Beyond the trouble of staying healthy this preseason, there lies another sickness: Three Point Fever. By the time the Chicago Bulls got to the playoffs last season they had one legit three point threat, the ever streaky Kirk Hinrich. Ever since Ben Gordon left through free agency in the summer of 2009, three point shooting has been a weakness. This summer saw the Bulls ship out Captain Kirk and import Kyle Korver along with a host of other players who can shoot the three with varying degrees of success. Hence, the overall situation has not changed much. They upgraded their top three point shooter, but at the expense of defense. And due to his questionable defense, Korver will not see the minutes Hinrich put in.
Whether motivated by this need of better team perimeter shooting or some other less altruistic cause (Pay Day!), a handful of Bulls have been chucking more threes in practice and training camp. First was news of Derrick Rose’s quest to develop a more consistent three while playing for Team USA. During the warm-up games and throughout practices he looked like he was succeeding. Things took a nose dive when the FIBA Championship began, where Rose shot 28% from (a shortened) three-point line for the tournament. Granted, Rose played more of a traditional point guard in the tournament, limiting his ability to get into a shooting flow. Yet, 28% from a line that was three feet (approx. 1 metre) shorter is sad anyway you cut it. (And, with that, hopefully today is the last day I will have to go to FIBA’s disease-ridden website.)
Next we heard that the offensively-limited Taj Gibson was flirting with the three ball. Rest assured that he has also been working on a mid-range jumper and did not just make the leap to long distance. This seems like more of a long term project, than some revelation that comes from a player that has a shot that ranges from collar-tugging to marginal, at best. However, Gibson has said that if he has the look in a game he will not be afraid to launch the long ball. Hm.
Then there is the curious case of Luol Deng. The Man from Sudan came into the league in 2004 and fancied himself as player who dabbles with the three ball. His rookie season saw him throw up 117 threes at a clip of 26.5%. In his second season, Deng reduced his attempts to 78 and upped his percentage by four tenths. Then in the summer of 2006, Deng and, then coach, Scott Skiles decided that the three-point game was distracting Deng from what he was better at, mid-range jumpers and slashing to the hoop. That theory worked out phenomenally well. Luol shot only seven threes that season, while playing 82 games, and leading the Bulls to their only playoff series victory in the Post-Jordan Era. This lead to people questioning if it was worth giving up Deng for Kobe Bryant in the summer of 2007. (Seriously, folks.) Slapped with the “indispensable” tag, Deng signed a staggering $71 million contract in 2008.
Fast forward past three seasons of battling injuries and not turning into the Messiah, and we have a Deng who is flirting with the three once again. Coach Tom Thibodeau is hoping Deng is able to consistently hit the corner three in order to open up the Bulls offense. Personally, I hope that is where it stays (Unless, of course, he is lighting it up all over the arc.). A little addition to his game is certainly welcome, but when Deng is spouting off, “I’m going to shoot a lot more threes,” one may start to worry.
I hope that these players realize that the coveted three ball can come at a price. If they start spotting up for more threes and things do not go as planned, it could start affecting the rest of their rhythm. The end result could be a less potent offense born from frustration. And I do not think there are any Bulls fans who think that the team can afford any lost offense, especially without The Beard. So please proceed with caution, gentlemen.