Chicago Bulls analysis: Jimmy Butler relies too heavily on mid-range jumpers


Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler needs to stop relying on mid-range jumpers.

Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler’s reliance on mid-range jumpers has hurt the team offensively despite his career high 22.4 points per game this season.

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Before he strained his left knee against the Denver Nuggets on Feb. 5, Jimmy Butler led the Bulls in scoring with 22.4 points per game on 45.8 percent from the field. Although these statistics suggest that he has been an integral part of the success of the offense this season, advanced statistics show that his scoring numbers are slightly misleading. Butler has hurt the Bulls offensively because of his shot selection.

According to player tracking stats, Jimmy Butler has attempted 285 mid-range shots this season. Mid-range jumpers have accounted for 36.5 percent of his total shot selection, and, ironically, he is shooting 36.5 percent on these mid-range attempts. Almost 60 percent (59.6 percent) of his points on mid-range jumpers were unassisted.

Butler has relied too heavily on mid-range jumpers this season and it has hurt the Chicago Bulls offensively.

The Bulls offense has fared slightly better in terms of offensive rating with Butler off the court which suggests that he has done something to hurt the Bulls offensively despite his impressive scoring numbers.

According to, the Bulls offensive rating with Butler on the court is 101.3 points per 100 possession and when he is off the court the number rises slightly to 101.8 points per 100 possessions.

Why does this team play better offensively without its statistically best scorer on the floor? The answer is simple: Butler’s reliance on mid-range jumpers runs counter to what head coach Fred Hoiberg has tried to implement offensively.

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The problem with Butler’s mid-range jumpers was that almost 60 percent of these shots were unassisted. The success of the offensive system that head coach Fred Hoiberg has tried to implement depends on ball movement to create a more free-flowing offense.  The ball tends to stick in Butler’s hands at the top of the key as he operates on offense.

According to, the Chicago Bulls average 15.9 assists per 100 possessions when Jimmy Butler is in the game. This number rises to 17.6 assists per 100 possessions when he sits. In the six games since Butler went down with his knee injury, the Bulls have averaged 24.5 assists per game which is significantly higher than their season average of 22 assists per game. 

The other major problem with Butler’s reliance on mid-range jumpers is the inefficiency of this shot. In the chart below, mid-range shot locations appear in red font.

points-per-shot-location_500x384 /

Hoiberg found success at his previous head-coaching gig at Iowa State because he de-emphasized the mid-range jumper.

According to college basketball analyst Dylan Burkhardt, only 8.5 percent of shots taken by the Iowa State Cyclones last season categorized as mid-range jumpers . The Cyclones ranked 15th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency largely as a result of their reluctance to take this type of shot.

Butler’s reliance on mid-range jumpers undermines the offense that Hoiberg has tried to employ this season. It is tough for a team to be successful within a new system if one of the star players has openly resisted adapting to the new style.

In previous articles, I criticized Fred Hoiberg and the Bulls front office for the struggles of the on-court product this season. I’d like to ceremoniously add Jimmy Butler to the list, because he has systematically resisted the system that Hoiberg has tried to implement by hogging the ball and continuing to shoot mid-range jumpers on a regular basis.

For the Bulls to resurrect their season, they need the players and the head coach to consolidate their efforts towards a common goal. Hoiberg needs to be a better leader and improve upon his in-game management and the players need to act more like a team and buy into the system that he has tried to employ in Chicago. After botching the trade deadline, the front office can only impact the team with minor moves from now until the end of the season.

Next: Bulls make lousy decision at trade deadline

Jimmy Butler thinks he is the leader of this team so this buy-in should therefore begin with him. If Butler makes a concerted effort to get his shots more within the flow of the offense rather than take highly inefficient and unassisted mid-range jumpers the Bulls should become a more efficient offense.