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How Can the Bulls Fix Their Long Range Woes? More McDermott, Less Mirotic Would Help.

McShooty should shoot, Niko should stop-o

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

This just in: The Chicago Bulls are a bad three point shooting team.

Really bad. Unfathomably bad. Worst in the NBA by over a percentage point and a half, bad. Granted, this shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that paid attention to what was being said about the roster when the front office put it together last summer, but so far it’s materialized in even worse fashion than previously expected.

The non-three alphas

Jimmy Butler, for all his glorious talents, has thus far not had the bounce-back year from three that he’s statistically seen and many fans expected. Dwyane Wade—although technically having the best season from beyond-the-arc of his entire career—has significantly fallen off from the red-hot start he had to begin the campaign. Predictably, Rajon Rondo has not been able to replicate the moderate success he had shooting threes from last season, and now—for this reason on top of several others—finds himself out of the rotation entirely.

the younger and more athletic but less shooting

It was widely speculated this summer that a team built around that core of players would dramatically suffer in the long range department, and now 36 games into the season, that certainly seems to be the case. However, all three of them are shooting slightly better than the team mark of 31.2% (albeit none better than Butler’s 33.6%), so the problem certainly runs team-deep. Michael Carter-Williams, Denzel Valentine, Jerian Grant, and Isaiah Canaan; all of whom have played significant roles on the court at one point or another this season, all are shooting below 30% from three. Canaan in particular is a massive disappointment, considering his long range prowess was his only redeeming quality when signed in the offseason. After a hot start to the year, Canaan is now shooting an abhorrent 25.6% from three and has logged a grand total of seven minutes in his last ten games.

Bobby Portis is only one of two Bulls shooting better than league average. But he has essentially played himself out of the rotation as evidenced by his logging of nine total minutes in the past ten games, and he was barely taking more than half an attempt from three per game anyway, so his prowess in this area can be effectively disregarded.

Nikola Mirotic

No one had higher hopes than myself for Mirotic going into this pivotal year of his NBA career, and so far he’s been a very emphatic dud on offense for the majority of the games he’s played in. Given his scorching end to the season last year when he finally got healthy, I anticipated Mirotic would become the team’s primary marksman due to a lack of shooting throughout the rest of the roster. I was partially correct. Mirotic is currently leading the team with 5.1 attempts from distance per game, but the efficiency he showcased last year has not accompanied this increase in volume as he’s knocked in a mere 31% of these attempts. With this have come a litany of games where Mirotic has relentlessly chucked landfill-equivalent levels of absolute garbage at the rim, including last week’s loss to the Pacers that saw him shoot a horrifying 2-11 from three.

A big part of this problem is Mirotic’s disgusting habit of hoisting the ball at the basket from any given distance at any given moment, and this season it’s been worse than ever. Mirotic took 45 attempts from beyond 25 feet the entire preceding season. This year, Mirotic has already taken 39 attempts from that same distance through 36 games, and he’s never finished a season better than ~33% on shooting those types of shots:

NBAsavant
Doug McDermott

McDermott may hold the key to get the ball rolling when it comes to dragging the bulls out of the downtown gutter.

While not quite replicating the success he had from long range last season, McDermott is still shooting a respectably-above-average 37.1% from three thus far. Yet, he’s averaging almost the same amount of attempts from distance per game as Dwyane Wade at roughly three. That simply cannot continue if the Bulls want to solve their 3-PT shooting dilemma.

But here’s where it gets fun: There’s a case to be made that the more McDermott shoots from downtown, the hotter he gets. The problem is, he doesn’t do it nearly as often as he should, either because he’s not being used correctly in the offense or because Mirotic is hogging all of the attempts. For the season, in games where McDermott has taken four or more shots from beyond-the-arc, he’s shooting a total of 19/38, which represents a scalding 50% mark from distance in high-volume attempt games for McDermott. Conversely, Mirotic is shooting 46/153 this season in games where he’s taken more than four attempts from three, which is barely over 30%.

Shooting less threes per game may actually help Mirotic get back on track as well, as he’s posted a mark of 8/21 (38%) in games this season where he’s taken only three or less attempts from distance. This would also allow Mirotic to focus on utilizing the other gifts in his offensive arsenal, such as his ability to drive to the rim and get fouled that fans have seldom seen this year due to his complacency for shooting.

More McDermott, less Mirotic

It will ultimately fall on Fred Hoiberg to get McDermott more actively involved from distance while pulling back the reigns on Mirotic. In theory, this shouldn’t be too difficult, as both players tend to initiate most of their offense from the perimeter. Thus, it would merely require Hoiberg discussing with both of them a changing of their respective mindsets when they receive the ball during games. Their trends so far certainly show that an uptick in McDermott’s volume and a downtick in Mirotic’s respectively would benefit the three point shooting of the team overall. This current Bulls team may never recover to even average levels of long distance shooting, but they can certainly make adjustments to do better than what’s occurred thus far.