Bulls

Bulls aren't shooting threes, but LaVine says that may change soon

Bulls aren't shooting threes, but LaVine says that may change soon

PORTLAND, Ore. — In an NBA landscape where the three-pointer is more important than it’s ever been, the Bulls are going the other way. 

Halfway through the season, Chicago is in a three-way tie with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers for fewest three-point attempts per game with 9.2. They rank 20th in three-point percentage, hitting from beyond the arc at a 34.6 percent clip. The Bulls rank dead last in the NBA in offensive efficiency, scoring just 100.5 points per 100 possessions, nearly three points worse than the 29th-place Cavs.

Last week, they traded one of their best outside shooters, Justin Holiday, to the Memphis Grizzlies. With Holiday gone, the Bulls only have four players shooting above 35 percent from long range: guard Antonio Blakeney (44.6 percent), forward Lauri Markkanen (40.4 percent) and guards Ryan Arcidiacono (39.1 percent) and Zach LaVine (35.3 percent).

“Sometimes you don't have the personnel to become a team that's in the top 10 in three-point attempts and makes and field-goal percentage,” LaVine said Wednesday morning at shootaround in Portland. “I think we can take more, but we'd have to be hunting them and certain guys have to hunt them. But I think we've been doing a good job getting to the paint. We've got to get some more foul calls and get to the line. For as much as we drive the ball, we don't get to the free-throw line enough and that's offsetting it. So if you're not getting to the free-throw line enough and you're not shooting threes, that's where the problem comes.”

Foul calls or no, Bulls coach Jim Boylen has been pushing LaVine and the rest of the team to focus on scoring in the paint and attacking the basket, rather than look for outside shots.

“We need open shots,” Boylen said. “We talk about getting open shots and finishing plays, and we have some solid in-the-paint numbers but our [offensive efficiency] on those possessions isn’t great because we don’t finish or we don’t spray out, or we do spray out and we don’t make it. So it looks like it’s empty, but to me it’s not. I see growth and I see development.”

Now that Holiday, the Bulls’ starting small forward for much of the season, is out of the picture, LaVine plans to look for more outside shots. He has shown proficiency in that part of his game earlier in his career — before he suffered a torn ACL during the 2016-17 season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, he was hitting 38.7 percent of his threes through two-plus seasons in the NBA.

“Trust me, I’ll shoot some 3s now,” LaVine said. “You’re going to find them throughout the game somewhere. I think me and Lauri can both take a few more. But I think we’re doing a good job of playing our game regardless. I’m not somebody who is going to take 10 threes a game. But I think I have to be efficient on the ones I do take. If it’s around four or five [attempts per game, if I can hit two or three of them, that would be incredible. Consistently, if I’m around that 38-40 percent, that’s going to start helping out a lot.”

Wendell Carter Jr. OUT tonight against Denver Nuggets

Wendell Carter Jr. OUT tonight against Denver Nuggets

The Bulls may have dodged a major bullet with the Wendell Carter Jr injury, but the rookie will still miss tonight's game against the Nuggets: 

Carter suffered the injury during Tuesday night's loss in Los Angeles, and initial reports were that it was severe. That turned out not to be the case, but Carter will still end up missing the first game of his NBA career. 

The rookie out of Duke has been one of the lone bright spots for Chicago this season, averaging 20 points and 13.5 rebounds per 100 possesions. He's been a net positive on both ends of the floor, posting an ORtg of 106 and a DRtg of 109. 

Tonight's the last night of the Bulls' West Coast swing, and they're still looking for their first win of 2019. Their 8-game losing streak, which extends back to December 28th, is their longest of the season. 

Dunc'd on Podcast floats Robin Lopez to Rockets trade idea

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USA TODAY

Dunc'd on Podcast floats Robin Lopez to Rockets trade idea

On Tuesday’s episode of the Dunc’d On Podcast, Nate Duncan and Danny Leroux discussed the idea of the Houston Rockets trading for Bulls center Robin Lopez.

This comes in part because of the news that Clint Capela will miss up to six weeks with ligament damage in his thumb and Houston could certainly use a fill-in at the center position.

Duncan and Leroux did not suggest any hyper-specific trades but Leroux suggested the framework of the possible deal as:

“I had floated the idea of them trading Brandon Knight and an asset for Robin Lopez, not because Lopez is a perfect fit though he is a capable center and there is some value in that, but also because it’s a way for the Rockets to get off of 2019-20 money”

The Rockets have oft-discussed issues with the amount of money on their books but it costs to be a winning team, and Houston has found a way to succeed even after not extending contracts to defensive-minded forwards Trevor Ariza and Luc Richard Mbah Moute last offseason.

At the time of this writing, Houston is sitting at 25-18, good for fourth in the Western Conference, an amazing turnaround after their rough start to the season. But even with all of their recent James Harden-led success, the Rockets still rank 26th in the league in defensive efficiency, a worse rating than the 10-34 Bulls.

Lopez, while not the the traditional rim-runner or floor-spacing big man that the Rockets would usually go after, still provides a huge defensive upgrade over any big on their roster not named Clint Capela.

Per NBA.com, opponents are shooting 7.1 percent worse when defended by Lopez, a testament to how good he is at using his length to frustrate scorers at the rim, and occasionally on midrange closeouts. Of course, he is too slow-footed to play in a switching defensive system, but the Rockets have not went to that strategy as much as they have in past years.

If the Bulls do decide to use their cap space to acquire draft assets rather than going after free agents, the Rockets-Bulls deal floated by the Dunc’d on Podcast makes a TON of sense.

Brandon Knight, the oft-injured 27-year old guard, still has some promise despite was has been an awful stinit in Houston. He has said all the right things, and by all accounts seems like a great guy who has just had some awful luck with injuries. And it is important to remember, this is a guard who as recently as the 2015-16 season, was putting up 19.6 PPG.

Knight is certainly thankful just to have a chance to prove himself again on the NBA stage.

Houston is gearing up for the stretch run. And Lopez would be perfect to be stationed right in the middle of the paint as the Rockets defensive anchor until Capela is 100 percent.

Another interesting note--though Mike D’Antonio, Daryl Morey and co. definitely aren’t as concerned about it--is that Lopez is shooting a (obviously) career-high 0.9 3-point attempts per 36 minutes, while hitting them at a 28.6 percent rate.

His brother Brook has notoriously turned himself into one of the NBA’s premier 3-point shooting centers, taking 8.7 attempts from 3-point range while hitting 37.8 percent of them. Now no one is expecting Robin to turn into Brook overnight, but on a team that leads the league with 43.3 3-point attempts per game, there is precedent for Lopez to become an interesting (last-ditch) pick-and-pop option, considering how skilled he is at screening combined with the offensive gravity of Harden.

The Rockets are the same team that reportedly offered four-first round picks in an effort to get Jimmy Butler, so it is not insane to think that the Bulls would be able to extract a first-round pick for the Rockets as long as they were willing to take money back.