Bulls Player Outlooks: Isaiah Canaan

Mar 11, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Isaiah Canaan (0) dribbles the ball past Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Bulls won 104-95. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Isaiah Canaan (0) dribbles the ball past Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Bulls won 104-95. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /
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With the season creeping closer and closer, we’ll take a look at each member of the Chicago Bulls roster and profile each player. First up: Isaiah Canaan, a potentially explosive scoring guard off the bench.

Isaiah Canaan was a nice compliment as a scoring point guard alongside James Harden during three years with the Houston Rockets in 2013-15. Canaan shot 38.1 percent from long range in his just his second NBA season in 2014-15 with Houston. Harden’s touches continued to grow, so Canaan’s scoring took a hit.

Canaan was eventually traded to the Philadelphia 76ers along with a 2015 second-round pick for K.J. McDaniels by the trade deadline of his sophomore year.  Canaan spent a season and a few months playing for the Sixers, where former general manager Sam Hinkie intentionally tanked the team for a plethora of lottery picks.

By the end of last year, Canaan was shooting 36.3 percent from long range, averaging 11 points a game and shooting 6-7 triples a game.

Before he entered the NBA, DraftExpress painted Canaan as a very smart ball handler who “maintains excellent control, allowing him to play faster with the ball in his hands than his overall athleticism” would allow. Canaan can weave through traffic like an NBA veteran with start-stop dribbling and Euro sidesteps. He’s comfortable turning the corner of a pick or splitting one apart and getting a strong attempt at the rim.

The only downside that may keep him as a permanent bench player for the Bulls is being undersized for playing defense for long periods of games.

The eye test shows that Isaiah Canaan appears to have a fairly athletic game as a smaller point guard. He adds to the trend of small Bulls guards like Nate Robinson, John Lucas III and Aaron Brooks. Like Robinson, Canaan is known to light it up in streaks. His game is similar to Aaron Brooks, as his stats reveal.

But unlike Brooks, who has blinders once he drives to the paint, Canaan plays rather tight in tandem with another scoring guard. Canaan’s first two seasons with James Harden filled the Rockets’ highlight reel with an exciting run-and-gun shooting game. The tandem of Harden and Canaan shooting the lights out together may have goaded ex-coach Kevin McHale to commit totally to the analytics of shooting more threes to win games for the Rockets.

For the Bulls, Canaan may perform a similar role as a microwave shooter from three-point range and as a quick, athletic guard to bring the ball up like he did when he played with Houston.

In a game for the Sixers against the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road back in 2015, Canaan scored 31 points and drilled eight three-pointers against Russell Westbrook of all players.

His stint with the Sixers may not really be a decent gauge for his game because the entire team was bad. But, Canaan did show flashes of flair with some ankle-breaker crossovers when slashing to the rim. Like Brooks, Canaan has a quick-trigger three-point shot that extends deep behind the line. He also can weave through traffic nicely and put it in the rim.

Bulls general manager Gar Forman may be counting on his James Harden partnership as the true gauge of his game. If that were the case, Isaiah Canaan and Jimmy Butler could be a nice backcourt duo at times score with Butler being an isolation scorer like Harden. If Butler gets in a bind, he can look for Canaan anywhere on the perimeter and get his team a score.

As part of the second or third Bulls unit off the bench, Isaiah will play best off Spencer Dinwiddie. The former Detroit guard is a relentless rim attacker who consistently drives hard. Dinwiddie was smart enough to kick the ball out to the Pistons’ shooters whenever the defenses converged on him.

Isaiah Canaan will likely sync in the Bulls offense in the role of a catch-and-shoot gunner, whether he plays in tandem with a Bulls superstar guard or with the young recruits.