Bulls

Beyond the Box Score: Bulls overthinking open shots?

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Beyond the Box Score: Bulls overthinking open shots?

As the season winds down, the Bulls are fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive.

We've talked a lot about turnovers and poor defense, and anyone who follows this team knows how those shortcomings led to a 16-game streak where the Bulls surrendered 100 points or more. Thankfully that streak is over, so today we'll look at how improving their offense can improve their playoff chances. 

Here are two interesting metrics from the Bulls offense so far this season:

The Bulls rank 28th in the NBA with an average of 1.07 points per shot attempt, but oddly are one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the league.

TYPE PERCENTAGE RANK
3-point attempt 36.6% 4th
2-point attempt 46% 29th

It's weird to see a team that shoots the 3-ball so well, rank second worst in the league when shooting closer to the hoop. It's even weirder to see a top five 3-point shooting team rank so poorly in points per shot, according to Vantage Sports, since shooting 3's well typically means more points per shot.

[Beyond the Box Score: Turnover Troubles]

You may think that Jimmy Butler's injury has caused the Bulls' offensive output to tank, and it certainly contributes. But in his stead, players like Mike Dunleavy, Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose have put up comparable numbers — in an analytics sense — to make up for Butler's absence.

A better explanation comes to the surface when you take a look at the Bulls' ability to get open, and knock down open shots.

TYPE PERCENTAGE
RANK
Open+Frequency 33% 27th
Open+FG 54% 26th

According to Vantage Sports, the Bulls are bottom five in the league when it comes to Open+ Frequency and Open+ FG%. These metrics are fairly self explanatory. 

The first measures the percentage of shots taken where the Bulls create enough space to get an open look, or a shot with a late-arriving defender. The second metric simply shows the Bulls FG% for those open shots.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

If a team is low in either of these categories, it's not good, but they can usually make up for it by performing well in the other. However, when a team performs poorly in each category — like the Bulls — that spells trouble. These two issues compound to create a much larger problem, often leading to stretches of offensive ineptitude, and disappointing losses.

With a slim margin for error in the coming weeks the Bulls must create more open opportunities for themselves, and they have to take full advantage of every one of those opportunities. A couple of missed shots could mean the difference between a couple of wins or losses. And in the extremely tight race for the last few playoff spots in the East, a couple of wins or losses could mean the difference between postseason play, and going home early.

Report: Bulls sign former Arizona Wildcat Rawle Alkins to two-way contract

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USA TODAY

Report: Bulls sign former Arizona Wildcat Rawle Alkins to two-way contract

A report on Sunday from Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports indicated that the Bulls have agreed to a two-way contract with former Arizona Wildcat Rawle Alkins. 

The 6'5'' guard was a teammate of Lauri Markkanen on the 2017 Wildcats, and many expected him to be a potential lottery pick after showing off the all-around skill set that also made him the top player in the state of New York in high school.

After going undrafted, Alkins played for the Toronto Raptors Summer League team, where he put up 9 points, 4.67 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. In the six  Las Vegas Summer League games he played in, Alkins shot poor from the field (37 percent) and the free throw line (62.5 percent), but he knocked down his 3-pointers, shooting 43.9 percent on a healthy 3.5 attempts from deep per game. 

There is an obvious fit on the Bulls for a player like Alkins. He was a career 36.5 percent 3-point shooter in his two college seasons, and has the physical profile of a great wing defender at the NBA-level. Alkins has a 6'9'' wingspan, and at a listed 220 lbs., it is easy to see him having the potential to guard four-to-five different positions on the floor. At this stage of the rebuild, the Bulls could really use as many of the coveted "3-and-D" wings as they can get. And there are some, like, The Ringer's Chris Vernon, who think that Alkins has the potential to become a glue guy.

Alkins will be a fan favorite wherever he plays. You want a Marcus Smart, Tony Allen, or P.J. Tucker–type player when you need a big play in a big game. I see that with Alkins.

-The Ringer's Chris Vernon 

The nature of the two-way contract means that Bulls fans will to catch some Windy City Bulls games to see Alkins in action. But much like Antonio Blakeney last season, we could see Alkins make an instant impact in the G League and get a call-up sooner than later, especially if the Bulls decide to move on from veteran Justin Holiday.

Either way, the pick up is a shrewd move by the Bulls front office. Alkins is a well-rounded, defense-first player who will be joining a young roster overstocked with scoring talent, but thin on defenders capable of guarding on the perimeter or executing a switching defense at a high level.

Jabari Parker and Tyler Ulis shine at open run in Chicago

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USA TODAY

Jabari Parker and Tyler Ulis shine at open run in Chicago

Jabari Parker is looking forward to what will surely be an intriguing season for he and the Chicago Bulls.


Parker signed a two-year, $40 million contract, that essentially acts as a tryout for the Bulls. The second year of the contract is a team option, meaning should things not go well, the organization can cut ties with him. But after 183 career games with the Bucks over four seasons, it was clear that Parker was in need of a fresh start. In Chicago, he will slide in as the day one starting small forward, and is already paid like a player who is definitely appreciated by his organization.


But with all of the off the court stuff taken care of for now, Parker's main focus is getting in to the best shape of his life, as he prepares for a full season as a wing player. 


Part of Parker's preparation was a great pickup game in downtown Chicago organized by the Chicago Basketball Club.

 

For Bulls fans itching to get a look at Parker on the court, the video shows off some flashy passing ability, impressive handles and a flurry of pull-up jumpers from the 23-year old forward. He also finishes well in transition in the video, though that is to be taken with a grain of salt as Parker was easily the biggest player on the court. 


Other players in the pickup game included former Simeon teammate of Parker's, Kendrick Nunn; and NBA free agent and former Marion Catholic star Tyler Ulis (a possible Bulls target?). If Parker looks as dynamic against NBA competition as he did in the pickup game below, the Bulls are going to have one of the more valuable contracts in the league in 2020, and would be likely to lock up Parker to a long-term deal.