Nobody seems excited about new Bulls point guard Isaiah Canaan. This is not a huge surprise, as most citizens have simply never heard of the guy. Those who are familiar with his work in Philadelphia the past two seasons were underwhelmed with Canaan’s defense, decision making, and inability to expand upon his only good skill: shooting.
Most of Bulls Twittersphere arrived at their bummed out conclusion about Canaan based on this grim profile by Jake Pavorsky from SBNation’s Liberty Ballers. The well-researched article goes deep on Canaan’s limitations as a point guard: he’s a bad floor general; he can’t finish near the basket; his defense just plain sucks, especially when forced to defend shooting guards.
Canaan’s shortcomings in Philly were amplified by the context around him. The 76ers were not a team built to win basketball games, and Canaan was forced to do things well outside of his comfort zone. It’s a bad sign that the opportunity to run the show did not result in much progress for Canaan, but do not let his failures in one facet of the game obscure the value he brings elsewhere.
Coming to Chicago presents Canaan with the opportunity to fit into a role that better suits his abilities. Between Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler, the Bulls do not need any more ball dominant guards on the roster. Between the #ThreeAlphas, there will be no shortage of guys comfortable pounding the air out of the ball. What this team desperately does need is shooting, and shooting is what Canaan can do.
Isaiah Canaan averaged 25.5 minutes over the 77 games he appeared in last season and jacked an unconscionable 6.3 threes per game. Despite the high volume. the Murray State product managed to connect on 36.3% of those attempts. According to NBA.com, 2.5 of Canaan’s triple attempts per game – about half – were pull up shots off the dribble. On pull ups, Canaan managed to shoot just 32% from three. But when Canaan fired away off the catch, which he did 3.9 times per game last year, he connected on 40.1% of his attempts, an excellent rate that warrants off ball attention from opposing defenses.
Canaan simply will not have the ball in his hands enough to come close to approaching the number of pull up threes he took last season. And if a few of those low efficiency attempts are shaved down and replaced by shots Canaan has shown a consistent ability to make, it’s not crazy to think his overall percentage could creep up to 38% or 39%.
Canaan will continue to be a crappy defender. It’s unlikely he will grow a few inches and improve his inside finishing. He’ll never sniff the assist totals of a guy like Rondo. But, on a team completely devoid of guards who can shoot, Isaiah Canaan will make an impact. Regardless of which of the alphas he shares the court with, Canaan will afford an extra sliver of driving space for his backcourt mate. Canaan was stretched far beyond his capabilities in Philadelphia, but as a member of the Chicago Bulls I believe he can settle into a role that maximizes his value to the team.