Bulls welcome Patrick Beverley but need better offense originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Patrick Beverley is walking through that door.
And the Chicago Bulls still have plenty of work cut out for them to make the NBA playoffs.
Currently riding a six-game losing streak, Beverley is in and Tony Bradley is out when the Bulls reconvene for a Wednesday evening practice in advance of Friday’s home game against the Brooklyn Nets.
The same Nets team that thoroughly handled the Bulls on Feb. 9, the NBA trade deadline day on which the Bulls made no changes and a Kevin Durant- and Kyrie Irving-less squad played with passion and purpose and sank 17 3-pointers in an easy victory.
Beverley will bring his typical mix of annoying defense, reliable 3-point shooting and brash outspokenness to a team that has blown five leads of 16 points or more this season. But to think one player acquired in the buyout market will right all the Bulls’ wrongs might be either overly optimistic or unfair to said player.
Even if Beverley probably enjoys such responsibility or challenge.
No, for the Bulls to make a legitimate run, they will need to solve the season-long problems of inconsistent lulls and recent struggles on the offensive end. Especially since, unlike Beverley, Lonzo Ball isn’t walking through that door.
The Bulls enter their stretch run of 23 games with the 11th-easiest schedule as of opponents’ winning percentage on Wednesday but the 24th-ranked offense. This is almost unforgivable for a team built around the offensive talents of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic.
Beyond their 30th-ranked 3-point shooting in both makes and attempts, the Bulls rank 24th in free-throw attempts per game, 29th in second-chance points and middle of the pack at 16th in points off turnovers.
Beverley’s prowess on the defensive end could boost that final statistic. But the Bulls’ halfcourt offensive execution must improve. While they shoot the sixth-best percentage in the league, they rank 22nd in assists and percentage of baskets assisted.
In other words, for all of coach Billy Donovan’s desire to limit isolation play and create more ball and player movement, the Bulls still too often rely on simple midrange shotmaking.
Couple that with Zach LaVine twice recently acknowledging the team’s offensive issues, once in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago and once in a media scrum following the team’s sixth straight loss entering the All-Star break, and it’s an area that needs fixing.
“Something isn’t working, obviously,” LaVine said following the Feb. 16 home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. “Some games we’re really good at. Some games we’re bad. Once again, it’s that consistency factor of figuring out what our identity is and what we’re going to be each game.
“Even if guys are in and out of the lineup, you see some teams that have consistency with what they do. They have an identity. That’s something we’re still trying to figure out in these last couple years. We changed our offense a little bit this year from last year. But it’s no excuse with the type of talent that we have on the team.”
LaVine is right. The Bulls are too talented to sit where they sit offensively. Beverley is finally here to fulfill a longstanding dream of playing for his hometown franchise, but it will take more than is arrival if the Bulls are going to make a playoff push.
It will take more consistency, fewer lapses and the Bulls’ Big Three of DeRozan, LaVine and Vucevic starring more often than not.
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