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Who's who on this year's SummerBulls
a look at the Vegas competitors, from first-round picks to tryout hopefuls
from yfbb: Thanks to my old pal Vijay Vemu for today’s post. This is something he would do on the old site to great acclaim. Follow him on Twitter (for now) at @vj_v_
Summer League is once again upon us which means we get to watch Bulls basketball again…sort of. Now is the time to get the first look at rookies, a chance to see what improvements the second and third-year players have made, and perhaps there may be hidden gems waiting to be discovered by the Bulls, another NBA team, or even international/G-League clubs.
The SummerBulls will play a minimum of five games, all broadcast on TV:
As per usual, we split up this into sections of guys you know, guys you may remember, and then some new faces. Let’s get into it.
Guys We Know
It’s safe to say that this is a massive Summer League for Dalen Terry. He barely played last season, and when he did it was mostly garbage time minutes. He had the least amount of minutes played of any 2022 first round draftee.
Terry showed some flashes in those spare minutes but it was also clear that there was a lot of work to do. In a lot of his performances, it felt like the game was going too fast for him, leading to bad turnovers, sloppy passes, or simply erratic decisions. Terry’s defense also looked rough and there were several moments where he would get caught napping and allow a defender to cut backdoor.
Granted, this was garbage time, but Terry showed he was not ready to be a part of the rotation. Now in this year's Summer League, it’s up to him to show that he’s taken steps to prove that he can be useable in real minutes.
Terry projected as a 3 & D type of player, so it’s important he gets better at those things.
Shooting-wise, Terry attempted less than one three per game and the mechanics still looked a bit off. It will be a big worry if he doesn’t show improvement in at least how the shot looks. Terry’s passing instincts were displayed at the college level, so seeing him continue that plus add some shot creation would be nice, but the shooting feels like a bigger question mark to find out about.
On-ball defense will be another main observation point. Watching how he does in terms of staying in front of his man, contesting shots, and if he can disrupt passing lanes. The defensive flashes were there in college and he has the athletic traits to keep up with wings in the NBA.
Lewis played even less than Terry, but for a much different reason as he was recovering from a torn ACL. He was released but then re-signed to a two-way deal back in March, and he’s reportedly healthy and ready to go this weekend.
The key for Lewis will be becoming an efficient scorer. He showed in college and last year’s Summer League that he can use his body to get himself into the lane/paint and make shots. Lewis has to continue to show that he’s making smart decisions with the basketball and finding the best shot available. The three-point shooting still needs work but his effort on the glass was nice to see along with his defense, where he did an alright job guarding opposing PFs.
Lewis has the makings of being a solid 3 and D wing who can offer some shot creation. It’s what made him such an interesting signing in the first place. We also saw moments last year where he would beat his defender off the dribble and slam it down after driving baseline, showing off the scoring chops.
It was unfortunate that he got hurt and lost a year of development. But given his archetype in college as a scoring wing with size, and entering his age-21 season, Lewis is arguably the most intriguing player on the roster.
Draft Night Additions
Chicago raised some eyebrows in the draft by trading 2 future second round picks to jump in that night and select Julian Phillips from University of Tennessee.
Phillips averaged 8.3 points and 4.7 rebounds on 41 percent shooting during his lone season in college, more known as having the tools to be a really good defender who can guard multiple positions and in all areas of the floor.
Offensively, Phillips struggled heavily to shoot the ball from three in college at an ‘oof’-inducing 23.9 percent. But his numbers from high school show that he has some shooting touch in him, or had it at some point, and it’s up to the Bulls to get him back to that type of form. Phillips can drive to the rim and score in the paint but those moments seemed like it came only rarely at Tennessee. There are still a lot of questions to be had in terms of him being a shot creator and as a playmaker. These games during Summer League will give us an initial look into the type of offensive player he is and what he can become. He won’t have the ball in his hands often when the regular season rolls around so when he does have it, he has to be effective.
Phillips can play above the rim, scoring the highest in his entire draft class in vertical leap, so even if other skills don’t show we may be in for a highlight jam in Vegas.
After the draft 2 weeks ago, the Bulls filled out their final two-way spot by signing undrafted UConn center Adama Sanogo.
With no Marko Simonovic on this year’s Summer League roster (he was waived on Thursday!), Sanogo seems penciled in to be a starting big. With the Huskies, Sanogo averaged 17.2 points and 7.7 rebounds while shooting nearly 60.6 percent from the field. He sets solid screens, but shooting jumpers isn’t a big part of his game so teams will be more than willing to let him catch the ball outside the paint. From there he’s shown the ability to bully players in the post and has a soft touch to finish around the rim. It’s the finishing that makes him such an impactful player as he’s able to get off good shot attempts even from the tightest angles in the lane. We’ll have to see if that ability translates against a higher level of athletes.
Sanogo attacks the glass with vigor and always fights for loose balls. Defensively, he’s not very tall but his large size allows him to be a very solid post defender if not much of a shot blocker. Like many big men (including the two centers with the big club), the concern with Sanogo defensively is what happens when opponents pull him out of the lane.
Overall, there is a lot to like about Sanogo. He’s just 21 and a rookie but played 3 seasons in college and may be able to contribute in a pinch this season. Ideally, the SummerBulls will be using him in a lot of their offensive action. It will be a good test for only him but for the perimeter players when it comes to entry passes and recognizing when to make a pass off the pick and roll.
Guys You May Remember
After being a part of last year's SummerBulls and Chicago’s preseason roster, Freeman-Liberty played 17 games for the G-League Windy City Bulls. There, Freeman-Liberty averaged 18.2 points along with 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists. He did so on nearly 50 percent shooting from the field and 37.6 percent from three on five attempts per game. Freeman-Liberty certainly has the scoring pop as shown in both Vegas and in the G-League. The efficiency numbers look alright but his development is a matter of playmaking and on the defensive end.
Drell was a part of Chicago’s Summer League team last season, playing in four games and averaging five points and 2.3 rebounds. Drell spent all of this past year playing with the WCB, starting in 26 games and averaging 11.7 points and 5.9 rebounds while also registering over a steal per game. His efficiency massively improved, going from a 49.4 true shooting percentage in 2021-22 to 61 percent this past season.
It remains to be seen if this type of improvement can be kept up and Summer League will be the perfect test for that. Shooting isn’t the focal point of Drell’s game so maybe this time around in Vegas he may turn some heads if he continues this rise in scoring. Drell is decent at moving off the ball and will look for open spaces in the defense to attack. He can hold his own defensively on the wing, making him a solid perimeter defender.
Oturu didn’t play for the SummerBulls last season but he was on the Bulls preseason roster and part of the WCB during the regular season after previously spending time with the Clippers and Raptors.
Oturu, an undersized center, averaged 11.2 points and 5.9 rebounds while with the Windy City Bulls, which was a drop-off in his production from the year before. He’s an inside scorer and someone who can guard fours and small ball fives, though he struggles at both. The lack of rebounding production was a bit shocking given the numbers he put up in college.
Ben Coupet Jr.
Coupet is a hometown kid who went to Simeon and spent his final college season at Southern Illinois. After going undrafted last summer, he was picked up by the Windy City Bulls and played 24 games with the team averaging 5 points and 1.7 rebounds while playing around 14 minutes a game.
Being 6’7, Coupet will give the Summer Bulls some size on the wing. He will be battling for playing time off the bench most likely.
Appleby is a 6’1 guard who had a big role at Wake Forest in his final season in college averaging 18.9 points and 6.4 assists, with a 36 percent mark from three and is an 82 percent free throw shooter.
At his size, Appleby will be someone in contention for point guard minutes and he may even start if the coaching staff decides they want to keep Terry at the 2. The main concern for Appleby will be defensively, and how he fares against more physical guards in Vegas. Appleby did show he was at least active defensively in college, averaging 1.76 steals per game in his final season.
How he manages to run an offense where he is not going to be the main focal point will be an interesting development to watch for Appleby. He’s certainly shown he can score the ball but he has to prove again that he can run an offense as the floor general.
Darling is a player who will be one of the best shooters on this SummerBulls roster. He hit 39.9 percent of his three-pointers in college on 8.4 attempts and will always fire when given the space. He went undrafted in 2020 and since then has spent time with the Hornets and the G-League, most recently with the Ontario Clippers. In his three G-League seasons, his career three-point percentage is 36.6 on nearly 8 attempts. It’s clear he’s an elite shooter who knows how to get open.
The key for Darling will be his defense. If he can hold his own on the defensive end and not be a huge negative, he could find himself getting some playing time.
Yago Dos Santos
Dos Santos will be battling for playing time off the bench at the PG position with the SummerBulls. He’s played overseas his entire career, most recently with Ratiopharm Ulm of the German League (which is also home to former Bull Cristiano Felicio). Before that, Dos Santos played in Brazil with Paulistano and Flamengo. He averaged 14 points and 5.8 assists last season in Germany, leading them to a title where he won Finals MVP honors.
Now he’s looking to make his mark in the NBA, though at 5’10”, his size may pose the biggest challenge towards achieving that dream.
Porter, who is the younger brother of Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr., spent last season with the Bucks affiliate in the G-League, before that with the Grizzlies for a bit during the 2021-22 season and Denver in last year's Summer League.
While with the Wisconsin Herd, Porter played in 17 games, averaging a double-double of 11.4 points and rebounds. With the SummerBulls, he will bring size and a presence in the paint. His jump shot needs some work (career 28.7% three-point shooter in the G-League) but he can rebound and score inside, which will help their front-court depth.
Yoakum is another one of the rookie guards on the Bulls Summer League roster. Last year he helped lead D2 school Nova Southeastern to an undefeated season en route to an NCAA title. Yoakum averaged 20.2 points per game and was a knockdown shooter from three-point land, at an outstanding 52.5 percent from three while averaging 4.44 attempts per game.
At 6’5, Yoakum will add good guard depth to the Summer Bulls with his main focus being a floor spreader. With shooting numbers like his, defenses will have to respect it and make sure he’s not left open.
Bulls assistant coach John Bryant will take the lead chair this summer, and the assistants are as follows: Martin Rancik, Billy Donovan III, Ty Abbott, Amadou Mboudji, Lamine Kriedich.
But we are sure to expect many Bulls executives, coaches, and development staff all taking the trip and getting an in-person look.