Per NBA.com, the Chicago Bulls are on pace to set the NBA’s worst three-point differential (17.1 PPG) since the introduction of the three-point line. Most of the other NBA teams are outshooting and outscoring Chicago significantly. As a result, the Bulls have the fifth-lowest average in points scored in the NBA. Is there any hope for the Bulls’ historically bad three-point shooting to turn around?
Death by the Three: The Bulls’ Shooting Struggles
Head coach Billy Donovan is constantly facing questioning about the lack of threes in his team’s offense. Donovan has assured in many interviews that making threes more central is a part of his plan. However, through eight games of the 2023-2024 season, the Bulls’ offense has shown quite the opposite.
Take, for example, the Bulls’ game against the Denver Nuggets, where the Bulls lost 123-101 to Nikola Jokic‘s Nuggets. Towards the end of the first quarter and into the second, Chicago’s Jevon Carter sunk three 3-pointers in a row. At that point in the game, the Bulls were only trailing by two points. Immediately following the third three, Donovan benched Carter and kept him out until the end of the third quarter. Between Carter getting benched and coming back in, the Bulls made just one three-pointer and the Nuggets increased their lead to sixteen. Carter scored 16 on 6-of-9 shooting with four three-pointers, yet Donovan limited him to just eighteen minutes.
In the previous loss against the Nets, Chicago shot just twenty-eight threes against Brooklyn’s forty-five. The Nets only won by two points due to poor efficiency, but a near twenty-attempt difference in threes is alarming no matter the outcome. The Bulls grabbed more rebounds and shot more free-throws, but the drastic lack of threes trumped any other statistical success.
Donovan’s Flaws are Starting to be Exposed
In an interview following the Chicago-Denver game, Donovan told reporters that he wasn’t looking to “force” his players to shoot more threes. Why make non-traditional three-point shooters like DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic take shots they’re not used to? The issue with Donovan’s way of thinking here is that the need for more threes isn’t a new revelation for this team. This has been an issue since the beginning of this core. The front office and coaching staff haven’t filled in the gaps that the lack of three-pointers has left. For nearly three years, Chicago has been trailing the rest of the league when it comes to three-point success. Since Donovan arrived to Chicago in 2020, he hasn’t done much at all to increase three-point opportunities in his schemes.
It may take a little bit of forcing threes for this team to find any success. The Bulls have a few solid three-point shooters in Carter, Coby White, and even Patrick Williams, so maximizing their opportunities to launch from behind the arc is vital. Zach LaVine has traditionally been a great three-point shooter as well, so the hope will be for him to bounce out of this slump and be the driving factor for a more three-centered offense. If things don’t change, however, Donovan could be seeing his way out sooner rather than later.
The Last Word: A Change Has Got to Come
The Bulls are currently riding the wave of mediocrity, and their historically bad three-point shooting is the number one cause. Setting a new NBA record for the largest three-point differential was not in Chicago’s playbook this year, but it is a real possibility as of now. Among that, trade rumors, and ongoing locker room tension, Chicago’s got some major problems to solve.