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Bulls Talk Podcast: On a crucial offseason for the Bulls

The Bulls have been through what feels like four years worth of incredible ups-and-downs and yet they still have 33  games left to go n the 2018-19 season. As Bulls fans search for ways to find joy amid this hectic year, the Bulls youngsters continue to try to find their niche among Jim Boylen’s very volatile rotations, as he becomes more comfortable with his team and new duties as head coach.

Chandler Hutchison–who Chicago selected with the 22nd pick in the 2018 NBA Draft–has started to show flashes of his potential since Boylen has started to give him significant playing time.

Through 44 games played, Hutchison is averaging 20.3 minutes per game. In the month of January, Boylen hbuas played Hutchison 28.7 minutes per game, of course aided along by the fact that the Bulls traded wing Justin Holiday, who was one of the league’s leaders in minutes per game during his time with the Bulls.

With the increased playing time, Hutchison has shown what makes him a solid fit with the Bulls current core. His best skill at this point–besides his overall defense–is his decision-making. He rarely turns the ball over, with his 0.6 turnovers per game being the best on the team among players who get meaningful playing time.

He has shown that he can quickly diagnose when to execute plays like simple dribble handoffs, and when to break off those plays and take what the defense gives him

The fact that he has low turnover numbers are to be taken with a grain of salt due to his extremely low usage rate but he is still a solid playmaker when given the chance. Hutchison’s 1.36 assist-to-turnover ratio is second best among Bulls starters, outpaced only by Kris Dunn.

Hutchison’s 3-point shooting–the swing skill that will ultimately decide his ceiling–has improved month-by-month, but on very low volume. He is still shooting an underwhelming 28 percent from the 3-point line on the season.

Just as concerning, Hutchison has yet to shoot more than 30 total 3-pointers in a month so far this season. Though he has shot 21 3-pointers through 12 games in January. He doesn’t get to the free throw line much either, and he is shooting 60.5 percent when he gets to the charity stripe. But that’s OK, as Hutchison will improve on that over time.

But the corner 3-point shot is what he will need to work on the most as a low-usage player who will spend a lot of time (theoretically) spacing the floor for LaVine-Lauri Markkanen pick-and-rolls. And some credit should be given to the Bulls coaching staff and Hutchison, as his 3-point shot (especially in the confined space in the corners of the floor) looks more fluid than it did in college and even as recent as the NBA Summer League.

The most encouraging sign from Hutchison–that he has shown consistently–is his hustle, especially when it comes to getting out in transition. Hutchison has the highest average speed on offense and defense of any Bulls player in 2018-19.

The fact that he is always in constant motion helps (a little bit) in adding more value to his offensive game since his jumper has yet to come along.

Per Cleaning the Glass (subscription based site), Hutchison is shooting 58 percent at the rim. This is an OK mark but ranks in the 30th percentile among forwards, which is not good. But he does generate a lot of his offense at the rim, which is generally helpful to the offense.

Again he is still a rookie, so he definitely needs to work on finishing through contact over the offseason. But he way the floor opens up on a fastbreak makes things easier for Hutchison, who still needs to sharpen his ball-handling skills. But as he tightens up his handle and gets stronger, we will see a higher percentage of his nice finishes come in half court.

As the season wears on, we will continue to see a more aggressive Hutchison, like in Friday night’s close loss to the Clippers.

In the loss, Hutchison notched his first career double double (12 points, 12 rebounds), to go along with 2 assists and a steal. He also hit career-highs in field goal attempts (15) and 3-point attempts (7) and minutes (41), showing his growing aggression level on offense. And just as important, it shows Boylen’s growing trust in Hutchison.

It is great to see that despite Hutchison having some truly awful airballs on the night, he still took 7 attempts from 3-point range. It is rare that someone gets better at the 3-point shot without attempting them in real game situations.

But obviously he won’t become a 40 percent 3-point shooter overnight, so his activity around the basket continues to be nice to see, and his teammates have taken notice.

“He’s just reading how to cut, especially off the ball,” said LaVine.

Though Jim Boylen infamously reiterated how he feels that players can “learn from the bench”, it’s safe to say that even he would agree that giving Hutchison heavy playing time has clearly aided his development. With the 7 3-point attempts feeling like a new beginning for “Hutch”, watching his play post-All Star break will be a joy among a season filled with misfortune.

All statistics unless otherwise noted from and Basketball-Reference

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