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Chicago Bulls Summer League Roster Preview: Rookies and Two-Ways going for the title

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Getting to know your 2018 “SummerBulls”

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

With the Bulls releasing their roster for Summer League, let’s take a look at guys on the squad.

Lauri Markkanen isn’t on the roster for Summer League, due to his involvement with Team Finland at the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers. And we already know what type of player he is against Summer League competition. More typically, Summer League rosters contain rookie draftees, and those hoping for an NBA contract anywhere (or in Europe). Scouts from all over the world will be in Vegas, Utah, and Sacramento to watch them, plus future superstars, step on an NBA court for the first time.

Guys We Know

Antonio Blakeney

Blakeney wants to make things happen offensively and can certainly create his own shot, which he showed both in Summer League and in the G-League. It wasn’t the same experience while playing for the main team as he struggled to get time and played mostly garbage minutes in most of his appearances. He did struggle to fit in the Bulls offense as his flaws concerning the rest of his game were exposed. Blakeney struggled to find rhythm in an offense where he wasn’t the main guy. Along with struggling defensively, Blakeney constantly took hasty shots and the shot selection was tough to watch.

But last summer Blakeney got the eyes of many Bulls fan with his play averaging 16.8 points per game while shooting 43.8% from the field. Even a couple of highlights were produced as the league games went on it was clear Chicago knew Blakeney was worth taking an extra look at, and afterwards he earned himself a two-way contract, the first in Chicago Bulls history.

This past regular season he spent the majority of his time in the G-League and absolutely tore it up. He was unstoppable as he led the league in scoring with 31.9 points per game, shooting 35% from three and 46.2% from the field overall. Again we saw flashes of how dangerous he can be as a scorer and how much trouble he can give defenses with the ball in his hands.

Hopefully, Blakeney can show more of a balance as a player. If he really wants to make it in the league, he will have to be at least competent on defense and a bit of distributor offensively. Expect him to be the main guy on offense during Summer League.

Ryan Arcidiacono

It’s not a surprise to see both of Chicago’s two-way players play on their Summer League team. Arcidiacono played 24 games for the Bulls and wasn’t really effective in any of them. With injuries to Kris Dunn and Cameron Payne during the season, Arcidiacono was thrusted into some rotation minutes at various points of the year. In terms of what he actually could do, Arcidiacono was somewhat able to initiate Chicago into their offense, distribute the ball, and play tough defense. For an undrafted point guard, it was not absolutely terrible.

Obviously he is playing for another chance to be their second two-way player (assuming Blakeney is still there). He was fine in the G-League but again didn’t show anything that special. In Summer League, one thing to look for will be his shooting. He was rough from three and it really limited the spacing when he was on the court. If he can get better at shooting the ball, it can go a long ways in terms of his improvement as an overall player.

Guys We Scouted

Wendell Carter Jr.

In my opinion, this is the player I’m most excited/curious to see play. At Duke, Wendell Carter Jr. wasn’t always one of the main guys on offense but expect the Bulls to try and see if he can fill that role in Summer League. Carter shot 43.1% from three at Duke, and pacing the floor is something which Chicago could use more of even if he might not be as lethal as his Finnish front court mate. If Carter wants to be anything like the Al Horford comps he has gotten, there needs to at least be a knockdown mid-range game, notable off his screening action.

Another thing to look for on offense is his passing, as one part of his game which was highly praised was his awareness and smarts on the court.

On defense, the obvious attribute to look for will be Carter’s ability to guard off the switch. One of his negatives was his foot speed quickness and how he could possibly be played off the floor when teams go with small ball lineups. If Carter is able to hold his own and at least stick with smaller players for just a bit, then it might reduce concerns about his defense. There is no doubt teams will be testing to see if he can switch on defense and how he plays in Summer League could be an indication of what a Markkanen-Carter Jr. duo looks like defensively.

Chandler Hutchison

Hutchison is the second of Chicago’s new draft picks and he will likely be the starting small forward in Summer League. At Boise State, he was their main creator and was their leading scorer at 20 points per game. Now he will have to learn to play more of an off-ball role as he fits inside this Chicago Bulls offense, though this won’t exactly be the case during Summer League.

If he struggles, it could spell trouble for how he will fare offensively in his rookie year. Hutchison’s best strength is taking the ball to the hoop (and free throw line) so seeing him attack the rim will be fun to watch.

His 3-point shooting will also be a big talking point. Despite improving in every year while he was at Boise, there are still questions about if his shot is legit. There’s always an adjustment period to the NBA three-point line from college and it will likely be the case for Hutchison. Hopefully Chicago can run plays for him to get open three-point looks so we can see for ourselves if the shot works or not.

Defensively we don’t know much about Hutchison. He played zone defense in college so it’s hard to judge him as an individual on ball defender. Obviously the competition in Summer League isn’t close to the one during an NBA season but Hutchison needs to at least display the tools of being a capable defender.

Hutchison is a do-it all forward and it was shown at Boise State. But questions remain about how good his jumper is and if he can defend at an above average level.

Donte Ingram

If you watched a minute of the NCAA tournament, you probably recognize the name Donte Ingram. He was a crucial part of the Loyola Rambler’s improbable run to the Final Four, hitting the game winning shot in their first round game against the Miami Hurricanes. Ingram averaged 11 points per game for the Ramblers and was a sharp shooter for them, shooting 39.2% from three. At 6’6, Ingram can either play the 2 or 3 position. He’s a smart player and doesn’t take dumb shots, playing within the offensive system. His defense is ok and if he hits his ceiling, he could be a solid two-way player. Obviously Loyola’s run really helped him get exposure and it’s always nice to see a kid from a Chicago school get a shot to play for the Bulls.

In the case that Ingram impresses, he might possibly be at the end of their bench for wing depth or a solid starter for their G-League team. A contract with a big European club is certainly in contention as well.

The rest

Matt Williams Jr.

After some injury setbacks put his basketball career in jeopardy, Matt Williams Jr. had a fantastic year at UCF. Due to him redshirting his junior year, Williams Jr. had another season of eligibility and excelled in his 5th year. He averaged 15.1 points per game that year and was a huge threat from three-point land, knocking down 38.4% of his attempts. After going undrafted last year, Williams Jr. signed with the Miami Heat’s summer league team, playing in both Orland and Vegas. He averaged 9.9 points per game during those two Summer League stints and showed he still had the range, shooting 39% overall and a whopping 45% in Vegas. That earned him a two-way contract with the Sioux Falls Skyforce, the G-League associate of the Heat. It was more of the same in the G-League, 10.2 points per game and 39% shooting from three. He played a couple of games with the Heat but it wasn’t much.

Williams Jr. is a great three-point shooter as he’s shown throughout his college and NBA career thus far. But there are injury concerns dating back to his UCF days and he really doesn’t do much else. He can be a solid Wayne Ellington type for any G-League team or a solid end of the bench guys for NBA teams if they desperately need shooting.

Melo Trimble

Melo Trimble will be another point guard on this roster with something to prove. He came into the University of Maryland as a 5 star recruit (via ESPN’s rankings) and played great in his three years there. Trimble averaged 15.9 points and 3.9 assists per game while shooting 42.9% over his entire college career. Trimble never played less than 30 games a season while at Maryland and was the guy when they needed things to click on offense. But given his size (6’3), there were questions surrounding just how good he can be at the NBA.

After going undrafted last year (the Bulls did work him out), Trimble had a Summer League stint with the Philadelphia 76ers and played well, averaging 8 points per and shooting 57.1% from the field. He played in both Vegas and Salt Lake City but it wasn’t enough for the 76eres to give him a roster spot. However, he got a training camp invite by Thibs and the Timberwolves. There he faced another set back as he was cut days before the season started. Trimble then spent the rest of his season playing for the Iowa Wolves where he averaged 16.2 points per game, showing out as one of the better players in the G-League.

This is another shot for Trimble to show his scoring ability and hope an NBA team who needs a point guard is willing to take a chance on him. There is a more realistic chance he will end up back in the G-League though.

Kaiser Gates

Kaiser Gates decided to declare his name in the NBA draft this summer, a shocking decision for the 3 year forward. Even though Xavier was going through a coaching change with Chris Mack going to Louisville, Gates’s departure was unexpected. In his junior year Gates had one of his best seasons as a Musketeer, scoring 7.2 points per game and 4.6 rebounds as well.

Gates went undrafted and promptly signed with Chicago. At 6’8, Gates certainly has the size to play small forward or small ball power forward. He can also shoot it from three, something which will help the SummerBulls offensive spacing. Gates shot 35.7% throughout his career at Xavier including posting a 37.8% his final season. If he can show to be a 3 and D threat and at his size, Gates will surely draw some eye balls. In the case some NBA teams don’t come calling, he should be getting looks from European teams.

Oleksander (Sasha) Kobets

Kobets, though 22, has been playing professional basketball for the past 6 years and just decided to enter the draft this year. He first made his debut for Ukrainian club SK Cherksay Monkeys at age 16 and has been a key contributor ever since. Kobets recently had his best season to date, scoring 14.3 points per game and shooting 34.4% from three. His contributions was instrumental in helping the club finish 1st in the Ukrainian Super League.

Kobets will be hoping to use the momentum from this past season to get some NBA scouts attention. He certainly showed he was a scorer but he needs he can do more than that. At 6’6, Kobets has a good height and like Kaiser Gates, could give defenses problems with his length.

He will be hoping for an NBA contract and if he plays well, then who knows he could get one. But there is a good chance he will end up back with his European club.

Shawn Long

This will be Shawn Long’s 3rd Summer League go around. At 25, he likely is the veteran in this group. After going undrafted in the 2016 NBA draft, he landed a spot on the 76ers Summer League team. It was a good stint for Long as he averaged 9 points per game in Salt Lake City and Vegas. His play was good enough for him to land a contract but he was released before the season started but was picked by their G-League affiliate in the Delaware 87ers. He lit up the G-League that season for the 87ers, averaging 20.2 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. Long also ended up playing some games for Philadelphia later that season. Combining his success in the G-League and some ok performances for the then rebuilding 76ers, he signed another contract with Philly. But his reign with them was short lived as he was traded to Houston that summer and promptly released. After spending some time in China, Long went back to the G-League and averaged 15 points per game for Delaware.

Long has shown he can play at least garbage time minutes in the NBA and is a double double machine in the G-League. There is a very good chance he ends up playing there again this season. But he will give the Bulls big man depth in the Summer League.

Matt Willms

Like Matt Williams Jr., injuries have hindered Matt Willms basketball career. He had to redshirt two seasons with UTEP and just finished up his senior year this past season. Having spent 6 seasons in college, Willms will be one of the oldest rookies in Summer League but at 7’1, he’s given a chance to stand out (literally) if he can play well. He was an ok scorer at UTEP, averaging a career high of 11.4 points per game his junior year. Willms is an efficient scorer, shooting more than 58% from the field in last two seasons with the Miners. But he’s going to show more on the offensive end if wants to make it in the NBA. Especially when it comes to a jump shot with the way the league is going.

Despite the underwhelming stats in college, Willms represents an interesting player given his size. He could be a really good center for the Windy City Bulls this season.

Jarnell Stokes

This will be Stokes 4th year in the Summer League. Being the 35th pick in the 2014 draft, Stokes ended up on the Grizzlies after a draft day trade with Utah. There he played for their Summer League team and ended up playing a lot of his season with their G-League affiliate. He was later traded to the Heat the following offseason and it was the same thing as in Memphis: a lot of time in the G-League. This time it was with the Sioux Falls Skyforce. He had a great time in Sioux Falls, winning the G-League title. He ended up winning MVP of the Finals and the regular season. From there he spent time with the Denver Nuggets but ended up mostly with the Skyforce again. He spent half a season in China but was released earlier this year.

One thing about Stokes, he always produces in the Summer League. He has career averages of 11.93 points and 7.2 rebounds while shooting 56.7% from the field when he plays in SL. He will give the SummerBulls good center depth along with WCJ, Willms, and Long. He is a force on the boards and can certainly score in the post. If anything he could be a low end bench scorer and is a clever scorer as he showed in college at Tennessee. He will likely end up back in the G-League.