After undergoing a hiatus....NBA basketball is back! Well, sort of. Summer League is back!
It is a time where fringe guys and young players try to improve/show their worth. The leagues in Orlando and Utah are wrapping up, and the big one in Las Vegas begins this weekend. That includes your SummerBulls, one of 24 teams. In classic Bulls fashion, they were one of the last teams to announce their roster. Assistant Pete Myers will be the head coach for this team, let's look at the roster.
Guys we already know about
This will be Portis's second year playing in the Summer League and improvements are expected to be made. With an expanded role this year, expect Portis's production to go up. Offensively he has to continue to develop a better jump shot if he wants to be a threat on offense off the pick and roll. The post up game needs major improvement. Portis was in the 35th percentile offensively in the NBA when it comes to posting up. It's the lowest total of out any Bulls big man, and with Portis posting up 16.5% of the time, it looks like it will be a part of his game that he wants to have.
Defensively, Portis obviously has great tools as an energy guy and as a rebounder. Unlike on offense, the stats tell an opposite story when it comes to Portis defending the post. Portis was good at defending post ups (70th percentile according to NBA.com) while being posted up the second most out of any Chicago big. This is probably the last year we see Portis in the Summer League and let's hope he can continue to make strides as a player.
This will be Grant's first year on the Bulls Summer League team. The young point guard from Notre Dame was acquired via the Derrick Rose trade and will see minutes as the backup to Rajon Rondo this season. With that being said, Grant is a work in progress. Tools are in place for Grant: with a big wingspan and standing at 6'4, he has good size for a point guard. The problem with a lot of Chicago backups in the past is their ability to guard other backup guards due to their lack of size. That probably won't be the case for Grant. Grant's leaping ability is off the charts as he can get to the rim and up in a hurry.
He has to learn how to shoot the basketball. Having a guard shooting 39% from the field won't help the spacing issues for the Bulls and it is a part of the game he must improve on. The Summer League could offer Grant a chance to be comfortable running the Bulls offense and developing a respectable jump shot.
Felicio was a fantastic player down the stretch for Chicago and now is back in the Summer League. Viewed as a mystery signing at the beginning of the season, he got playing time due to injuries and shined. Felicio's role on this team is that he is supposed to be the backup center than can play defense. At his frame, he certainly has the potential to defend the rim and he is strong enough in the post to the point where he won't get bullied in the post. As he gets used to more playing time, he will have to get better guarding the pick and roll in terms of defending the roll man. His foot speed will give him trouble against guards in certain situations but as he gets more playing time, he will get better defensively. Summer League will give him a great chance to keep developing those defensive skills.
Offensively who knows what his role is going to be as he doesn't have a jump shot at all. Centers normally don't have good shooting percentages from outside the paint so he will have to be good off the pick and roll. In a game against the Cavs, Felicio showed some great finishing skills coming off the P&R. Let's hope for more of that in the Summer League and the regular season.
Guys we don't know a lot about
This will be the first time we see the Bulls 2016 first round pick in action. He is a really good scorer and is a good three-point shooter in college. Hopefully, he can continue that shooting in the NBA. Having Valentine on the floor adds another ball handler on the court, giving him the ability to play positions 1 through 3.
But the problems with Valentine are problems Chicago fans are used to. Knee issues. There were whispers coming out of the draft that Valentine had knee problems but he dismissed them in his opening press conference. Valentine also struggles defensively and if he wants to stay on the court, he has to be able to play defense. SL will give him a chance to get some basics down on that end of the court.
Sulaimon, who used to play at Duke before getting kicked off the team, will probably be the best perimeter defender on this Summer League roster. Although he is undersized, his wingspan and aggressiveness make up for it. Although defense may be his calling card in the NBA but he is just as talented on the offensive end. Sulaimon can put the ball in the basket with this shooting and ability to push the ball in transition but he has to play up to his potential.
Sulaimon shot 42.9% from three for Maryland last year and if he is able to show that in Summer League, he could be a "3 and D" guy in the NBA. Sulaimon also has the speed to push the ball in transition, with 22% of his offense coming on the fast break (stats via Synergy Sports). Although he probably won't' make the Bulls roster, he could certainly find himself some playing time in the D-League or another team looking for young guards.
One big problem for him will be his off the court issues and his tendency to let his emotions take over his decision making. He got kicked off Duke due to an alleged sexual assault case and there were a lot of questions about him coming into his senior season at Maryland. But if he can stay out of trouble, he's worth a look for most NBA teams.
Although Miller is listed as a rookie, the Chicago native has spent two years playing professional basketball. He spent some time in the Euroleague with Besiktas (cool soccer club btw) but decided to come back and play in the D-League last season. There he spent time with OKC's D-League affiliate but was traded to the Texas Legends on draft night.
Standing at 6'1, Miller's only position at the point. Miller averaged double digits (11.1) with Texas last year and shot around 48% from the field. He wasn't the best player on his team but was third on the team in terms of assists with 4.1. Along with averaging 3.4 rebounds per game, Miller was very productive in 26 minutes per game that he played. In all honesty, Miller probably has a very, very, slim chance of getting a training camp invite. Maybe a team that needs point guard depth (like the Nets?) could take a flyer on him as a training camp invitee. But he will probably end up back in the D-League or in Europe.
Demps was the main man at Northwestern. In his five years with the Wildcats, he saw his playing time increase and his production rose as well. In the end, he was averaging 15.7 points per game in 37 minutes a game. Demps also became a little bit more of a distributor in his final season, going from 2.6 to 3.3. He is one of those "microwave" scorers in that he heats up very quickly when shots start falling for him. He showed at NU and at the Portsmouth Invitational that he can certainly light up anyone if he wants to.
But the problem is that Demps is 6'3 and will only be limited to likely playing the point guard spot. He really can't play shooting guard due to his size and then his lack of good handles makes him troublesome when it comes to playing point guard as well. He didn't play much point at Northwestern but will likely have to if he wants to make it in the NBA. If anything, Defensively the size will be an issue but Demps has shown the ability to stay in front of his man and at least cause some problems for opposing players on that end. Demps's ability to get buckets in a hurry could see him getting some interest from D-League teams.
Like Miller, Raymar Morgan has spent a lot of time playing professional basketball. The former Michigan State big man has played overseas since 2010 and now has a shot to get back into the NBA. He has played everywhere from his current club in Germany to Isreal. The journeyman is the oldest guy on the Bulls Summer League roster at age 27, this may be one of the last shots he has at making back to the NBA.
Standing at 6'8, Morgan is a decent rebounder, averaging 6.6 rebounds in Europe, with his size and his length will offer rim protection. At his club in Europe, Morgan averaged 14.8 points while shooting 54.5% from the field, showing his scoring ability as well. If he can produce a similar output in the three games Chicago is playing in the Summer League, he could get a call from an NBA team. But a lot of things will have to go right but Morgan certainly has the talent to a good big man on both ends of the court.
Sulaimon will be joined by his Maryland teammate Dez Wells on the Bulls SL roster. He spent most of his season with OKC's D-League affiliate before he was waived due to a season-ending injury. Injuries have seemed to be a common theme with Wells as he struggled with injuries ever since he got into the NBA. When healthy, Wells is a solid scorer that certainly provide some pop on any team. The sample size for Wells isn't big enough to judge him in the NBA/D-League so you still have to go off his college numbers. He averaged 15 points a game for the Terps and could find himself out of the league if he doesn't show that he can stay healthy and score the basketball.
Jerian Grant will play with a guy from his alma matter as well in Jack Cooley. After going undrafted, he played in Turkey in 2013, and has had stints with the Cavaliers and Jazz. Cooley also set a D-League record by grabbing 29 rebounds in one game. So at least we know that Cooley can rebound the ball.
Cooley's role in the NBA, if he gets another shot, will probably be as a backup in the NBA and in a Felicio role where he is expected to be a rim protector and grab rebounds. Anything else is extra from Cooley. There is a strong chance he goes back to playing in Europe.
Marcius is the last player listed on the Bulls Summer League roster and is another player that will probably go back to playing in Europe. He plays in Croatia right now but the 6'10 big man could attract some D-League teams. The DePaul product averaged 10.6 points and 6.7 rebounds for his club team and could possibly impress in the Summer League. Who knows how much he is going to play but if he can get on the court and show some skills, scouts could be wowed by his size. You never know in the Summer League.
July 9th (5 PM CT) against the Boston Celtics
July 10th (7:30 CT) against the Philadelphia 76ers
July 12th (7 PM CT) against the San Antonio Spurs