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.