Here's where Thaddeus Young will help the Bulls offense most

Here's where Thaddeus Young will help the Bulls offense most

Halfcourt basketball is still important.

In an era dominated by transition offense, 3-point shooting and deploying as many athletes as possible, there’s still something to be said for efficient basketball when the game slows down.

Consider that the fastest-paced team in the NBA last season – the Atlanta Hawks – played nearly 83 percent of their possessions in the halfcourt. No team had more transition possessions per game than the Milwaukee Bucks – 24.5 – and yet that accounted for just 21.5% of their total possessions.

The Bulls are serious about running next season. They ranked 24th in transition frequency and 23rd in pace under Jim Boylen last season despite having the NBA’s third youngest team. But they drafted the ultra-quick Coby White and acquired Tomas Satoransky, who last year ran the point for the ninth fastest team in basketball and played in transition more frequently than all but six teams.

But sandwiched in between the Bulls’ overhaul of the point guard position was the signing of Thaddeus Young. And what that three-year, $41 million signing did was bring balance. The Bulls want to run, but it won’t mean much if they’re unable to compete in the halfcourt.

Here’s why Young will help.

The Bulls were 28th in the NBA in field goal percentage inside 5 feet, making just 58% of their attempts. That included a 66.3% clip from Robin Lopez, which remarkably put him in the same territory as Karl-Anthony Towns (66.8%), Kawhi Leonard (66.4%), Joel Embiid (66.0%). But if you take away Lopez’s numbers – he signed with the Bucks this offseason – the Bulls’ number dropped more than a whole percentage point to 56.9%, which would have edged out only the Knicks for 29th place.

How relevant is the statistic? Well, the Warriors (66.7%) and Bucks (64.8%) led the NBA in the category and the bottom four teams were the Cavs, Bulls, Hornets and Knicks, who had a combined win percentage of .295.

How does Young help?

The 31-year-old made a transition of sorts this past season with the Pacers. Perhaps it was Myles Turner’s improved 3-point shooting – he made 38.8% of his 196 attempts – or something schematic from head coach Nate McMillan, but in 2018-19 Young played closer to the basket than ever before.

Per Basketball Reference, 46.4% of Young’s field goal attempts came within 3 feet of the rim last season, the highest rate since his 2010-11 season in Philadelphia (46.8%). It was a considerable jump from his career rate of 41.7%, too.

But Young’s efficiency didn’t dip with the increase in shots at the rim. In fact, Young shot 67.9% from inside 3 feet which was also the second-best mark of his career (73.5% in 2011; Young was really good in 2011). His career field goal percentage from inside 3 feet before last season was 64.9%.

Young also ditched his midrange shot in his final season with the Pacers. Shots between 10 feet and the 3-point line accounted for just 7.6% of his total field goal attempts. That was easily the lowest mark of his career – a good sign – by a wide margin (11.1% of his attempts were midrange shots in Year 1 with the Pacers). Prior to last season, a whopping 21.6% of Young’s attempts were of the midrange variety.

3-point attempts accounted for 17.4% of Young’s total attempts, which was actually lower than his 2018 mark of 20.9% – though Turner’s 3-point prowess likely accounted for that slight dip.

What does it mean for the Bulls? It’s far too early to analyze how Boylen may deploy Young. He’s obviously going to begin games on the bench but should play significant minutes late in games alongside Wendell Carter Jr. and potentially Lauri Markkanen. The inside-out spacing he provided Turner should be the Bulls’ goal and is likely one of the reasons they went after him so heavily, inking him to his three-year deal in the first minute of free agency on June 30.

Young’s prowess around the rim might also indicate that Luke Kornet will play ahead of Daniel Gafford on the second unit. Gafford is essentially a rim runner at this incredibly early stage in his career, and it’s tough to envision a fluid offense with Young and Gafford on the floor together. That second unit is already going to have serious spacing issues because of the lack of 3-point shooting.

Just 25.6% of Myles Turner’s field goal attempts came inside 3 feet. The Pacers moved him all around on offense, something Kornet can do more easily than Gafford at this point in the latter’s career. That’s splitting hairs at this point in the summer. Young’s most important minutes will come next to Carter or Markkanen.

The Bulls want to run and, if Boylen allows it, they will. But they’ve also addressed a critical area in the halfcourt, finding a player in Young who excels around the rim.

Young won’t have much effect on the Bulls’ transition – he didn’t even log enough transition possessions last season to be in NBA’s database, and his individual 98.14 pace was dead last on the Pacers a year ago – but when the Bulls slow it down and enter halfcourt sets, they’ve got a reliable big man who should help one of the Bulls’ biggest weaknesses from a year ago.

Monte Harrison, brother to Bulls' Shaq, makes sibling sports history

Monte Harrison, brother to Bulls' Shaq, makes sibling sports history

Miami Marlins center fielder Monte Harrison made a bit of history on Aug. 4, when he laced up for his first ever MLB game.

With his debut, he and older brother Shaq officially became just the sixth MLB-NBA brother duo in league history. The most recent? Klay and Trayce Thompson, the latter of which appeared in his last MLB game on June 20, 2018 for the White Sox. Chicago ties all around.

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Shaq used his trademark brand of heart and hustle to work his way up from two 10-day contracts with the Phoenix Suns to a multi-year pact with the Bulls. Monte's path to the majors began in 2014 after the Milwaukee Brewers plucked him in the second round of the Amateur Draft from Lee's Summit West High School in Lee's Summit, Mo. He was jettisoned to Miami as part of the Christian Yelich trade in 2018. 

In 2019, Monte played 58 games between Miami's High-A and Triple-A affiliates, slashing .270/.351/.441 with 9 home runs, 24 RBI and 23 stolen bases. He's been known to flash some leather, too, and entered this season the club's tenth-ranked prospect.

Since his call-up, he's appeared in four contests (three starts) with the Marlins, and is just 1-for-10 at the plate with five strikeouts. But we'll forgive some early-career stumbles. His first big-league base-knock, which came on Thursday, was perfectly emblematic of what Bulls fans have come to expect from the Harrison household.

Yup. A cue-shot infield single. Exit velocity: 44.3 mph. Expected batting average: .190. But he beat it out. And followed it up with a stolen base. You can't script this stuff.

"I don’t know what my mother did, a lot of prayers, a lot of believing, and trust in us," Monte said after his debut on Tuesday, via Bob Nightengale. "We just worked our ass off.''

That much is evident.

RELATED: How Bulls’ Shaq Harrison impacts games, even with limited playing time


Latest on the NBA's second bubble for teams eliminated from restart

Latest on the NBA's second bubble for teams eliminated from restart

With the NBA restarting with 22 of its 30 teams, there was buzz in early July of a second bubble coming to Chicago for the eight teams excluded to get in organized team activities and possibly scrimmages.

Now, it appears those talks have significantly slowed, if not stalled entirely.

The Athletic reported Tuesday that there is "significant doubt" the second bubble concept will come to fruition, but Friday, that bringing the "Delete Eight" teams into the Disney campus has been discussed. Any agreement — whether it be a full-on bubble or respective, in-market OTAs — would require stringent safety protocols and need to be agreed upon by the league and NBPA.

On the most recent episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast, NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson broke down the latest scuttlebut:

Well, the latest is, you really got only one shared goal between these eight teams and that is to get some kind of formal group activities authorized by the league and the players association.

How that plays out and the form that takes, there are different goals. There are some teams that wouldn't mind doing a bubble. There are other teams that would rather stay in their own practice facilities and not travel. There are other teams that want to do regional scrimmages against another team. And complicating this is that Michele Roberts, the executive director of the players association, is on record as saying: Unless there are the exact same safety protocols going on in Orlando for the second bubble, it's a non-starter for her.

The league's attention mostly has been in Orlando, obviously, and that was a signficant financial undertaking. So you'd also have to factor in that, what kind of financial undertaking would they commit to these eight teams. It did look like there was some positive momentum for, not a bubble, but for each team to be able to hold some sort of offseason training sessions, group sessions in their own facilities, like OTAs in the NFL.

And I don't think that's dead, but there's certainly not as much optimism as there was maybe a week, ten days ago for that. I mean, it's fluid, and there's nothing definitive yet, but you may be staring at that dreaded eight month window between formal group activities for these eight teams. 

In the episode, the crew also breaks down the week in NBA bubble action, talks Jim Boylen and more. Listen here or via the embedded player below: