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The Sad State of The Chicago Bulls Shooting Guards

With the addition of Carlos Boozer, the Chicago Bulls are a very fashionable choice as a top 4 team in the East and a championship contender.  The thing is, the Bulls are actually one of the weaker teams in the league at the shooting guard position and rookie coach Tom Thibodeau may have to make some serious “offense or defense” decisions when setting his line-up.

The real offensive question for the Bulls is outside shooting and this is where the Bulls fouled up badly in off-season.  You can’t blame Bulls GM Gar Forman for Atlanta offering a much ridiculed max contract to Joe Johnson.  On the other hand, you really have to wonder how serious Dwayne Wade was in his talks with the Bulls, given how orchestrated most of Miami’s signings seemed and how long Wade, Bosh and James had been discussing playing together.  When the Bulls prematurely traded Kirk Hinrich to clear cap space for signing Wade and, presumably, Bosh, they trashed their outside shooting and made the team less of a contender than they would’ve been by simply signing Boozer and leaving Hinrich slightly out of position at the shooting guard slot.  (For the record, I think Hinrich is a top of the line combo guard off the bench, rather than a starter at the 1 or 2 positions, but he’s certainly better than what they have now.)

Prior to any signings, who was the best long range shooter the Bulls had on contract?  That would be Luol Deng, who’s quietly improved and shot .386 from beyond the arc, last season.  Granted, that was only 83 attempts and 32 makes, so he was being very careful on the trigger, but .386 is best of class here.

There’s plenty of buzz about Derrick Rose improving his jumper over the summer, but we really need to wait and see what happens when the season starts, since his three-point percentage was a meager .267 (16-60).

Fun fact: Brad Miller, the back-up center, was 37 of 132 from 3-point range.  Yes, the back-up center made more 3’s than the starting point guard and small forward.  Are we seeing a red flag yet?

And this brings us to the shooting guard candidates: Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer.  Two more players, like Boozer, who were with Utah last year, so at least maybe you’ll get some chemistry.  The conventional thinking is that Brewer will start because of his defensive skills.  We’ll have to wait and see on this, since Brewer may be a bit of a liability on offense in a half-court set.  On the other hand, while he’s an excellent outside shooter, Korver hasn’t demonstrated a whole lot of defensive aptitude or willpower over the years.

Before we dissect the 2 in greater detail, let’s look at where the Bulls main minute-takers score on the floor.  Pending this rumored improved jumpshot, Derrick Rose has scored taking it to the rim and from mid-range.  Carlos Boozer can score in the post or leak out and hit a jumper out to somewhere in the 15-18 feet range, essentially scoring anywhere but 3-point range.  Joakim Noah is emerging from garbage man status.  He _does_ have a jumpshot out to 12 feet-ish, but he has an odd and very slow release, so he has to be very wide open to get it off.  Still, most of his scoring is going to be around the rim.  Deng is very good mid-range jumpshooter, especially pulling up off the dribble.  He’s showing some promise spotting up for 3s, and while he can get to the rim off the dribble, he’s not particularly efficient at finishing in traffic.

In his job interview, Thibodeau supposedly talked a lot about pick and roll offense.  Boozer has the size and range to set picks and hit a shot if the ball is kicked to him.  Rose could dive to the rim, Deng could pull up for a jumpshot.  That makes sense for the personnel.  If you’re running pick and rolls, you probably want an extra shooter on the floor for spacing or to kick out to if the defense collapses on the ball handler.  Likewise, Boozer can command a double team and you always want shooters available in that case.  Either way, the other 4 of the starting 5 are all used to operating inside the arc, not outside.

Where does that leave us with the two-guard position?  Well, presumed starter Brewer shot .258 from 3-point range last season and .259 the season before that.  Barring drastic improvement, I’m guessing .258 is about what he’d shoot this year.  Which is to say he’s a slightly worse long range threat than Rose has been.  Brewer’s very athletic and good in transition, but when things get to a half-court, it just seems to me like there are enough people on the court operating from the free throw line in.

Korver, on the other hand, had himself a contract year last season.  59-110 from beyond the arc for a blistering .536.  No, that is not a realistic expectation for the coming season.  Previous 3-point percentages were .386 and .388, which is roughly what Deng was shooting.  Korver hasn’t been a volume shooter from beyond the arc.  For his time in Utah, he’s been hoisting 2-4 long range shots per game.  You’d like to think he’d shoot around .400.  Of course, as I said earlier, Korver isn’t known for playing much defense.

If you combined Brewer and Korver, you’d have a pretty decent guard.  As it is, we have a pretty weak situation.  It seems to me like there’s more hope of Thibodeau instilling some defense desire in Korver than Brewer suddenly become a crack shot.

I think the best commentary on how sad the situation is would be the flirtation with Tracy McGrady.  McGrady would say he was willing to come of the bench if he was not the better guard, but listening to the comments he’d make about seeing how it went in training camp, it seemed to me like he was thinking “Oh, come on.  It’s Korver and Brewer.  If I’m half my old self, I’d still start over them.”

And he might be right.  If he were at 50%, which may not be the case.  And, alas, McGrady is only a .337 outside shooter and more of a scorer than a pure shooter.

Still, I wouldn’t be shocked if McGrady still ended up on the Bulls.  This was a particularly weak market for shooting guards and the Bulls really shouldn’t have traded Hinrich without a commitment in place.  (Unless of course Wade made a commitment and backed out.  I’ve heard nothing of the sort, but the idea of signing Carlos Boozer after someone backed out of a deal is utterly hilarious.)

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