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Bulls two-way contract changed from Tyler Ulis to Brandon Sampson

Ulis out, Sampson in

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana State at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

After announcing that 2-way contract-holder Tyler Ulis was out indefinitely with a hip procedure, the Bulls replaced him with 6-5 guard Brandon Sampson.

Sampson went undrafted in 2018 and briefly signed a G League contract with the Houston Rockets affiliate. Since it’s the Bulls we have to look at the connections. One is that Sampson’s agent is Aaron Turner, who is not that prolific and thus it’s very strange that now 6 of his 20 clients are in the Bulls organization. Another is that Sampson played two seasons at LSU with Antonio Blakeney .

Sampson wasn’t a star at LSU. He averaged 7.9 points per game across three seasons, his per 40 minute numbers stagnated between a breakout sophomore season and his junior year with marginal improvements in his shooting percentages, and his impact was minimal as far as playmaking for his teammates or being a force on the boards.

Even with Ben Simmons and Blakeney out of the picture, Sampson was just the fifth leading scorer on the Tigers his last season at LSU. He didn’t start much on that LSU team that went 18-15 and qualified for the National Invitational tournament. A bad ankle sprain at the beginning of the season may have contributed to his struggles.

Physically, he profiles as an NBA athlete. At 6-foot-5-inches tall with a 6-foot-9-inch wingspan, a 42-inch max vertical, and a decent first step, he has the size and athleticism that you want from an NBA shooting guard ( profile from 2016).

While Sampson has demonstrated some potential that he can develop into a shooter down the road he hasn’t yet shown that he can complement that skill offensively to become a versatile scorer. He lacked any further refinement in his skill-set, unable to get to the rim and score off the dribble in the half-court, or show off any passing skills to create offense for his teammates. He does have a quick first step that can get him past his primary defender but lacks much shake to his game to be able to beat the help defender and create offense or finishing ability at the rim to end drives with a basket.

However, in 18 games with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the G League earlier this season, Sampson tore it up to the tune of 17.6 points per game on 43.8 percent from the field (39.8 percent from 3-point land). His rebound (4.7 per game) and assist (3.9 per game) numbers were also better than they were in college.

With the caveat that this is a highlight reel from one of his best games ever, there are a few things that stick out.

He has value off the ball as a sniper from the short corner, but it’s also impressive that he flashes the ability to pullup from long distance too and isn’t relegated to just being a spot-up shooter.

The dunk at 41 seconds gives an idea of his athleticism. Most of his production in the paint in college came off clear paths to the basket rather than him breaking down a defender using that athleticism. That changed in the G League as he broke guys down off the dribble and took advantage of pick-and-roll switches that yielded matchups against big men.

Of course like so many other G Leaguers who were ball dominant at that level, transitioning into a much smaller role at the NBA level will be difficult for Sampson. He’s not going to be able to cast up almost 14 shots per game in the NBA like he does in the G League nor will his G League usage percentage of 22.26 carry over to the higher level either.

But if he can stand in the short corner and hit some threes while playing passable defense maybe he can be useful for a team with very little depth at any position right now.