Bernstein: Looks Like Bulls Might Just Be Getting It

The Bulls' shot profile was superb in their preseason opener.

Dan Bernstein
October 08, 2019 - 3:22 pm

(670 The Score) ​It has taken a proverbial village of advisors and higher-ups to keep delivering the messages of modern basketball, but it sure appears that Jim Boylen is ready to run the Bulls as they should be run, in a sense both figurative and literal.

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The same guy who exasperated us with his slowdown principles and desire for 2-point shots when first taking the job may actually have evolved into a coach who understands where the points actually come from, if early returns are an indication. Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago analyzed the shot selection from the Bulls' first preseason game Monday -- a 122-112 loss to the Bucks -- and the results are encouraging.

The Bulls took only eight mid-range attempts all game, with Zach LaVine and Otto Porter combining for just one in 39 total minutes between them. That's a major improvement over their combined average last year of nearly eight mid-range shots per game (LaVine 3.2 and Porter 4.6), per Strotman.

What's more, 78 of the Bulls' 98 shots came from either 3-point range or the restricted area, with only eight total from mid-range and 10 from the paint but outside the restricted area. They also ended up shooting 38 free throws, another big positive. This distribution is in line with a generally accepted formula to maximize scoring. It's real NBA offense.

Whether this is the culmination of the ongoing influence from some combination of executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson, advisor Doug Collins and director of pro personnel Jim Paxson is unknown, but it also has to matter that assistant coach Chris Fleming was hired to be a meaningful voice in such a regard.  

And the numbers match up with the eye test too. The Bulls allowed multiple ballhandlers to push it up, we saw attacks of the basket earlier in possessions and Lauri Markkanen spent some time at center. The offense looked generally like so many of us have wanted it to look.

It helps that Robin Lopez isn't here anymore, Boylen's confounding crutch for contested post-ups, especially early in games. And the Bulls still need to take the next step of designing sets that get the more valuable 3-pointers from the corners instead of from elsewhere behind the arc.

But this is all good stuff that continues a positive trend of some intelligent offseason player signings and roster decisions -- and what could be material hires for Boylen's bench. I've no idea how well any of it sticks, if the emotional Boylen is really ready for a full season, if he understands how to husband his timeouts or if his team can handle this many months of his hardwood evangelism of heart and spirit and soul. 

Something is going in some kind of right direction, even if contention remains well in the distance.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in midday. You can follow him on Twitter @Dan_Bernstein.