Bulls

Bulls player preview: Ryan Arcidiacono brings ball security and hustle

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USA TODAY

Bulls player preview: Ryan Arcidiacono brings ball security and hustle

NBC Sports Chicago will preview a different Bulls player every weekday leading up to the start of training camp in late September.

Previous reviews: Lauri Markkanen

How last year went

Ryan Arcidiacono went from expected two-way contract player and fourth on the Bulls depth chart – remember Tyler Ulis? – to the team’s games played leader and finished second to Zach LaVine in minutes. The Bulls’ point guard carousel and myriad injuries in the backcourt allowed Arcidiacono an opportunity, but the second-year guard also took advantage of the additional run and become a significant contributor to a team that desperately needed healthy bodies and minutes-eaters.

His hustle and effort – we have stats to back these eye roll-inducing clichés! – was a welcome sight for a Bulls team that was out-talented most nights. Arcidiacono became a reliable floor general and was a solid off-the-ball player despite Basketball-Reference having 96% of his minutes coming at point guard. Simply put, he was an important stopgap for a Bulls team that needed it.

Expectations for this year’s role

Something has gone wrong if Ryan Arcidiacono averages 24.2 minutes again this season. The Bulls invested heavily in the point guard position – Arcidiacono included – in drafting Coby White and signing Tomas Satoransky. Kris Dunn is still around (for now) which pits Arcidiacono fourth on the depth chart – there’s an argument that he’s ahead of Coby White, but that won’t be the case all season.

Arcidiacono’s role is similar to what it was a season ago: an emergency body, a reliable ball handler who can hit the occasional 3-pointer and someone who will push teammates in practice. His production will likely dip but his importance remains similar to what it was a year ago. If Dunn is traded, he could find himself with some additional reserve minutes. They didn’t give him $9 million to ride the bench. He’ll play, just not in as significant a role as last season.

Where he excels

Arcidiacono didn’t exactly have a massive usage rate, but there’s something to be said for taking care of the basketball. 164 guards appeared in 41 or more games last season. Arcidiacono’s 1.2 turnovers per 36 minutes were 16th fewest, and third best among point guards (only Tyus Jones and Monte Morris were better). And he was even better in the 32 games he started, tallying just 1.1 turnovers per 36 minutes – the fewest of any starting point guard. What’s more, his 4.6 assists per 36 minutes as a starter were the third most among all guards who were below 2.0 turnovers – only Patrick Beverley (5.5) and Marcus Smart (5.1) were better.

So it isn’t surprising that Arcidiacono finished third in the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio last season (4.3). The two ahead of him were Jones, who set an NBA record at 7.0 in Minnesota, and Morris at 5.7, playing as a reserve for the fifth slowest and seventh most efficient offense…a good recipe for taking care of the ball).

The Bulls were 20th in turnover percentage and 26th in assist-to-turnover ratio, and those marks would have been much worse had it not been for Arcidiacono. True, he wasn’t much of a risk taker, but he also didn’t play out of his comfort zone. Every team needs a steady, by-the-book contributor. The Bulls found theirs in Arcidiacono.

Is Arcidiacono a good shooter? We’ll tentatively say yes. After beginning the season 45.5% from deep through Thanksgiving, he shot 25.9% from December to the All-Star break. He may have saved his NBA career with a strong finish, shooting .497/.420/.840 over the season’s final 23 games. His total numbers: 44.7% FG, 37.3% 3FG, 87.3% FT. Only 70 players made 1.0 or more triples on 37% shooting last season. Arcidiacono isn’t a lights-out shooter, but he’s certainly above average (and league average). He shot 42.0% on catch-and-shoot triples (on 2.0 attempts per game; not much), proving he’s capable of playing off the ball with any of the Bulls’ new point guards in addition to handling the ball.

Then there’s the defense. We’ll dive (we’re not sorry for that pun) into the details later, but Arcidiacono was a solid defender last season. Past his effort, he hounded ball handlers, was vocal with teammates and read passing lanes. He has his shortcomings, namely his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame that doesn’t exactly play that way, but he held his own. The Bulls defense was 2.6 points per 100 possessions better when Arcidiacono was on the floor.

Where he needs work

It’s tough to point out many spots where Arcidiacono needs to improve because his ceiling is rather limited. Despite his solid shooting numbers and ability to take care of the ball, the Bulls’ offense was 2.2 points per 100 possessions better with him OFF the floor. He’d disappear at times – he had three games of two points or fewer in which he played 30+ minutes – and didn’t do much creating. But again, if we’re talking about a fourth string point guard, he plays his role perfectly. He’s dependable, smart and the head coach loves him.

Best case/worst case

Another tough one. The best-case scenario for the Bulls is Arcidiacono rarely sees the floor. That, of course, means that Satoransky has stayed healthy, White’s transition to the NBA goes quickly and Denzel Valentine has returned healthy in an off-ball shooter role. In terms of Arcidiacono’s progress, there’s no reason he can’t flirt with 40 percent from beyond the arc in Year 3. He’s shown he can do it in 20-game stretches. Progress would be doing it over the course of an entire season.

In a worst-case scenario, Arcidiacono regresses or doesn’t improve and becomes a $3 million hit on the books the next two offseasons. Again, it’s tough to have all that big a worst-case scenario for an end-of-the-bench player. He’s high-floor, low-ceiling.

One key stat

We told you we had statistics to back up the claim that Arcidiacono is all heart. It’s not that he’s undersized and white. It’s that he was among the league leaders in both charges drawn and defensive loose balls recovered.

Arcidiacono drew 16 charges last season, 12th most in the NBA and fourth among point guards (Kemba Walker, Kyle Lowry, Jeremy Lin had more). Arcidiacono was recovered 1.2 loose balls recovered per game and was the second fastest defensive player on the Bulls (behind Harrison). The man is all about effort, and for that reason he’s going to stay in Boylen’s good graces no matter where he is on the depth chart.

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Reacting to a brutal loss to Brooklyn

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Reacting to a brutal loss to Brooklyn

On this edition of Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, John Sabine, and Dave Watson react to the Bulls 117-111 loss to the Nets on Saturday.

0:30 - On losing a game that the Bulls could have won

2:30 - On Zach LaVine’s 36 point effort in loss

4:00 - On giving up 43 to the Nets in the 4th quarter

5:30 - Viewer comment on Lauri’s struggles

7:30 - Viewer comment on Kris Dunn

11:10 - Viewer comment on trading LaVine and keeping Markkanen

13:20 - On Markkanen looking aggressive at times vs Nets

15:15 - Viewer comment on starting Coby White

16:30 - Let’s remember Nate Robinson

19:20 - Lebron James throws it down vs the Kings and defeats Father Time

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You  have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.        

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Zach LaVine turns up volume on Bulls' offensive woes after another loss

Zach LaVine turns up volume on Bulls' offensive woes after another loss

The team picture for most disappointing loss of the season is getting crowded.

Make room for Saturday evening, though.

A Nets team already without Kevin Durant and Caris LeVert also sat Kyrie Irving to shoulder soreness and then smoked the Bulls by 11 in the first quarter and 10 in the fourth on their way to a 117-111 victory. Ex-Bull Spencer Dinwiddie added insult to injury by scoring 20 of his 24 points in the fourth.

“They just wanted it more than us,” Zach LaVine said.

For a team that made improving their home mark a major priority after winning a franchise-low nine games at the United Center last season, the Bulls sure aren’t playing with much urgency.

“Our start was unacceptable,” said coach Jim Boylen, who burned two early timeouts.

The Bulls nearly doubled the Nets up in an impressive second quarter that featured defense leading to offense and plenty of transition attacks that led to a season-high 41 free-throw attempts. The Bulls also finally won the rebounding battle 56-40.

But the Bulls again shot poorly from 3-point range, needing a late flurry to even crack 20 percent and finish 9-for-39.

Missed shots always make an offense look worse. But the issues go beyond poor shooting. The Bulls aren’t sprinting the floor consistently. Their halfcourt sets feature little cutting. And since utilizing Lauri Markkanen in this role in the opener against a smallish Hornets frontline, they’ve largely ditched post-up attempts.

“We get stagnant a lot out there,” LaVine said. “We’ll run one action and then everybody is staring at the person with the ball. We gotta get more fluid. I don’t feel a lot of people are in rhythm. When that happens, obviously everybody starts trying to do it themselves.

“It’s tough. I blame myself. I try to do that as well. I’m in the gym late. I’m putting up shots. I’m making sure I’m prepared so I can do everything I can to help. We gotta do a better job as a team.”

LaVine is slowly giving stronger voice to issues he sees with the offense. Following Friday’s practice, he talked about needing to utilize Markkanen more in the post. Markkanen also has talked about the equal opportunity offense in the context of him attempting 10 or fewer shots in eight of 13 games now.

“Sometimes you get the ball and to me it feels like there are 12 eyes staring at me,” LaVine said. “I’m not scared to take any shot. I’ve not scared to miss a shot. I’ve taken all these shots before. If I’m the person to blame, I can take it. I’m in the gym working on my craft each night. I always look at myself first before anyone else. We just gotta do better as a unit.”

What does LaVine, who finished with 36 points, do when he feels 12 eyes staring at him?

"I try to call a pick-and-roll most of the time when that happens and then if nothing comes from that, I'm going to take the shot or pass it. I'm definitely going to at least get a shot on the rim,” he said. “I'm not one to just dribble the clock out or anything like that or throw it to somebody with seven seconds left (on the shot clock). If I get it at the top of the key with eight, nine seconds left on the clock, I'm going to try to make a play."

But what about the lack of cutting?

“I mean, it's our offense. We have a five-out offense,” he said. “So it gets tough when we get to those stagnant points because that's how it's supposed to be."

LaVine attempted double-digit free throws for just the second time this season. He had four such games through 13 games last season.

He also joined Michael Jordan as the only Bulls to post at least 2,100 points, 400 rebounds, 400 assists, 100 steals and 30 blocks in his first 100 games with the franchise. But until the Bulls start winning, LaVine knows his numbers mean little.

“We should take offense to it. We’ve had a really easy schedule to start off,” LaVine said. “You gotta win the games you’re supposed to win. We’ve pissed away a lot of games I think we should’ve won.”

But no changes are coming to the rotation or system.

"I think we gotta stay the course," Boylen said. "Listen, nobody likes losing games. There’s no shame in losing an NBA game. It happens every day. What I’m disappointed in is our start, a home game, on a Saturday night in Chicago. I didn’t like the way we started. I can’t play for them. They gotta come out and do it."

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.