Bulls Insider

Bulls need more offensive production from Vučević

/ by K.C. Johnson
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
Bulls Insider

Nikola Vučević leads the Chicago Bulls with 10.8 rebounds per game. He ranks second in assists, third in steals and first in screen assists, an average of 4.6 that places him 11th in the NBA.

He's a two-time All-Star who, even with his current shooting woes, is a career 49.4 percent shooter.

But even with a concerted attempt to jump-start the struggling big man, the Bulls watched Vučević endure another difficult shooting night in Saturday's loss to the 76ers, connecting on just 5 of 16 shots, including 1 of 7 from 3-point range.

"I think Vooch is fine. We’re going to continue to give him the ball and show trust with that," Zach LaVine said. "He's an incredible player. Obviously, everybody goes through ups and downs throughout the year. He's obviously in a little bit of a slump and wants to play better. I think he'll be the first to tell you that. But we trust him. We're going to find him. And he's doing other things to impact the game."

As cited above, LaVine is accurate. But the Bulls traded for Vučević last season for him to be an impact offensively. He's now shooting 38 percent, including 25.6 percent from 3-point range.

And Vučević's struggles date to the preseason when he shot 6.3 percent from 3-point range. That's not a typo.

At the time, Vučević chalked up to his struggles to his consistent slow starts. And, again, he has his career averages — he also has shot 35.5 percent from 3-point range — for a reason. But until he snaps out of this shooting slump, it's going to continue to be asked and written about.

 

Billy Donovan paused for several seconds when asked for his take on Vučević's shooting woes.

"He’s a great player. And he’s a great team guy. I think he’s really trying to figure out how to play with a lot of different guys," Donovan finally said. "He’s got a lot of different guys in pick-and-roll situations, screening actions with him. We’ve got to all do a better job, me included, in trying to find different ways to find him.

"We did a better job to start the game. I thought he had some pretty good looks. We got him a good number of shots. He was more involved in the offense. He hasn’t shot the ball well. But I think that’s more of a comfort thing more than I would be worried about him."

Indeed, after Vučević only attempted seven shots in Wednesday's loss to the 76ers, the Bulls featured him early and often on Saturday. They even utilized him more in the post, featuring him in cross-screen actions to work against Joel Embiid.

Vučević attempted the Bulls' first three shots, missing 12- and 15-footers before knocking down a 4-footer. But he missed a critical 3-pointer late to slow momentum for a Bulls' rally.

Donovan pointed to last week's victory over Utah for an example why he thinks Vučević remains confident. In that game, despite struggling with his shot, he scored five huge points late, including a 3-pointer.

"He’s got to feel confidence from me, the group and himself that he has to take those shots," Donovan said. "When he’s open, he’s got to shoot."

As recently as Friday, Vučević chalked his struggles up both to learning to form chemistry with new teammates and adjusting to new usage than from his All-Star days with the Magic. There, the offense flowed through him.

Now, he's taking the third-most shots behind LaVine and DeMar DeRozan, although he trailed only DeRozan with his 16 attempts against the 76ers.

Vučević is a team-first guy. He knows what the impact of his shooting struggles means. Monday offers another opportunity to snap the slump.

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