This past week there’s been a change in Chicago’s two-way contract situations. After signing Antonio Blakeney to a guaranteed NBA deal and pulling Ryan Arcidiacono’s qualifying offer, the two slots suddenly opened up for this season.
One has been since filled by undrafted Arizona guard Rawle Atkins. If anything, we know his college teammate Lauri Markknanen is happy with the signing.
Atkins went undrafted after an ok 2nd season for the Wildcats. He had a really good freshman year in Tucson, averaging 10.9 points on 56.6 TS%, with 4.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game. His sophomore year saw his per-game averages increase, however his efficiency suffered as his true shooting dipped while his turnover percentage jumped up. His defensive box plus/minus dropped from 4.0 to 2.6 too but there was some positive as his steal and block percentages went up.
Playing on the Toronto Raptors Summer League team, it was an up and down experience for Alkins. His stats didn’t really jump off the page (9 points on 37.7% shooting) with exception of averaging 4.7 rebounds and shooting 42.9% from three. His best moment came when he dropped a double double of 25 points and 11 rebounds in their first round playoff game. Having ended on a high note along with showing some good skills as a backup wing, Alkins impressed the Raptors staff so much that they offered him a training camp spot, but it wasn’t enough for him to turn down a two-way contract from Chicago. Now Alkins will be viewed as a new Bulls face to watch in the G-League and we may see him get some minutes this season with the main team.
At 6’5, 220 lbs with a 6’9 wingspan, Alkins has good size for a guard and won’t be budged off the ball easily. This certainly aids him on defense as he’s able to play physical and use his size to stay in front of his man. Being able to disrupt your mans rhythm is key with on-ball defense and it’s something Alkin’s wingspan allows him to do so. He also showed a nose for the ball with his steal rate of 2.3 in his final season at Arizona. It was evident at Summer League with Alkins getting four steals in a single game against the Cavaliers.
The size advantage works for Alkins offensively as well. When he’s driving to the hoop it looks like a mini freight train at times, able to bounce off contact while maintaining enough balance to finish at the rim. He uses his wingspan greatly to his advantage when it comes to scoring. His willingness and ability to get into the lane was shown with his free throw attempt rate going up 10 percentage points between seasons at Arizona (32.7 to 42.8).
(1:01 - 1:08) At the start of this sequence Alkins takes the ball off a dribble handoff and the Hornets switch immediately. Then soon after he gets a screen on his left and begins to drive. With his man screened off and now behind him, Alkins has only one main defender to worry about which is the big man who sagged back on the pick in order to protect the paint. The big man in question is put in a difficult spot as both Alkins and another Raptor are both rolling to the rim, one on either side of him. When Alkins gets past the free throw line, he makes a hesitation move and in return the defender takes one step back to his man. It’s only one step but it gives Alkins the advantage. It gives him enough space to leap towards the rim and finish over the defender with his left hand.
(1:23 - 1:30) Here Alkins takes the ball in transition and looks like one man wrecking crew. He takes it all by himself and is able to fend off one defender around the three-point line but again his work isn’t done just yet. Charlotte did an ok job getting back and has a big man near the hoop ready to challenge anyone who comes near. Alkins seems ready for it and jumps up for the layup without hesitation. He uses his right hand to shield the defender away from the ball and again pushes it off the glass with his left hand.
Things he needs to work on
During his time at Arizona, Alkins had a decent jumper, but when not hitting it negatively affected the spacing. He also didn’t take the most efficient shots and it wasted offensive possessions. Although he shot a reasonable career percentage of 36.5 throughout college, it is always an adjustment to move back a couple of steps. We often see some guys struggle when they first arrive in the NBA and Alkins could be one of them. However, it was a positive to see him shoot a whopping 42.9% from deep in Summer League. We still have to see about Alkins jump shot and his shot selection but if he can continue to shoot even near to the average like he did in college, it will be huge for his development.
Defensively, Alkins looks to be a really good on-ball defender, but could get overmatched in the pros. The wingspan certainly will help him match up with guys but against some of the better wings in the league, it could be a rough time. There are concerns about how he fits in a team defense, as at Arizona we didn't get the best example of him in a team scheme so pre-season and G-League games will give more of a clearer view on this.
Another place in his game which will need improvement is his overall playmaking. Alkins has shown he can score but there are questions about if he can get others in involved. His assist numbers were average at Arizona and that carried through in Summer League. It will be interesting to see in the G-League just how much of the ball he has within their offense and if is the main initiator in any of it.
Alkins can get to the rim with his wingspan, showed some flashes of shooting the three-ball well, and can play great on-ball defense. This feels like a decent signing by the Bulls. They have signed a wing they grow and develop.
Blake Murphy, the managing editor of ESPN’s Raptor Republic, iterated the same sentiment when it came to Alkins as a prospect:
Given how valuable 3-and-D wings can be, he’s a smart developmental player to target, even if his game still needs some further refining. Alkins still has steps to take as a defender off the ball and within a team defense, and the Bulls will want to continue to foster the growth of those nascent playmaking skills and make sure his 3-point shot becomes a reliable weapon. It wouldn’t at all be surprising to see Alkins contributing before long given what he showed in college and Vegas, and the Bulls aren’t quite as deep at the wing spots.
With two-way contracts, you can take a chance on a guy, watch him play for a year, and then decide if he’s worth being a part of your future. We saw numerous teams use their two-ways/G-League teams to their advantage and there is no reason why Chicago shouldn't do the same.