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Chicago Bulls Summer League Review

The Chicago Bulls’ Summer League run came to an end on Saturday in a quarterfinals loss to the Phoenix Suns. Of course, as always with the Summer League, wins and losses aren’t what matters. Nor are the players on the roster who have no chance of making the NBA team. That’s why I’m going to take a deeper look at the pieces of the Bulls’ Summer League roster that’ll have an impact on the senior team next season.

Bobby Portis

Stats (6 GP): 14.5 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 0.7 SPG, .421/.417/.750, 19.89 PER

Portis performed admirably for a 20-year old playing in his first Summer League. He showed confidence in his jumper from the get-go in a 23-point, 3-for-4 three-pointer performance in his first game in Las Vegas:

He made a solid five of his 12 three-point attempts in six games while showcasing solid touch from the mid-range as well. He utilized several jab steps before knocking down jumpers in the face-up game. Even when he was guarded by Alex Len, who probably shouldn’t have even been asked to play in Vegas given his experience, he felt comfortable rising for jumpers and playing with physicality. Sometimes that confidence led to ill-advised shots, but his jumper looked as good as advertised.

Portis’s biggest strength in the Summer League was his high motor. He was constantly running the floor from rim to rim and played with an aggressiveness that’s unusual for most players in the Summer League. Considering he won’t play much for the Bulls next season, he’ll need to hustle every time he’s on the floor. That kind of energy is what will force Fred Hoiberg to play the rookie amid a cluster of big men.

Portis also attacked the glass in Vegas, ripping down at least 10 boards in three games. He grabbed 15 rebounds on Saturday with Cameron Bairstow sitting out with an injury. He isn’t a terrific athlete, but he goes for the ball at its highest point and constantly fights for position. Portis thrived as a center and outperformed Len on both ends of the floor on Saturday. He finished with 25 points to go along with those 15 boards in an impressive showing.

As solid as he played overall, Portis still showed flashes of what made him fall to the Bulls at 22 on draft night. He relied on his jumper too often at times and would go long stretches without getting involved offensively. He seemed rushed with the ball in his hands and didn’t make quick enough decisions. He needs to be more patient in the post and back down his opponent instead of being content to take a tough turnaround hook shot. Those poor shots led to a very low field goal percentage (.421) for a big man. These things will improve in time, but he won’t be asked to play much in the post next season anyway.

Overall, Portis performed better than anyone expected in the Summer League and showed enough promise that his No. 22 draft slot is already looking like a steal.

Doug McDermott

Stats (5 GP): 18.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG, .488/.125/.667, 19.27 PER

I may be in the minority here, but McDermott’s Summer League performance was disappointing. He showed an improved ability of finishing in the paint and getting to the basket, but those are traits that likely won’t translate much for the Bulls next season.

He’ll be asked to run around screens and spot-up off-ball in Chicago, not play in the post and score in the paint. The Bulls drafted McDermott with the intent of him being a knockdown shooter, but he’s shown little ability to actually do that.

“McBuckets” shot 2-for-16 from behind the arc in five games in Las Vegas. As a rookie he made 12-of-27 three-pointers (.444) in Vegas last season. Lottery picks in their second Summer League season should be improving, not taking a step back.

His ability to finish in the paint was impressive, if not fluky. McDermott shot 57.3 percent on two-pointers in Las Vegas this summer thanks to an array of floaters, flip shots and aggressive finishes. He was an all-around scorer his entire career at Creighton, so it was nice to see McDermott finally showing that versatility against professionals.

If he was able to make three-pointers with any consistency than his Summer League showing would’ve been encouraging, but ultimately he further displayed what’s made Bulls fans doubt his ability to live up to his draft slot.

It already feels like time is running out for the No. 11 pick in the 2014 draft. McDermott will need to show improvement in Hoiberg’s system next season or he might not get another chance to be a rotation player.

Cameron Bairstow/Cristiano Felicio

Bairstow Stats (5 GP): 8.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.6 BPG, 1.4 SPG, .429/.357/.000, 16.79 PER

Felicio Stats (6 GP): 3.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 0.7 BPG, .562/.000/.400, 16.44 PER

Both of these big men are competing with each other for the final roster spot on the Bulls given Bairstow’s partially guaranteed contract and Felicio’s camp invite. Neither will play much, if at all, for the Bulls next season, but both players experienced some success in Las Vegas.

Bairstow converted on 5-of-14 three-point attempts (.357) while contributing a healthy amount of blocks and steals on the defensive end. He’s a poor athlete for NBA standards, but Bairstow competed on both ends all summer long and showed glimpses of what could make him a solid end-of-the-bench guy.

Felicio didn’t do much that jumped off the page. He uses his length on defense and rebounds well on both ends, but he doesn’t look like a player who should make an NBA roster. He was in foul trouble in the lone game he started and was outplayed by Darrell Williams (no, you shouldn’t know who that is).

My guess is that Bairstow sticks with the Bulls next season and Felicio is let go after training camp.

Fred Hoiberg

Stats: 82.5 PPG, 42.3 field goal percentage, 32.6 three-point percentage, 3-3 record

Let’s not forget that Hoiberg coached the Bulls’ Summer League team and implemented his fast-paced, motion-heavy offense. Of course, Hoiberg was hardly using any of his players, but in six games we still got a look at how his system might translate to the pros.

The Summer Bulls attempted 21.5 three-pointers per game, which made up for 30 percent of the team’s field goal attempts. In comparison, three-pointers made up for under 27 percent of Chicago’s field goal attempts last season. Hoiberg’s teams don’t just shoot three-pointers like mad men. His system is predicated on ball and player movement, which more frequently leads to open shooters.

Portis in particular enjoyed setting high ball screens and popping out to the three-point line for open jumpers. McDermott’s shot might not have fallen at a high rate, but he still found success in the paint off cuts and series of screens before getting to the rim. The Summer Bulls utilized a more dynamic and free-flowing offense than you’re used to seeing in the Summer League. That’s without Hoiberg even scratching the surface of his playbook:

McDermott and Portis got a taste of Hoiberg’s offense, but once that full playbook is unleashed with the likes of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler running the plays, watch out.

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