The statistic has bothered Fred Hoiberg since he was named Bulls coach.
In 2015-16, Hoiberg’s rookie season, the Bulls finished 24th in the NBA in three-point shots with 21.4 per game.
Last season, they fell to 29th in the league despite moving up to 22.3 shots.
That’s not what Hoiberg wants. More importantly, it’s not the way the NBA has been trending.
With the Rockets putting up a league-best 40.3 threes per game last season, followed by the Cavaliers (33.9) and Celtics (33.4), it felt like the haves and the have-nots to Hoiberg.
So while Hoiberg was pleased with the young Bulls’ 3-3 record in the preseason because they were competitive in all but the game in Dallas, he still is pushing his message: If the three is there, take it.
The Bulls finished the preseason with 34.3 threes per game, with rookie Lauri Markkanen and Justin Holiday leading the way, putting up almost six per game. Yes, the Bulls want to play with pace, but a key element in their rebuild is emphasizing ball movement to open up the three-point line.
Hoiberg hopes that if the Bulls learn to play this way now, it will become second nature later.
“The biggest thing as a coach and as a staff is you have to try and play to the strengths of your team,” Hoiberg said. “It’s been different both years I was here. It was different all five years I was [coaching at Iowa State]. Again, you just try and put your players in position on the floor where you can utilize their strengths and play to the skills that they have, and this team is a movement team.”
Three other observations from the preseason:
1. Holiday pay: A career role player, Holiday has emerged as perhaps the most important Bull moving forward. Yes, he led the team in preseason scoring with 16.7 points per game, but it’s his leadership that has stood out.
The young players seem to gravitate to the 28-year-old, following his lead in work ethic and hustle. While he might not be a permanent piece in the rebuild, he’s a key to its launch.
2. The rook can play: There’s a reason former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was going to keep seventh overall pick Lauri Markkanen if the Timberwolves didn’t make the draft-night trade for Jimmy Butler.
The 7-footer is a matchup nightmare not only because of his ability to shoot long range but play with a certain physicality inside. Is he going to win Rookie of the Year? Not likely with this class. But he might be in the discussion.
3. Patience with LaVine: Kris Dunn (left index finger) will miss the start of the regular season, but he could be back by next week. As for Zach LaVine (torn left anterior cruciate ligament), it was obvious throughout the preseason that the Bulls will take their time with him, even though he’s ahead of schedule.
That means the earliest they will have LaVine, Dunn and Markkanen on the floor together is December.
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