NBA Summer League happened. The Chicago Bulls NBA adjacent squad won 4 of their 5 games, and narrowly missed out on a chance to play in the Summer League Championship. In the past, I’ve spent a great deal of time and energy covering the Bulls Summer League games, but fortunately, there is enough veteran talent on the roster that we fans don’t have to live and die on every missed jumper from a 20 year old prospect. With that in mind, I’m just going to go over my impressions of the “important” players, and share some thoughts on a couple other things that stood out to me.
The Big 3
Let’s start things off with All Summer League Second Team center Marko Simonovic. Marko was Marko. He displayed some exciting skills on offense, he looked a little lost on defense, he showed up for some games, and disappeared in others. Simonovic is at a point in his development and career where I just want to see him play some real minutes in the NBA. It won’t be until he spends some quality time on the court with some quality big league opponents that we’ll truly know if he can hack it in the NBA. A lot of podcasters, Bulls twitter-ers, and broadcasters, are ready to hang the “AAAA” tag on Simonovic, meaning he’s too good for the G-League, but not good enough for the NBA, and that might be the case. I was hoping Summer League would answer the question that has followed Marko his entire professional career, “is he an NBA player?” But that question has yet to be answered.
Justin Lewis, the undrafted rookie the Bulls signed to a 2-way G-League contract, had a very nice, if a bit under the radar, Summer League. It really wasn’t about the numbers he put up, or the lack of numbers, it was more about his on-court awareness. This is a player with a very good sense of where he should be at all times on the court. He gets himself in position on defense, rotates correctly, fills the correct space when guarding 2 opponents on the weak side, and really showed some strong on-ball D throughout the summer. On offense, he spaced the floor well, and always seemed to be at the 3 point line waiting for a kick-out pass that never came. Lewis was a very smart “get” from the Bulls front office after the draft, now it’s up to him to continue to improve his game and make an impact on the court.
Dalen Terry has a lot of personality. Much has been made about the rookies’ communication and leadership skills, and they were on full display the last couple weeks in Las Vegas. Whether it was talking to the bench during games, or talking with the media after, Terry’s competitive spirit was a bon fire that could not be contained. I just hope he’s as good at basketball as he is at giving post-game interviews. What I saw of Terry in Summer League: He’s a good defender. He’s great in transition. He can get to the foul line. He has a lot of creative, play-making upside. He has energy and competitiveness for days. He does not back down from a challenge, and he has a lot of room to grow.
I just want to put this next bit in writing because it’s been something that has been eating at me for a while. Can a Bulls Front Office, please, just once, draft a player that can f-cking shoot the basketball? Is that too much to ask?
Dalen Terry, like pretty much every player that is starting their NBA career, is a project. Summer League has shown that he has tremendous potential, but it has also shown that he has a looooooooong way to go before he can be relied upon to play meaningful NBA minutes. I don’t expect him to have an impact this season, but if he does, it’ll be with his defense. It is important to note that he injured his hamstring early in the final game of Summer League, and did not finish the contest. Not a lot has been said about the injury, but it is assumed that it is minor, and the rookie should be ready to go before the start of training camp. In the future, Terry could turn into one of the most important players on the Bulls roster, but that is going to take some time and a lot of shooting lessons.
Some Other SL Thoughts
The game 2 drumming the SL Bulls took from the SL Knicks was ugly, but it helped settle and focus the team. From the second half of that game to the end of Summer League, the Bulls played with earnest determination. They overpowered opponents with their energy, and willed themselves to victories, just as the Knicks did to them. It was nice to see a team learn a valuable lesson from a bad loss, and the impetus for that growth was very clearly the attitude and leadership of Dalen Terry.
Makur Maker has an interesting skill set for a big, and I hope the Bulls find a way of keeping him in their development pool.
John Bryant and his staff were exactly the right people to be coaching this collection of young players. They did Summer League right. They featured Terry and Simonovic, and had each player try out different roles early in the process, before settling them into the roles that they are most likely to play if/when they make it into an NBA rotation. You could tell that Bryant was able to foster a spirit of competition in the team without it devolving into the petty “I gotta get mine” trap that a group of young and hungry athletes can easily succumb to. He did a really good job of coaching what every summer seems to be a hastily slapped together roster.
That about does it for my thoughts on Bulls Summer League 2022. We have now reached the Dog Days of the NBA Offseason, but never fear I have some posts lined up as we begin to look ahead to the 2022-23 NBA season. What do we know about this Bulls team, and what are the Unknow-a-Bulls? We’ll delve into that soon, until then, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!