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How Difficult Were the Bulls' 3 Pointers Last Year?

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Over at Nylon Calculus, Seth Partnow charted the percentage of 3's players took that were open and wide open. We look at which guys on the Bulls had tough looks, which had easy ones, and how difficult the team's shots were as a whole.

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The problem with evaulating an NBA player's shooting ability is that it is very closely tied with the quality of looks that a guy gets from his team's offensive system.

This is the argument that Seth Partnow makes over at Nylon Calculus when talking about ranking Draymond Green (ICYMI, Ricky O'Donnell noted where Bulls players sit on SI's top 100 Player Ranking list ). Partnow notes:

Amidst yet another interminable pre-preseason "no, YOUR rankings suck" conversation, I mentioned in passing that it was hard to evaluate a player like Draymond Green in that way because his value is so tied to the context in which he plays.

Over 56% of Draymond's 3FGA came with no defender closer than 6 feet, while over 12% came with no defender closer than ten feet. Across the league, those percentages were around 40% "open" and 8% "wide open."

To put it another way, Green was getting more open shots than most, and was still making them at a rate of just-competent.

All of this is mostly just a preamble to establish, again, that context matters when evaluating shooters.

Partnow went on to publish a list of shooting stats for players across the league, noting how many of their shots were open and wide open. Here's how our Bulls fared:*

3PA 3FG% Open % Wide Open % Catch & Shoot%
Nikola Mirotic 308 31.8% 44.2% 8.4% 76.0%
Aaron Brooks 300 40.0% 21.0% 4.0% 50.7%
Derrick Rose 260 28.5% 20.4% 2.7% 50.4%
Mike Dunleavy 259 40.5% 34.7% 9.7% 88.0%
Tony Snell 194 37.6% 41.2% 10.3% 90.7%
Jimmy Butler 185 39.5% 44.9% 6.5% 84.9%
Kirk Hinrich 167 34.1% 37.7% 13.8% 78.4%
League Average 35.0% 40.0% 8.0%

*One brief weird thing I'd like to note is that Partnow's stats have small discrepancies from NBA.com and Basketball-Reference. He mentions he removes desperation heaves, so that might account for it.

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Aaron Brooks easily stands out as the Bulls' most impressive shooter. Maybe we underrated Brooks a little bit - the assortment of 3's he took throughout the year were on very tough shots. He had way fewer open (21% for Brooks vs. 40% league average) and wide open (4% for Brooks vs. 8% league average) looks than the average player and still managed to hit 40% of his 3's.

Even though Brooks hit a high percentage of 3's without getting many open looks, there are still legitimate criticisms you can levy against his shot selection. Per NBA.com, Brooks was somehow on fire when defenders were draped all over him (57% with defenders 0-2 feet away!!!), but those made up a very small percentage of his contested shots. Overall he only shot 34% on contested 3's.

Partnow's stats confirm too what many were saying about Derrick Rose's 3 point shot selection. Rose took a lot of contested 3's on a level similar to Brooks - only 20% of Rose's looks were open and only 2.7% wide open. While Brooks overcame bad shot selection to still maintain a good percentage overall, Rose was the worst 3 point shooter in the league for players that took such high volume 3's.

Worth noting too that both Brooks and Rose had a low catch & shoot %, meaning that they created a lot of their own 3's rather than spotting up and getting (presumably easier) open looks from teammates.

While Brooks and Rose had worse looks than average, Nikola Mirotic, Tony Snell, and Jimmy Butler all had slightly better than average looks from 3. That is a little discouraging for Mirotic given that he shot a poor percentage (31.8%).

Looking at the Bulls' top 7 volume shooters as a collective, 34% of their shots were open and 7.5% were wide open. This means that the Bulls generated less open and wide open 3's than the average NBA team.

Post-Korver, the Bulls have been in the bottom third of the league in 3 point percentage and volume. Last year, the team made a huge improvement and managed to finish 10th in 3 point percentage (35%).

Hoiberg depended heavily on getting open 3's in the college game, so it's reasonable to expect that if his offense can generate at least league-average looks, we will see an uptick in shooting percentages for the Bulls next year.