Bulls Coach Billy Donovan Open to Team Taking More 3’s

Chicago Bulls

Getty Head coach Billy Donovan addresses the Chicago Bulls during a May 11 game against the Brooklyn Nets.

The Chicago Bulls sport the second-lowest three-point rate in the NBA this season, ranking only ahead of the notorious anti-spacing San Antonio Spurs, per Basketball-Reference.

Fortunately, head coach Billy Donovan is open to the idea of his team taking more shots from beyond the arc, per NBC Sports, saying “I’d like for us to take some more. I think that would be good,” before Chicago’s Friday win over the Washington Wizards.

Identifying the Right Shots

According to Donovan, taking more three-pointers isn’t an isolated event.

“I don’t love just saying randomly, ‘Hey, we gotta take more 3s.’ Because I don’t think all 3s are created equally. There are certain 3s that are just bad in my opinion. You gotta get the right ones.”

This is a fair assessment from Donovan, especially given how the Bulls actually rank first overall in the NBA in three-point efficiency at 38.5% on the season. No team should take more three-pointers without just cause.

However, one could argue that the Bulls are potentially doing themselves a disservice by being this low in volume, considering their much-projected path to the playoffs.

In the postseason, defenses tighten, and having multiple shooters open and willing to punish teams from taking away the mid-range area – which is a likely plan given how frequently both Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan operate there – has become an outright necessity.

Taking just 30 attempts per game, as the Bulls currently are, could insinuate that increasing that volume to 40 or 45 during a game where they need it, could throw the offense out of whack due to how dramatically they’d have to alter their shot-profile on the fly.

The good news for the Bulls, however, is that Donovan also mentioned he wanted to improve Chicago’s transition game.

“But I also think, too, one of the areas that we’ve gotta get better at is we’ve gotta be better at playing downhill.”

This is where Donovan can bridge together two items of significant importance, as optimizing Chicago’s fast-break offense will lead to defenses collapsing more frequently, which should theoretically lead to more open three-pointers.

But more than that, it gives the Bulls multiple options. LaVine in particular is a menace near the basket, hitting 70.4% of his shots within three feet of the basket, per Basketball-Reference. If the Bulls open up their running game, it would allow the All-Star to up his frequency of shots in that area, which currently makes up for 26.5% of his offense, down from 31% last year, and 39.6% three years ago.

It would behoove LaVine to get more shots near the rim, and leaving behind the shots he takes from between 10-16 feet, where he is hitting just 36.6% on the year, especially considering how that shot makes up for 10.5% of his offense.

Trading for Shooters

While shooting more three-pointers could come from within, it can also come via external upgrades. Harrison Barnes has long been a player speculated about, and his 42.2% from range on 4.9 nightly attempts would make for an immediate uptick in both volume and percentage for the Bulls, likely providing them with a more balanced attack.

This isn’t all to say the mid-range should be any way abandoned. In fact, increasing three-point and transition rates will help keep the floor open, providing DeRozan in particular with the space needed to get off shots from the area he’s most comfortable.

Adding more shots from outside and near the rim will help make Chicago more unpredictable offensively, which has become necessary for any team seeking success in the playoffs.

As currently constructed, Chicago’s shot-profile is slightly simplistic, and one that teams will have decent odds of slowing down when they get more time to study and game-plan.

For Donovan to be mindful of that, in seeking more shot alternatives, is only good news for the Bulls long-term.

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