After a thrilling game that featured two clutch shots from Denzel Valentine, the Chicago Bulls are your Las Vegas Summer League champions, going undefeated in their run to the title. For a regular season that doesn't look too promising, a Summer League title win sounds really nice. In addition to the title, we saw some young players from the Bulls step up and show some improvements in their game. Everyone from Spencer Dinwiddie to Cristiano Felicio had good games in this tournament.
One thing we have to address before we get to the takeaways is that yes, this is the NBA Summer League. Obviously, the competition isn't as intense and the quality of the players on the court in SL is nowhere near that of the NBA. Sometimes a good performance in the Summer League doesn't justify anything and it's totally reasonable to not take any stock in Summer League play. But we don't know if their performances will carry on into the future, so let's focus on the present.
5. Jack Cooley is going to earn a nice contract in Europe
Out of all the players on the Bulls roster that weren't expected to make the opening day roster, Jack Cooley was the most impressive big man. Cooley was clearing people left and right on the boards and helped Chicago control the glass in Las Vegas. The former Notre Dame center averaged five points and five boards in his time on the court. He was a physical force against Boston, showing his rebounding ability (8 rebounds) and ability to score near the rim (11 points). He didn't play a lot down the stretch but that was because Pete Myers chose to stick with Portis and Felicio in crunch time. But Cooley was good enough to the point where he could probably go play in Europe for a good Euroleague team and earn a decent contract.
4. Cristiano Felicio carved himself a nice role off the bench
This was going to be a big Summer League for Cristiano Felicio. After bursting onto the scene late last season, the Brazilian big man had clear cut things to improve on. He certainly impressed in Vegas offensively, showing that he is certainly worth of minutes on the Bulls bench. Felicio averaged 11.3 points and 6 rebounds per game and was one of the most efficient players in the NBA Summer League at one point.
Here's a look at which players have been most effective offensively in the Las Vegas summer league specifically. pic.twitter.com/IYs3nbxB2x— Synergy Sports Tech (@SynergySST) July 16, 2016
Coming off the bench behind Robin Lopez, Felicio can be a good offensive center for Chicago. He's solid coming off the pick and roll, showing great touch around the rim even with defenders all around him. His passing seems to be a growing part of his offensive skill set, especially he gets the ball at the top of the key and is able to find his teammates off a backdoor cut. But his strength is finishing near the hoop.
Felicio has really impressed with his soft touch at the rim. pic.twitter.com/va1VEp65W5— Stephen Noh (@hungarianjordan) July 18, 2016
But Felicio still showed some clear flaws as well in SL. He still struggles on defense and staying in front of his man. We saw this against Ben Simmons, who lit up Felicio in the first half of the Summer League game. Foul trouble also seemed to be an issue at the beginning of Summer League but it seemed to die down as we went along. He didn't look terrible but he will have to learn on how to contest without fouling and being able to stay with a quicker matchup.
Overall it was a good Summer League for Felicio. He can be a quality bench player for the Bulls and the fact that he is only 24 helps considering Chicago needs to get younger. His defense will continue to be an issue, however.
3. Spencer Dinwiddie deserves a shot to compete for that backup point guard spot
Spencer Dinwiddie was traded to the Bulls earlier in this offseason in a deal that sent Cameron Bairstow to the Detroit Pistons. His contract was partially guaranteed until October, but the Bulls decided to cut him days before the Summer League started. After clearing waivers, he was quickly re-signed to a non-guaranteed and played off the bench for the SummerBulls. With the Isaiah Cannan signing It looked like a long shot for Dinwiddie to have a chance coming into this week but he certainly has improved them.
Dinwiddie showed all the qualities you want in a backup point guard for the Bulls. He showed his offensive capability by averaging 11 points per game coming off the bench. With his long arms, he displayed great finishing ability around the rim and his shooting wasn't bad either. Pete Myers showed trust in the guard by putting him in there over Dez Wells, sticking with a two PG lineup of Grant and Dinwiddie. It is also fair to say that Dinwiddie played better than Grant for the most part of Summer League.
The Bulls coaching staff should take a long hard look at Dinwiddie and what he can bring to the table. He may not get the backup job but he at least deserves to be in camp and have a legit shot to win the job.
2. Denzel Valentine showed a lot promise but still needs some work
Talk about a championship performance. Denzel Valentine was on fire in that final game, and capped off what was a successful Summer League for the first round pick.
Valentine displayed all of his strengths on the court in Summer League. He showed that he can be a very versatile player, adding a ball handler and offensive creator on the floor. Even not playing point guard, his passing ability was on full display in the Summer League, showing he can find the open teammate in transition or be effective at the top of the key.
His shooting was improving as he continued to play more and more games. Being a 40.8% 3-point shooter in college, it's fine to expect Valentine to show some struggles initially. But him catching fire in some games, especially at the end, has to be a good sign for Bulls. Valentine is a 'jack of all trades, master of none' type of player.
The obvious improvement from Valentine has to be his defense, especially his ability to stay in front of his man. Staying in front of your man is a huge part of being a good defender and Valentine has to learn how to shuffle his feet quick enough and not let his defenders blow right by him. He certainly has the size to be a good defender at the guard spots but his feet just aren't quick enough. Scoring and rebounding are good and all but it won't do much if you are letting your man go right by you each time on the court.
Even with this, Valentine showed some great promise for this season and it will be interesting to see what role Hoiberg puts him in.
1. Bobby Portis looks to be ready to take the next step
The MVP of the SummerBulls was Bobby Portis. The second year man out of Arkansas averaged 15.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in the Summer League. He showed he was the best player on the court for Chicago and he made some serious improvements in his game, especially his 3-point shot. Portis showed some of his 3-point shot last year but in this year's Summer League, he showed that this will be a big part of his game moving forward. If he can do this along with his inside game and rebounding, it would be a huge boost for the Bulls offense. Portis does have to work better on defense, like every other young Bulls player. Like Felicio, Portis struggles to stay in front of his man and sometimes he lets his emotion take over his decision making.
On a team where spacing will certainly be an issue, having multiple three-point shooters including a big that can stretch the floor like Portis and Nikola Mirotic will be extra helpful. Portis looked like he can step into a bigger role off the bench and provide the Bulls with some offense. Whether it be from the three-point line or inside in the post. Portis may be another case of "Great Summer League but horrible regular season play" but as of right now, he looked like he can give the Bulls a good spark off the bench.