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For the first time this season, the Chicago Bulls passed their math test with flying colors.
After three ugly losses, the Bulls get back in the win column with their best basketball game of the season. Downing the Jazz 130-113, the Bulls shot 18-for-34 from deep and finally outscored a team from three.
Everyone was getting a piece of the action. Coby White finally got hot and hit 4-of-6 en route to 18 points. Zach LaVine chipped in 2-of-5 and 24 points. Jevon Carter hit 4-of-8. Patrick Williams was 2-of-4. Alex Caruso was 2-of-2. Ayo Dosunmu was 2-of-2.
The three-point disparity has been well-documented ten times over, and sadly, this game isn’t the launching pad for a nightly three-point barrage. They certainly won’t shoot 53 percent on average and likely won’t outscore their opponents from deep either.
But there is an element of Monday’s shooting performance that the team should dog ear for later. That is one of the under discussed elements within the three-point umbrella: movement threes.
Coming off of screens or handoffs can provide a shooter with additional air space that can better put them in a position to fire away. But according to Synergy, those two play type categories make up the smallest portion of the Bulls offense.
At Media Day and during training camp, the Bulls claimed to wanted to play off of Nikola Vucevic at the top of the key and elbows to add a passing, play making, dribble-handoff hub to their offense. And while we haven’t seen much of that to this point, the Bulls did have a couple of actions to create movement threes in the first half.
Jevon Carter, who scored all 12 of his points from beyond the arc, was key for the Bulls as he was able to shake loose of defenders with off-ball movement and high-octane three-point shooting.
“If guys drive then my job is just to find open window, give them an outlet,” Carter said. “And if I feel like I got enough time to get it off, then I’m gonna shoot it.”
The value of these movement shots goes beyond simply increasing their three-point volume. On the above play, Carter sets a screen for DeRozan, who takes both defenders with him. That’s what leaves Carter open for a three.
“He’s a very active mover off the ball,” Billy Donovan said. “We tried to get him off the ball where we can kind of free him up for some of that stuff, because he’s got good speed coming off screens. He gets it off really quick. And even a lot of times guys are penetrating and he’s moving into open areas of the floor and we can find him.”
But now, if the defense knows they can’t afford to send two to DeRozan for fear of an open Carter three, DeRozan has single coverage on the block. That’s ideal for the Bulls offense.
Similarly, transition threes add another element to the offense and Carter fishing with dynamite when it comes to hunting those out.
“Just how much is he backing up,” Carter explained when he is looking for those opportunities. “When does he stop his feet, if he keeps backing up while I’m moving forward, I’m gonna pull.”
The Bulls were 29th in transition frequency prior to Monday’s game and 27th in transition efficiency. Tacking on a few extra Carter transition three specials is going to be a huge boost to the Bulls overall offensive efficiency.
“We’ve talked to Jevon about him taking those,” Donovan said. “He’s got to take those shots. He’s he’s worked incredibly hard on his shooting to become the shooter he is and he doesn’t need to bypass any.”
Spacing out to the perimeter opens up the floor for whoever has the ball in transition. Defenders need to decide whether to stop the ball and leave the shooter open, or try to eliminate the outlet pass, but potentially give up a layup.
One of the most common sentiments from Donovan and the players over the past few weeks has been the idea that the team is still trying to figure things out. It’s easier to know what shots to take when there is more movement in the offense. Carter is helping to create some of that movement.
“When the ball was moving, and it’s flowing around, just playing in rhythm it’s easy to tell [when to pull up],” Carter said. “It’s kind of hard when the ball kind of sticks and the game gets stagnant then that’s when it gets tough to tell. When should I shoot and when should I not. But when we when we get stops, when we run it is easy to tell.”
So much of the problem during the first seven games was simply missing shots. Coming into the game, they were 28th in effective field goal percentage at 47 percent. That was six percent below where they were last year and was never going to sustain. And it didn’t — their effective field goal percentage against the Jazz was 63.3 percent.
Their 18-of-34 three-point shooting night won’t sustain either. But maybe they have stumbled into something that does — creating easier scoring opportunities through a bit more movement and a lot more willingness to shoot.
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