DALLAS - Aside from re-signing Tim Hardaway Jr., the biggest move the Dallas Mavericks pulled off from a personnel standpoint is the signing of Reggie Bullock in free agency.
Bullock quickly agreed to a three-year, $30.5 million contract after the start of free agency. The eight-year NBA vet is a knockdown shooting threat, and a team can never have too many of those around a playmaker like Luka Doncic.
"When it comes to shooting the ball, that's one thing that I pride myself on, and obviously guarding the other team's best player, or guarding whoever when I'm in," Bullock said. "I'm just ready to be out there and competing with my teammates.”
Playing in a full-time starting role for the New York Knicks last season, Bullock provided the team with averages of 10.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.5 assists. He converted at a 41.0% clip from beyond the arc on a career-high 6.1 attempts per game.
Bullock's execution in catch-and-shoot from deep last season stacked up well with the best in the NBA. His average of 2.4 made catch-and-shoot three-pointers per game ranked seventh among qualified players while converting on 42.5% of his takes.
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There is a real outlook for Bullock's shooting production to be amplified playing alongside an elite playmaker in Doncic. The Knicks featured Julius Randle as its key creator, and while he is certainly impactful, there is a considerable gap between his capabilities and that of Doncic.
“Everything [Luka Doncic] does on the court, from shooting the ball to his go-to moves, to the way he gets other people involved, he’s a great player,” Bullock said. “I’m glad to say that he’s a teammate of mine now – that I don’t have to guard him."
Bullock spends a lot of time in spot-up, specifically from the corners, and can certainly make the low-man pay when Doncic collapses the defense off-the-dribble. Converting at a 45-percent clip from these zones, it's difficult to find shooting threats that can convert at such a rate.
Some of the NBA's top spot-up threats go beyond just being a knockdown threat on traditional standstill catch-and-shoot attempts. It's essential for playoff performance to have a counter for aggressive closeouts.
In such situations, there is real value in having the ability to use a shot fake to set up a sidestep or stepback from beyond the arc or to take a one or two dribble pull-up from inside the three-point line.
Bullock faces legitimate limitations when a closing-out defender can get him to put the ball on the floor. His go-to option was to attack a flyby using a shot-fake to set up a one or two dribble pull-up.
When getting downhill off-the-catch, Bullock primarily looks to get to a right-hand floater. There are instances when this is a last-resort option where he sort of flings a bad look up, but he can be effective when the gap is clear.
Bullock rarely will look to get all the way to the rim for finish attempts when attacking out of spot-up. The lane was often clogged in the Knicks' half-court offense, and that certainly didn't help, but regardless, he's quite limited in this regard.
It's clear when watching Bullock that he has a combination of attributes that will help the Mavericks when the defense rotates to send help against Luka Doncic but has to scramble to recover back after a drive-and-kick occurs.
Where Bullock provides additional value beyond the traditional, complementary 3-and-D option is that he's one of the NBA's more efficient threats out of handoffs. There are plenty of options in a two-man game that open up as a result.
Not being limited to just purely taking the early catch-and-shoot jumper from beyond the arc, Bullock is a reliable threat to put the ball on the floor for a quick pull-up after getting downhill a bit using a handoff.
While Bullock is not a high-volume threat in this area, he is a capable threat. He is highly efficient when he is coming around an off-ball screen going to his left, which will be an asset for the Mavericks' half-court offense.
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With the Knicks, Bullock was involved mostly in basic quick-hitting actions like pin-ins, flares, and curls. While those may not be high-frequency options for the Mavericks to turn to throughout games, they are still helpful layers to utilize.
Aside from Tim Hardaway Jr., the Mavericks lacked many options to turn to in off-ball screening actions. Josh Richardson, who posted a truly underwhelming shooting season, was Dallas' second-most frequent option.
Scoring efficiently in transition has been something the Mavericks have struggled to do consistently in recent seasons. While Bullock isn't going to apply rim pressure, his shooting will help both directly and indirectly.
Bullock thrives as a catch-and-shoot in transition and will provide a boost when filling the wings or serving as a trailer for a team that seeks to play faster. When the defense sinks in to protect the paint initially, he will make them pay.
When looking at the limitations of Bullock's skill-set, one area that jumps out, in particular, is finishing around the basket. From a statistical standpoint, he was one of the least impactful players in the NBA in this regard last season.
At times, Bullock would decide to cut from the weak-side wing to be in a position to serve as a relief option but was largely unable to convert on those looks. The reason being that New York always used lineups that featured at least one traditional big man on the floor, and Bullock could not convert against the interior help.
The spacing in the Mavericks' half-court offense will benefit Bullock when attacking off-the-catch. It would especially be helpful to him if Kristaps Porzinigs gets deployed heavily at the center position.
In terms of defensive impact, Bullock will provide a helpful presence on the wing and will be tasked with attempting to slow down the opposing team's top perimeter threat. That alone will take pressure off Tim Hardaway Jr. and Doncic.
Bullock excels most when guarding against wing players, particularly those who try to use their size to create an advantage. A player like Paul George, who has posed problems for the Mavericks in the playoffs, is an example.
It's important to note, however, while Bullock will be a helpful player to have in order to take on the toughest defensive assignment on the perimeter, there are general limits to the impact an on-ball defender can provide.
When sequences do arise for Bullock to stay attached to a shifty shot-creator like Trae Young, there are some issues that arise. That's not an indictment on Bullock by any stretch, given that great players are bound to make great plays.
Given the nature of how NBA defenses tend to operate, a lot of pressure is placed on the frontcourt, whether through switching against high ball screens or being tasked to guard 2-with-1 in drop coverage. This is why the idea of recovery in Porzingis' movement out in space is essential.
The situations become even less about the direct on-ball defender when teams use double drag screens, Spain pick-and-roll, or other on-ball screening actions that apply extra pressure than just a traditional high ball screen.
Of course, there are still sequences against high ball screens when the on-ball defender has to go over the screen and recover on the ball handler. Bullock makes it a point to aggressively navigate screens in those situations, but the defender remains mostly at the mercy of the shot creator.
Bullock makes it a point to aggressively navigate through high-ball screens, off-ball screening actions, and handoffs in big moments when needed. Again, quick guards with dynamic shot creation can prove to be problematic.
Bullock can make most of his mark when a perimeter player sets the ball screen if the Mavericks choose to use a show-and-recover strategy. Players like Trae Young, Damian Lillard, or Stephen Curry, who possess extended range from deep, can look to capitalize on the window to get off a look.
Similar to last offseason's addition of Josh Richardson, adding one defender into the mix will not transform the Mavericks' defense. However, it helps that Bullock not only is a good enough shooter to stay on the floor in key moments but can be a real asset in such situations.