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Jim Boylen, Zach LaVine, Bulls

Bulls coach Jim Boylen is spot-on when it comes to shooting mid-range shots

The Chicago Bulls’ analytics department wants Zach LaVine to sack the mid-range jumper from his offensive arsenal. They instead want him to take a James Harden-esque approach to his offense and just shoot shots at the basket or take 3-pointers.

LaVine, who regularly uses the mid-range shot in his game, pushed back on the idea and remains adamant to continue using that weapon. Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant, one of the deadliest mid-range shooters in the history of the NBA, encouraged the high-flying guard to continue to let it pop from there.

With the Bulls star disagreeing with the team’s analytics squad, head coach Jim Boylen offered his own take on the situation, via Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic:

In summary, Boylen is still open to the idea of his players shooting mid-range shots in his offense. He just doesn’t want them taking those shots with a lot of time left on the shot clock.

LaVine has the mid-range shot in his bag of tricks and is notorious for taking and making tough shots. He often takes them in pick-and-roll action while pulling up inside the arc. Boylen, however, seems opposed to him taking those shots early or midway through their possessions.

If you look at it from Boylen’s standpoint, this really makes a lot of sense. Shooting long 2s, especially contested ones, early in the shot clock clearly isn’t going to be the best possible shot a possession can generate.

Boylen seems like he wants to get the ball fizzing around in Chicago. Taking contested mid-rangers would just disrupt the overall flow of the offense. More often than not, these shots are generated off isolation plays where the ball sticks. Other players won’t get involved in these kinds of possessions.

There are also much better looks you can get rather than contested long 2s. It would be best for Chicago to move the ball around first and look for an open shot rather than have someone like LaVine settle for a mid-range jumper early in the possession. If no such open shot comes out from their initial offense, that’s when LaVine can utilize his talents and pop it from 15.

Likewise, for an ultra-athletic player like LaVine, it would also be better for him to take the ball into the heart of the defense and make plays on drives instead of settling for a mid-range shot.

Moreover, those long jumpers within the arc, obviously, aren’t as valuable as shots beyond it. Analytically, it makes sense to hoist up a 3-pointer off a screen instead of taking a long-range shot that is less valuable.

Nevertheless, as Boylen may have suggested, if LaVine proves he’s capable enough to make those kinds of shots, then Boylen has no choice but to let his star player take them. The good news is LaVine has been on fire from everywhere in preseason, and his shot selection has been on point for a Bulls offense that has looked impressive.