There’s been major organizational change from the Chicago Bulls during this extended offseason, so it’s not entirely surprising that there is a lack of interest surrounding Chandler Hutchison, who is now entering his third season in the NBA.
The upcoming season will be an important one for him as he has a team option on his contract next summer. Hutchison has a lot to prove when it comes to how valuable of a player he can be for Chicago moving forward. Picking up his option would indicate the Bulls still have faith in him developing into a decent role player for the future. There is still time for him to grow his game but there is a lot to work to be done.
If there is one side of the ball where Hutchison needs to improve on the most, it’s the offense. Last season saw an uptick in scoring and shot attempts as compared to his rookie year. Hutchison averaged 7.8 points and 3.9 rebounds, but still struggled when it came to offensive efficiency. Although he did improve his true shooting percentage from 50.1 to 52.1, it was still below the league average. His three-point shot continued to be ineffective as he shot 31.6 percent on just 1.4 attempts per game. With a three-point attempt rate of just .217, defenses are going to continue to play off Hutchison and dare him to shoot it from downtown. He came out of college being a decent three-point shooter, averaging 38.4 percent in his senior year, but the shot just hasn’t adjusted in the NBA.
Advanced metrics don’t grade too kindly to Hutchison’s offensive game. He finished with an offensive box plus/minus of -2.7 and had an offensive Player Impact Plus-Minus rating -2.28 in 2019-20, second-worst on the Bulls.
However, he has excelled when it comes to scoring near the hoop. Last season, Hutchison shot 60.7 percent at the rim and it was the area of the court where he took the most attempts. Scoring inside the paint looks to be a place where Hutchison can be effective offensively. He has shown the ability to take a defender off the dribble into the lane and score. Last season he averaged 5.6 drives per game (via NBA.com’s tracking data), fifth highest on the Bulls. Hutchison needs to work on getting better at scoring when he gets into the lane. He shot only 44 percent on those said drives so getting better at this facet of the game needs to happen. Getting into the lane isn’t the problem with Hutchison but he needs to be able to score on those said drives or draw a foul to get himself to the free throw line.
At 6’7 and with a 7’1 wingspan, Hutchison can use his length to leap up and slam the ball home when given the space. He can also move off the ball into the lane for an opportunity at the rim. There have been flashes of these moments from Hutchison. Next season, if he ever finds himself guarded against a smaller opponent, taking them off the dribble to the hoop has to be an option for him. The lack of a shot will hurt him as defenders will be waiting for him to drive but he’s shown that he can score despite contact and defenders around him. But if he can be a consistent presence around the rim when given the opportunity to drive, it could really help his offensive game.
Hutchison needs to make significant improvements to his scoring heading into next season. He hasn’t been great on that end of the court yet there are pathways in which he can become at least a satisfactory offensive player. Becoming at least an average scorer in the paint efficiency-wise is a start.
His defense, however, has gotten off to a better start so far in his career. He looks to be a much better stopper than a scorer. Last season he finished with a positive defensive PIPM (0.01) and certainly has the tools and skillset to be a plus defender in the league.
With his wingspan, Hutchison can swarm defenders and cut off passing lanes as well. There are times where he sticks his hands out to deflect a pass and force a turnover. It can lead to easy points on the offensive end for Chicago.
He does well to stay in front of his man, especially opposing wings where his size helps. Hutchison can guard multiple positions, a real positive on a Chicago team that is desperate for perimeter defenders. He can guard some small ball fours, which will help the new head coach when it comes to lineup combinations. The best-case scenario for Hutchison on defense is eventually becoming a guy who can guard an opponent’s best wing player every night.
Staying healthy should also be another goal this season for Hutchison. Sadly, he’s struggled to play consistent minutes and that’s due to injury. Hutchison has played a combined 72 games so far in his career. Before the shutdown, he was ruled out for the season after having surgery on his right shoulder. Earlier this month, Hutchison himself said he was healthy and ready to go.
The future of Hutchison in Chicago is one of intrigue. He has played limited minutes but in those times, he has shown some upside. He is a good defender and someone who can get into the lane for a dunk. However his shooting needs major fixing and the injuries have raised cause for concern. The projection for Hutchison coming out of college was that he could be a recent role player for Chicago and that’s still on the table. But the injuries have hampered his progress and with a $4M team option coming up, the pressure is on for him to have a solid season.