Well, I’m certainly eating crow this afternoon after looking at the Chicago Bulls shooting numbers against the Boston Celtics.
In a previous article, I provided less than an optimistic view on the team. I criticized the Bulls roster for not having three-point shooting available for both the starting five of Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, and Robin Lopez and also in the Bulls bench. This isn’t to imply that the Bulls lack any three-point shooters on the team itself. Nikola Mirotic has been regarded as a stretch four, and Doug McDermott shot from an exceptionally high percentage. But to have those players on the floor, the Bulls would need to admit to having liabilities on the floor on defense (Doug McDermott) and lacking consistency (Nikola Mirotic).
Last night, this proved to be a non-factor as the team was able to shoot at an outstanding 44 percent from three point range, with both Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade leading the way. Butler was able to contribute with 12 points from three-point range (shooting 4 for 6), and he earned these in a variety of ways. Most notably were his willingness to pull up right in front of defenders faces.
Sorry about the quality of that GIF, but you're probably wondering "What preceded this?" Boston had just scored, and Rondo inbounded the ball to Butler with ten seconds on the clock. Jimmy brings the ball up the court and decides to pull up in the face of Jae Crowder, a notably solid defender that Jimmy Butler once said "couldn't guard him" (see: this episode of the Bill Simmons podcast). The shot falls, and I'm left awestruck.
But should I have been?
Earlier in the second quarter, Jimmy drove into the lane in hopes of scoring but quickly found himself in a bit of a jam. Jimmy then left the paint, dished to Rondo and then this happened.
Yes, that is Al Horford defending Jimmy. He has three inches on Butler and was a solid defender on the perimeter last year as he held opponents to 35 percent from three-point range last season. Again, nothing profound, but solid nonetheless. Jimmy elevates and drains it over him. Are these three shots that Jimmy should necessarily be taking? Probably not, but ultimately if he has the confidence to let it fly, he might as well. The other three shots Jimmy was able to knock in came from possessions where someone screened for him and helped him lose his defender. Most notably was a play in the first quarter in which Jimmy drove baseline on a broken play, passed to Wade (who was virtually next to him), who then found Jimmy in the nearby corner for an open three. It looked ugly, but it worked.
Posting the same three point stats as Jimmy was Dwyane Wade, with 12 of his 22 total points coming from behind the arc. He shot 66 percent from three-point range as well and had some interesting takes from behind the arc. His primary victim of the night was Avery Bradley who willingly sagged off on Wade on Wade's first three-point field goal of the night. Then later Wade took an insane heat check three that fell:
Alright, cool. A lot of this was a matter of circumstance, as the shot clock was at five seconds when the ball was in his hands and he had no other option than to put one up from deep. It is starting to appear that Hoiberg's willingness to let Wade put up threes in practice has been valuable to the team already.
In addition to this, Wade had a huge three at the end of the game to essentially seal the deal and give the Bulls their first win of the season.
So what is there to take from all of this? Are the Chicago Bulls ultimately a good three point shooting team? It's simply too soon to tell with us being only one game into the season, but there are some really promising signs from our starting five in knowing that Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade seem to feel confident enough in their three-point shots. The statistic that has been floating around Twitter after last night's game is that Wade is close to beating his three-pointers from last year. It doesn't really come as a shock, though, the Bulls are going to let it fly this year.
Am I ready to say that the Bulls are a three-point shooting team? Not necessarily, even though they primarily looked for three-point shots when shooting jumpers in half court sets. The team's identity seemed focused on driving into the lane to get baskets or draw fouls. However, the emergence of Wade being a solid enough shooter from three will result in some additional mismatches going forward, I suspect.