Tough day for guys named Antonio.
While Antonio Brown was stirring up the Twitterverse with his antics, The Athletic/Stadium insider Shams Charania reports the Chicago Bulls will release former G League legend Antonio Blakeney. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune has confirmed the initial report.
Blakeney had a $1.5 million guaranteed contract with the Bulls for 2019-20. Buying out Blakeney makes room for Shaquille Harrison on the 15-man roster.
There were two Antonio Blakeney’s in Chicago.
G League Antonio Blakeney was legendary. In 34 career G League contests, he averaged a sizzling 31.3 points per game on a more-than-respectable 45.7 percent shooting from the field.
But at the big-league level, his free-chucking style just didn’t work. In 76 NBA games, Blakeney averaged 7.5 points per game on 40.6 percent shooting from the field while casting up seven shots per game despite averaging only about 15 minutes per game. He contributed very little elsewhere and his defense was sub-par. Just to give some context, but Blakeney had the worst Real Plus-Minus last season out of 108 shooting guards (h/t Twitter user @GreenBlueC)
The Bulls have chosen defense over offense by moving on from Blakeney while keeping Harrison around. Jim Boylen’s M.O. is defense and the Bulls were 25th in the NBA last season in defensive rating, so they could use some help on that side of the ball.
The Bulls envisioned Blakeney as a microwave, second-unit scorer capable of giving the team a jolt when the offense lagged. They didn’t expect this:
Fun reminder: It took Antonio Blakeney until March 15 to have more passes than field goal attempts last season. It's one of the more remarkable stats in NBA history (in my incredibly biased opinion).— Mark Strotman (@markstrot) September 7, 2019
Goodnight, sweet prince.
With this Bulls team, that kind of style offensively didn’t work. Maybe, if we go back in time and throw Blakeney on one of the Bulls offensively challenged teams of old his style would work better.
Nate Robinson, who was often labeled as a free chucker like Blakeney, had a similar usage percentage as Blakeney during his one season in Chicago. The difference was 1). Nate the Great was more efficient (higher true shooting percentage) 2). the 2012-2013 Bulls lacked an offensive star or a high-usage player, so Robinson’s style could thrive. The 2012-2013 team had a bunch of selfless players on the offensive end like Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah, which helped out as well.
Meanwhile, Blakeney was casting up all those shots on a team that 1). has stars offensively in Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine 2). has a bunch of high-usage guys and a lack of guys who can make plays for their teammates. You don’t want Blakeney taking shots away from LaVine, Markkanen, etc., and you didn’t have guys who were helping to make Blakeney better. Couple that with the fact that Blakeney wasn’t an efficient scorer and that he didn’t really contribute in other facets of the game, and there’s his nail in the coffin with the Chicago Bulls.
In the right situation, Blakeney could work. He needs to improve his efficiency, but the one-trick pony type who scores and doesn’t do much else isn’t ideal. We’ll see if he gets another chance elsewhere.