Rajon Rondo can't shoot, the Bulls had a great summer, and other myths
So, what’s been going on with the legendary floor general? How does the narrative surrounding him stack up with what we can expect to see from him this year? The following is a deep dive into a popular narrative Rondo seems to embody as part of the team he now is a member of:
Rajon Rondo (and, by extension, the Chicago Bulls) can’t shoot.
The Bulls' shooters this year are gonna be about as accurate as Revolutionary War gunmen— Adithya (@brownasthenight) October 16, 2016
He can see the floor with a thousand eyes, connect passes as well as he can Connect Four (which, for the uninformed, is pretty damned good), but if you need him to make a basket away from the rim, well...think again.
Or so goes the narrative.
And now Rondo has joined his third team in three years, a team which, in years past, might have struck fear into the hearts of opponents. Except over the last two seasons, Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler, Robin Lopez, Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, and Rondo all have spent at least one of them on the injured list between an eighth and a quarter of the season.
Worse still, only Mirotic has a reputation as a reliable shooter; the rest live in the paint or the midrange. To compound things even further, now the Bulls have packed the spacing even tighter, trading a mediocre (and sometimes unintentionally hilarious) wing who happens to be a capable shooter and defender (Tony Snell) for a mediocre guard and entirely terrible shooter (Michael Carter-Williams).
The #Bulls' defense was 9.5 points per 100 better when Tony Snell was on the floor https://t.co/EsgNfWURgM— Basketball Reference (@bball_ref) October 18, 2016
Or so we are told.
Is there any truth to this wisdom? Could the Bulls’ front office really be so inept as to not only sign some of the worst three-point shooting players available on last summer’s free agent market, but to also trade away one of its only decent rotation shooters too? Let’s take a look.
Tony Snell pass to David Blatt. Tony Snell 6 of 10. pic.twitter.com/10HutlhULm— ⓂarcusD2.0 (@_MarcusD2_) October 17, 2016
First, let’s rule out the obvious.
Robin Lopez and the word “stretch” are only used together with the word shooting in sentences like “it’d be a stretch to expect Lopez to help with floor spacing”. To date, Robin has as many three-point attempts as he does championships - zero.
Taj Gibson has made a few more three-point attempts than Lopez. Six, in fact. None went in.
What about the other frontcourt players, you say? Well, it's a mixed bag, really:
Cristiano Felicio is right up there - OK, down there - with Lopez and Gibson; he tried four times to hit from deep in his inaugural season in the league. He made none.
Bobby Portis isn’t horrible at shooting, but given he registered just .308 from three last season on just .8 attempts per game, it’s safe to say he won’t be commanding much defensive coverage.
Nikola Mirotic fits this role nicely, rebounding and blocking shots competently in limited minutes, and shooting .390 from downtown last season roughly twice per game.
Nikola Mirotic has a 65.6 true shooting percentage in his six Rio games. Lots of pressure on him to hit jumpers for the Bulls next year.— Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) August 17, 2016
Hey, take what you can get, right? What about the wings?
Doug McDermott might be the closest thing this team has to a marksman. Connecting on .425 percent of 3.2 attempts last year, he’s going to earn the title of “Mister” McBuckets this season. If the Bulls have any chance at all of sniffing the post-season, it might even be apropos to knight young Dougie “Doctor” McBuckets. I’ll show myself out now.
Former @BluejayMBB Doug McDermott had one of the most efficient shooting seasons in the NBA: https://t.co/jDnvwRtUcC pic.twitter.com/GCDaHtSyuz— KETV NewsWatch 7 (@KETV) April 14, 2016
Jimmy Butler can’t be trusted. From deep, that is - he seems to be a great workout partner and teammate, but vacillates from .182 to .381 back to .283, then .378 and to .312 from three over the course of his first five years in the league. Which Jimmy will we see this year? Anything over about .340 should mean good things from a player averaging roughly three attempts per game recently. Anything lower might mean disaster.
Dwyane Wade should not shoot the three. Ever. Period. He has never shot better than .317, and that was two years before Lebron’s “decision”. He shot .159 from three last year. Need I say more?
Bulls needed shooting.— Ian Kenyon (@IanKenyonNFL) July 7, 2016
Bulls new additions Dwyane Wade and Robin Lopez made 7 three-pointers last season in 4,479 minutes last season.
Surely, some of the new recruits can shoot - right?
Well, Thomas Walkup and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera might be able to, but they also might not make the team. Both are raw, and unlikely to see the floor much - if they even suit up for a regular season game at all. Paul Zipser may play a little, but is probably not going to do much either as a 48th pick.
Denzel Valentine, however, might see some significant minutes, and put up a very respectable .444 rate from beyond the arc in college. Take that with a grain of salt, though, because between staying ahead of his man on defense and the better, longer more athletic defense he’ll himself encounter from a further-away arc suggests we should expect that number to dip - and probably a lot - until he adjusts over the next couple seasons.
Hmm - this is not looking so good, is it? And the point guards - they can shoot, right?
Hoiberg referencing both Isaiah Canaan and Tony Snell as answers to being a poor outside-shooting team.— Pippen Ain't Easy (@BullsBeatBlog) September 26, 2016
Isaiah Canaan is pretty decent flinging the rock from deep; his .363 on 6.3 attempts last year was in the top fifth of the league for players with at least 3 attempts per game. Of course, this was with the maybe NBA history’s-worst Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers squad, where he was pretty much the only competent option not named Robert Covington. But then, the situation isn’t all the different than last year from a shooting perspective, is it?
Jerian Grant is bad at shooting threes. He hit on just .220 of 1.3 attempts last year, and while he should get better, that’s not much to speak of.
Spencer Dinwiddie may make Dwyane Wade feel more comfortable, given he put up an atrocious .100 per .8 attempts from three last season; maybe Marcus Smart can help.
Great! So, the Bulls have McDermott (.425), Mirotic (.390), Canaan (.363), and maybe Butler and Valentine (TBD) to space the floor. Clearly what a team with four starters who can’t shoot needs is to move a rotation player who can (Snell - .361 on 2.4 attempts per game) for one who definitely can’t (Carter-Williams - .273 on 1 attempt per game).
Bulls/Bucks make the Michael Carter-Williams-Tony Snell trade official. Chicago continues to assemble a roster that's...interesting.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixYS) October 17, 2016
What’s that? I forgot Rondo?
It seems we all have.
Oddly enough, Rajon Rondo can shoot, after all.
Will it be enough? This much remains unclear - for a team with nearly as many health concerns as the team they dealt their most injury-prone player (Derrick Rose) to (the New York Knicks), coupled with the fact that the starting unit is full of notoriously strong personalities (to put it mildly) under a coach who is already being whispered to have too much of a “hands-off” approach in Fred Hoiberg, the seeds for destruction are planted alongside the path to success.
For those of us who still have a soft spot for the recalcitrant point guard who led Boston to Banner 17, it’s going to be an interesting season to watch from afar, regardless.
Data via www.basketballreference.com
Top Rondo photo via Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty
Bottom Rondo photo courtesy of Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty
Follow Justin at @justinquinnn