on our strengths.
Only five of the Bulls’ guards, LaVine, Coby White, Dragi, Ayo Dosunmu, and Alex Caruso, average at least one three-pointer per game with Lonzo Ball out indefinitely.
This team has struggled with injuries as well as inconsistent play. Dragi is battling a neck issue, which prevents him from shooting as many 3-pointers and pushes him to concentrate on ball distribution. White’s erratic shooting (33.3 percent from beyond the arc) has been made worse by a quad injury that occurred early in the season.
In the last nine games, Dosunmu has made just 2-of-15 3-pointers, and LaVine has started to jack up his long-range attempts out of frustration. For the Bulls recently, Caruso has been the most reliable shooter, going 10-for-19 from beyond the arc in the last seven games.
Dragi offered the group a seemingly straightforward answer prior to Friday’s game, the fifth of a six-game trip: shoot only open 3-pointers.
The Bulls rarely have success as a team when attempting 3-pointers while in the pick-and-roll or from behind a screen. Only LaVine, according to Dragi, is a reliable 3-point shooter in those circumstances, and even he hasn’t shot well recently (18-for-50 in the last seven games).
The Bulls must play inside and fluidly use pick-and-pop and quick rotational plays for catch-and-shoot opportunities in order to create open 3-point opportunities.
In order for there to be an open three-point shot, Dragi explained, “the ball needs to get inside the paint and then we need to play for each other.” “It must resemble a string. The other guy has to pull out when you enter.
The other important factor in closing this gap will be slowing opposing teams down defensively because the Bulls lack the profile to consistently win a shootout. Stopping long-range scoring in transition and finishing rotations after several switches are the Bulls’ two main weaknesses when facing 3-pointers.
Both problems boil down to effort and communication, something the Bulls stressed even before the season started. Both will be perennial talking points this season, but it is now obvious that the Bulls’ efforts to improve their record will be futile if they cannot change their defense to stop the arc.
“We give ourselves a pretty good chance in the games where we are good at the 3-point line, where we defend well and make it tough on teams,” center Nikola Vuevi said. Simply said, we need to be more consistent in that.