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Bulls Summer League is over, here’s what we learned

Here are some observations from the 2022 SummerBulls

2022 NBA Summer League - Chicago Bulls v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

After nearly two weeks, the Chicago Bulls 2022 Summer League adventure is over. They wrapped up their campaign with a 119-104 win over the Philadelphia 76ers, finishing with a 4-1 record overall and a 3rd place finish in the Summer League standings.

Even though it was a short period of time, the five games showed a lot of informative positives and negatives. Let’s dive into them.

A lot to like from Dalen Terry

From the opening tip in the opening game, you could tell Dalen Terry was NBA ready in terms of defense. He showed all of the defensive tools which made him such an intriguing prospect. He was quick on his feet, stayed in front of defenders on drives and had great reaction speed to either contest the shot or even block it. Terry also did a fantastic job getting over screens effectively and it really aided his impact as a perimeter defender. His energy on defense really stood out as one of the biggest positive takeaways from Summer League.

Offensively, Terry showed to be effective moving without the ball. He was constantly trying to cut down the baseline if space appeared there. This led to a couple of easy dunks/layups for him. Terry was solid in transition offense, moving well in space to find an easy layup for him or others. The passing was as good as advertised with some nice dimes in the first game in particular.

However, the shot looks to be a real work in progress. Although he shot 42.9 percent from three, he averaged just 1.4 attempts per game. The jump shot will be the biggest room for improvement for Terry. If he can shore up his jump shot and get it to be more consistent, it can really improve his ceiling as a player.

He also struggled with his ball handling a bit and it led to some erratic decisions/turnovers. Terry averaged 3.6 turnovers per game, which led the team.

Terry suffered an unfortunate injury in his final game, appearing to slip on a wet spot. Thankfully it was diagnosed as a hamstring strain and nothing with the knee, though no indication as to how serious it was.

Overall, you could say this was a successful Summer League showing for Terry. His defense was very encouraging and the energy was clear to see but there are still concerns about his offensive game. He needs to get better at stretching the floor with his jumper and cutting down on turning the ball over. It will be interesting to see his performances in the pre-season and how Billy Donovan uses him in the rotation moving forward.

Justin Lewis showed some flashes

Terry wasn’t the only rookie who had solid moments of play in Vegas. Justin Lewis, Chicago’s newest two-way player, showed he could potentially be a rotational piece in the future. He averaged 22.5 minutes during Summer League, scoring 7.6 points and grabbing 4.4 rebounds per game. Lewis was able to bully smaller defenders whenever he made his way to hoop and against other power forwards, his ability to play on the perimeter gave him driving space.

He also ran the floor well, even finishing off a couple of plays in transition with a slam. His three-point shooting, which he has in his skillset, was rather ineffective as he shot just 12.5 percent from deep on 1.4 attempts per game. This will be something he needs to work on and bounce back from going forward.

The aspect of Lewis’s game which should be a reason for optimism is his defense. He showed the ability to play as a small ball power forward. He did a great job keeping his feet moving against smaller defenders and also provided rim protection too. There was a lot to like from Lewis defensively as he held more than his own on the perimeter, which is always a plus for any power forward.

Signed as a two-way player this season, it’s tough to see Lewis initially getting a lot of consistent action with the Bulls this year. It is possible he impresses so much during training camp that he gets spot minutes at the power forward spot but it feels more reasonable to say that he will be spending a lot of his time developing with the Windy City Bulls. A mini storyline this season will be how he makes progress as a player, especially offensively, in the G-League. There was a lot to like from Lewis during his first Summer League stint.

Still room to improve for Marko Simonovic

In his second Summer League, the expectation from Marko Simonovic was that he would be showing off the improvements he made during the season. Overall, it was a bit of a mixed bag from the big man but he ended the campaign with a very strong performance of 26 points and eight rebounds against Philadelphia. Offensively we saw that he can score effectively in the paint and got a bit better scoring in the post. He also led the team in scoring (15.6) and rebounds (8.8).

The one big problem was that he struggled against stronger centers and was easily moved out of the way. This showed up on both ends of the court and it limited his overall effectiveness in some of the games. The inconsistency was a big worry for Simonovic. Usually with second year players, you want to see them be one of the best players on the floor in every SL game.

With Andre Drummond now added to the mix of centers, it’s now going to be even harder to for him to get much minutes. It could be another year of developing via small stints in the G-League for Simonovic. With his deal being non guaranteed next season, he has to show more improvements quickly otherwise the Bulls could go in a different direction in 2023-24. This years Summer League showed some reasons for optimism for the young big man but the overall question of how good he can actually be remains.

Malcolm Hill shined

Malcolm Hill averaged the most minutes out of any SummerBull and finished second in scoring with 13.6 points per game. There were times where Hill was Chicago’s best player and scorer on the court. He offered spacing by shooting lights out from three. Hill shot 50 percent from downtown on four attempts per game, which were team leaders in either category. The shooting was a big improvement from last season. While we know it’s unreasonable to expect him to shoot like this during the regular season, it’s at least a sign that his jump shot is back and that his production in college from beyond the arc has translated to the NBA game.

With his scoring production during Summer League, Hill definitely got himself in contention for a roster spot. His play last season and now this summer shows that he can at least be a fill-in guard/wing for the Bulls if needed. Pre-season will give us a clearer view on his roster status.

Carlik Jones and Makur Maker impressed

Out of the new names in the Summer League roster, Carlik Jones was one of the more impressive players for the Bulls. He averaged 11.6 points and a team high 6.2 assists while playing 24.7 minutes a game, which was second highest on the team. It was evident that the coaching staff trusted him on the floor and wanted to see more of his game as Summer League went on. Jones started all five games and made an impact. He was good offensively, getting to the basket and his spots with ease. At 6’1, he did struggle a bit against bigger guards but still was very active defensively. He led the team in steals per game at 2.2 and was able to cause trouble for opposing backcourts.

Makur Maker stood out too, especially given his size and ability to splash shots from deep. The big man hit 44 percent of his three-point attempts during Summer League and showed a willingness to shoot it when given space. His handles were solid and displayed a lot of potential offensively. Javon Freeman-Liberty also impressed at times during the minutes he got.

The Bulls already have numerous guards on their roster so it’s unlikely Jones will be there on Opening Night. With Hill playing really well in Vegas, he is a strong candidate to grab that last two-way spot if he doesn’t make the main roster. But a strong Summer League for Jones opens the potential for Chicago to possibly add him to their G-League squad. As for Maker, he seems like a player the Bulls should take a flier on and see how he develops in the organization this season. They already have a ton of big men on the roster so the G-League is most likely destination for him as well.