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Bulls facing deficit when it comes to the ever-important three-pointer

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Let's hope this hit rim...or at least that he shot it from behind the line. (Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-US PRESSWIRE)
Let's hope this hit rim...or at least that he shot it from behind the line. (Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-US PRESSWIRE)

Up at the mothership, Tom Ziller has done two days of posts emphasizing the importance of 3-point shooting. A skill that intuitively we all understand any team needs, though maybe still not giving it enough credit.

Ziller looks at how teams chose their shot ranges last season, showing that the rim is good, threes are good, the rest not-so-much. But it actually shows moreso that threes are great:

teams with better XeFGs are likely to have better eFGs. The correlation coefficient is actually 0.34, which is non-negligible. Assuming a linear relationship, it indicates that about 11 percent of a team's shooting performance is explained by at what range they take their shots.

But when you break it down further, it becomes apparent what really matters.

If you look at the correlation between shot rate at each of Hoopdata's specific ranges, we'll see that the two efficient zones are not created equal. The percentage of a team's field goals taken at the rim has a small positive (0.06) correlation with actual eFG. That's essentially negligible. But the percentage of a team's field goals taken from beyond the arc has a 0.48 correlation coefficient with eFG. Assuming a linear relationship, that indicates that about 23 percent of a team's actual shooting percentage is explained solely by how frequently the team takes three-pointers.

Three-pointers rule the land.

The Bulls did pretty well from three last year, but didn't exactly maximize the opportunities.

And it may be a troubling sign for what's to come this season. Kyle Korver is one of the best 3pt shooters in the entire league. Signing Marco Belinelli was a nice save, but doesn't quit match what Korver can do from beyond the arc. CJ Watson tailed off to 39% from three last season but mid-year was shooting so well he was leading a not-entirely-laughed-off campaign to be in the 3-point contest at the All Star Game. Even John Lucas's one shining achievement last year (cumulatively, as singularly it was clowning LeBron and the Heat in March) was getting near 40% from three. Not saying that he was going to do that again, and Nate Robinson should prove to be a better player, but he's not going to match that performance.

Here are the numbers from last season for the Bulls shooters departed and incoming, per 36 minutes.

Player Attempts %
Korver 6.6 43.5
Watson 5.4 39.3
Lucas 6.9 39.3
Belinelli 5.2 37.7
Hinrich 4.0 34.6
Robinson 5.5 36.5

Some of this is nitpicky, Hinrich has a shoulder injury to blame for some of his poor 3-point shooting last year, Nate Robinson's numbers go all over the place season-to-season, and I mentioned John Lucas above.

But a lack of threes could be a real problem, especially considering other team factors:

  • Missing Rose's ability to drive and draw a defense. And while he's out, Hinrich taking on more of that responsibility thus possibly lowering his high-percentage attempts.
  • No real post-and-kick game to compensate, as the entire Bulls frontcourt does more of their work in the high post and can't command double-teams.
  • Luol Deng shooting with an injured (non-shooting) wrist, which didn't work very well for him down the stretch last season.
  • Other playing-time factors: Vladamir Radmanovic is a good stretch-four (the only one on the roster) who can pretty much only shoot, but may not get to play much due to his other liabilities. And if Rip Hamilton does play, he's not a good 3-point shooter.

Of course, whether it's last year or this, with or without Rose, the Bulls aren't designed to win based on their shooting anyway. But that facet of the game may be too depressed at some point.