Home World It’s Nikola Vučević’s worst shooting season

It’s Nikola Vučević’s worst shooting season


It’s been nearly a decade since Nikola Vučević lost his 3-point shot like he has this season.

For the first few weeks, it felt like a fluke. Vučević was shooting the ball poorly — but the entire Chicago Bulls roster couldn’t shoot worth a damn, averaging 34.9% from behind the arc through the first 20 games of the year.

And yes, Vučević’s production had dropped below one 3-pointer per game in that span, the sixth-lowest volume on the roster. But all the players were fervent in their belief that their 3-point shooting would surely, someday, defrost from this ice-cold slump.

In the months since the Bulls have somewhat shaken out of their shooting stupor. They average 35.9% from behind the arc for 11.6 makes per game — 25th overall in the league, a modest improvement from dead-last in the 2022-23 season.

But Vučević’s shot is still nowhere to be found. With six games left in the regular season, the center is averaging 28.6% from deep for 1.2 makes per game. It’s his lowest accuracy since the 2015-16 season and his lowest production since 2019.

The cause is unclear. And it creates an evident problem for the Bulls, who already lost one piece of their “Big Three” with Zach LaVine’s season-ending injury.

“He’s a much, much better shooter than what he showed this year,” coach Billy Donovan said. “I really believe that. I think he’s had some good looks and for whatever reason, he hasn’t shot like he’s capable.”

This slump has been bewildering for Vučević, who has voiced frustration with his shot throughout the season.

Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic (9) sits on the bench late in the second half of a game against the Boston Celtics at the United Center in Chicago on March 23, 2024. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune)
Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vučević sits on the bench during a game against the Boston Celtics at the United Center on March 23, 2024. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune)

Although the Bulls as a collective have made an effort to take more 3-pointers this season, Vučević is taking slightly fewer (4.1 average this year compared to 4.2 in 2022-23). At times, his teammates have urged him quite bluntly to shoot the ball more.

“I do think he’s selective,” Donovan said. “He takes the 3s that he feels comfortable taking. This is not a guy that’s taking eight-to-10 3s — I think, to be honest with you, he can take eight-to-10 3s a game. But also I think he’s very conscientious.”

For years, the strength of Vučević as a center has been his ability to balance playing inside and shooting from the outside. This is a growing trend for big men in the NBA and it’s one that Vučević embraced fairly early in his career, lifting his 3-point shooting accuracy to 35% in the 2018-19 season on his way to his first All-Star selection.

And this versatility was an integral part of his fit with the Bulls, with the ultimate goal of creating a fluid offense that spreads the floor.

But how can a center maintain that pick-and-pop identity when the threat of the pop suddenly evaporates?

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