Shooting apocalypse

The good news: the Bulls are currently ranked 10th in Opponents Field Goal Percentage (.436), Opponents Three-Point Percentage (.325) and Defensive Rating (101.6 Points Per 100 Possessions), and they’re 11th in Opponents Effective Field Goal Percentage (.476). Chicago’s opponents shoot free throws at the league’s 12th-best rate (.759), but the Bulls have given up fewer free throw attempts (158) than any teams other than Milwaukee (155) and Charlotte (148). So you can officially label this year’s defense as a solid “okay” or even “better than expected.”

The bad news: the offense. As in, pretty much all of it. The Bulls rank 28th in Field Goal Percentage (.421) and dead last in Three-Point Percentage (.253). For the record, their three-point accuracy is more than 10 percentage points below the league average (.358). Wait, it gets worse: even their undefended shots have been woefully off-target: Chicago is 26th in Free Throw Percentage (.705…about five percentage points below the league average). Add it all together, and it’s no surprise the Bulls are scraping the bottom of the NBA barrel in Free Throw Rate (27th at .183), Offensive Rating (27th at 101.6 Points Per 100 Possessions), Effective Field Goal Percentage (28th at .440), and Points Per Game (28th at 88.6).

Sure, Chicago is 4th in Total Offensive Rebounds (111) and 5th in Offensive Rebounding Percentage (.293), but that might be a simple consequence of bricking so damn many shots (387 misses in 667 attempts so far this season). Those are a lot of offensive rebounding opportunities (also referred to as KBAs in some some circles). And anyway, where would the Bulls be without Joakim Noah, who is currently tied for second (with Sacramento’s Jason Thompson and Washington’s Brendan Haywood) with 34 offensive boards, and Luol Deng, who’s yanked down 26 of them? I’ll tell you: nowhere.

Wait, there is another bright side: Chicago is 9th in Turnover Percentage (.129), but even that might be deceiving, since they’re a slow team (23rd in Pace at 91.4 Possessions Per 48 Minutes) that spends a lot of time passing the ball around the perimeter and then jacking up long-range/low-percentage shots.

Simply put, scoring is a bit of a boggle for the 2009-10 Chicago Bulls.

Here’s a rundown of the three-point shooting the Bulls and their fans have been suffering through the past few weeks. Luol Deng is actually hitting 75 percent of his threes…but he’s only attempted four of them this season. Jannero Pargo — who was specifically brought it to provide another outside threat — is 3-for-11 (.275) on the season. (Although, to be fair, Pargo has been struggling with a creaky back. But still.) John Salmons is (prepare to throw up in your own mouth a little) 11-for-42 (.262) in the first eight games. Kirk Hinrich is 6-for-27 (.222). Brad Miller is 2-for-9 (.222). And Derrick Rose is 0-for-3. That’s it. At this point, Joakim might as well start chucking them up from downtown. I mean, even he couldn’t hit a percentage that’s much worse than the team’s designated shooters…could he?

There continues to be a lot of talk around the Windy City about the Bulls trading for a legitimate low post scorer, but even that might not be much help at this point. After all, Chicago opponents are laying back and clogging the paint because they know the Bulls can’t shoot. Even Dwight Howard would struggle to score through a quadruple team. Spacing is a problem because shooting is a problem. Derrick Rose can’t penetrate because there aren’t any holes to penetrate into. Rose has been canning a pretty decent percentage of his jump shots this season — which is great — but even that has been only out of dire necessity. This shooting situation is hurting Derrick’s ability to score and create for his teammates. And when Luol Deng or John Salmons manages to slice past their defenders, they find the basket area littered with road blocks.

So should the Bulls deal for an inside scoring force…or an outside shooter? Long-range snipers are usually cheaper and more readily available, and, at the moment, of greater necessity. Because until the Bulls can start spreading opposing defenses out a little, they’re going to continue to struggle. The most painful part of this whole mess is that the Bulls defense has been solid enough that they very well might have beaten the Raptors, Nuggets and maybe even the Heat if their offense had even been as good as “average.”

Update! Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm saw this post and did a little extra digging for additional information about the Bulls’ ranking for attempts, field goal percentage and assist percentage (percentage of makes that are assisted). Here’s what he found:

At the rim: 26th attempts, 24th percentage, 21 AS%
<10 feet: 21st attempts, 7th percentage, 5th AS%
10-15 feet: 11th attempts, 5th percentage, 2nd AS%
16-23 feet: 1st attempts, 26th percentage, 7th AS%
three: 27th attempts, 30th percentage, 5th AS%
free throws: 25th attempts, 26th percentage, 26th free throw rate

As Moore put it: “The Bulls take the most attempts in the lowest efficiency areas. The most efficient shots are shots at the rim (proximity), threes (more points, more likely open), and free throws (undefended). The least efficient shots are 10-15 feet and 16-23 jumpers. You’re likely to both be defended there, and they’re harder to hit. The Bulls are bottom 10 in attempts in all the efficient areas and top five in both of the inefficient areas. What’s more, they’re top ten in assisted percentage from the least efficient areas. Translated, the Bulls are throwing a ton of passes that result in mid-range jump shots, and very few that result in layups and dunks.”

Moore concludes: “The sum of all this for the Bulls should be ‘Play smarter, not harder.’ They’re working really hard and that’s evident in their defensive stats, but on offense, they’re targeting low percentage shots, not converting anything easy, and not drawing fouls.”

It’s a great theory. It is. But there are problems with it. Look at the starting lineup of Rose-Salmons-Deng-Gibson-Noah. Only one of those five guys can be considered a three-point shooter (Salmons), and he’s slumping so badly that he’s probably seeing bricked threes in his dreams. Deng, Gibson and Rose are strictly midrange shooters. We all know Joakim scores most of his points off putbacks and short-range bunnies. Hinrich is off-target from downtown, and Pargo is struggling with that sore back. And I’m sorry, but Brad Miller shooting more threes isn’t a solid option.

Furthermore, until the team’s marksmen — Salmons, Hinrich and Pargo — start knocking them down, or someone else is brought in, Bulls opponents are going to keep clogging the lane, denying clean chances at the rim. So if the team can’t hit threes and the paint is clogged…how is the team supposed to get the most efficient shots?

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10 Responses to Shooting apocalypse

  1. bahrani@uchicago.edu'
    Mahmoud Bahrani November 13, 2009 at 4:19 pm #

    Unfortunately, I don’t know how we’re going to fix that this year. It’ll be hard to get a decent trade with the pieces we have, except for maybe Tyrus, but in order to trade him we more likely than not will have to take on salary because no one is going to trade away a guy with a deal that is about to expire. This team reminds me a lot of the one under Scott Skiles when they were first making some noise. Sure, we had a young BG7 for scoring, but we built ourselves on defense and were first in the league in opponent field goal percentage. I love the way these guys play defense. The intensity, the hustle, it’s all very fun to watch.

    Now match that next year with Joe Johnson’s outside shooting capabilities, and you’re a championship team. People keep insisting we need D-Wade, when all those stats you just provided seem to imply that we need a shooter more than anything else, and while D-Wade can shoot, you’re more worried about him blowing by you on the dribble than by shooting.

  2. roscoeiii@gmail.com'
    Roscoe November 13, 2009 at 4:36 pm #

    2 words: Rashad McCants.

    A gunner who can be gotten for cheap. Not without downsides (D, potential headcase). But the dude can shoot and is unsigned. What do the Bulls have to lose at this point?

  3. IKE in CA fr IL November 13, 2009 at 4:36 pm #

    We only need a shooting coach!

  4. tc643@hotmail.com'
    Tony C. November 13, 2009 at 6:00 pm #

    Roscoe is dead-on. Why the Bulls went for Pargo is a mystery, as there are plenty of better shooters available.

  5. vittoriodezen@gmail.com'
    Vic De Zen November 13, 2009 at 9:28 pm #

    Dunno about McCants. He COULD shoot, and then he suddenly couldn’t shoot. It was odd.

  6. bigrut8719@yahoo.com'
    rut November 14, 2009 at 6:16 am #

    from espn rumor central
    “It’s a long season, and you’ve gotta take the good with the struggling as long as he plays hard and gets after it defensively,” Del Negro told the Chicago Sun-Times. “He’s too good of a player not to make shots eventually. A couple of games ago, he had a big game for us. His shot will come around, and we need it to.”

    Del Negro is probably right. Salmons is a career 44.4 percent shooter, so he’s likely in a bit of a slump to start the season. But remember: Salmons is projected to regress this season, after he averaged a career-high 18.3 points per game last season. It’s true his shot may start falling more, but it’s unlikely he’ll match his production from a season ago.

  7. bigrut8719@yahoo.com'
    rut November 14, 2009 at 6:30 am #

    also from rumor central
    Derrick Rose has made 47 field goals this season. 17 have come on either short floaters in the lane, fast-break layups or dunks and 30 have come on jump shots. The Bulls are still running the high screen-and-roll to try to free Rose up, but defenses this year are focusing on him more and his ankle has not allowed him to get to the rim.

    “I might be seeing a little more attention this year,” Rose told the Chicago Tribune. “But mostly it’s because of my ankle and not being in good game shape to start the season. I’m not worried about it.”

    Here is a list of FA’s from late September. I dont know how many of these players were signed, but it could give guys some ideas:
    Guards

    1. Jerry Stackhouse
    2. Stephon Marbury
    3. Joey Graham
    4. Bobby Jackson
    5. Brevin Knight
    6. Jacque Vaughn
    7. Tyronn Lue
    8. Juan Dixon
    9. Chucky Atkins
    10. Jamaal Tinsley

    Forwards

    1. Stromile Swift
    2. Gerald Green
    3. Ime Udoka
    4. Donyell Marshall

    Centers

    1. Melvin Ely
    2. Chris Mihm
    3. Robert Swift
    4. Lorenzen Wright
    5. Jake Voskuhl.

    Here’s a nice article about this from Celtics Blog…

    Following up on Jeff’s article yesterday about the 15th roster spot, here’s a look at some of the remaining unrestricted free agents:

    PGs: Carlos Arroyo, Chucky Atkins, Tyronn Lue, Stephon Marbury, Mike Taylor, Jamaal Tinsley, Jacque Vaughn

    SGs: Juan Dixon, Bobby Jackson,

    SFs: Gerald Green, Joey Graham, Stephen Graham, Darius Miles, Wally Szczerbiak, Ime Udoka

    PFs: Raef LaFrentz, Mark Madsen, Stromile Swift, Antoine Walker

    Cs: Mark Blount (pending release), Dwayne Jones, Courtney Sims, Robert Swift

  8. Anonymous November 14, 2009 at 10:22 pm #

    I really like John Salmons but he is on my crap list right now, shooting 30.6% from the field. That is just atrocious. Also I’ve noticed what a poor field goal shooter Kirk Hinrich is. He’s a lifetime 41.4% shooter and this season averaging 34.6%. These stats are unacceptable by NBA standards!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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