NBC Sports Chicago will preview a different Bulls player every weekday leading up to the start of training camp in late September.
Previous reviews: Lauri Markkanen | Ryan Arcidiacono | Antonio Blakeney | Coby White | Daniel Gafford | Wendell Carter Jr. | Luke Kornet | Cristiano Felicio | Tomas Satoransky | Chandler Hutchison | Otto Porter | Denzel Valentine
How last year went
Let’s start with the Summer League. Mokoka signed a two-way contract with the Bulls prior to the start of the LVSL and wound up playing well in all five games. He averaged 9.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists, shooting 43.6% from the field and 33.3% from beyond the arc on 21 attempts. It’s cliché, but he did a little bit of everything. He looked comfortable in transition, had a pure stroke on catch-and-shoot attempts and looked the part defensively. It was a promising start in a short timeframe for an intriguing two-way guy.
Expectations for this year's role
There are two schools of thought: First, Mokoka is a 21-year-old with no NBA experience on a two-way contract. But the Bulls are also shallow at small forward and could wind up going small at times with two true shooting guards on the wing when Otto Porter isn’t in the game.
What does that mean for Mokoka? His role will be to develop in the G League, and if some combination of Chandler Hutchison, Denzel Valentine and Shaq Harrison can’t stay healthy, there’s a chance Mokoka finds himself with the Bulls at some point in the regular season. If that happens, there’s an even better chance we’re discussing Lottery ping-pong balls at some point in March or April.
Where he excels
It’s tough to garner much from Mokoka’s five games in Las Vegas, but from what we can tell he’s an active, athletic slasher with an NBA body. He’s still pretty raw around the edges (like most 21-year-olds who have never played in the NBA) but understands the game well. He has solid defensive potential as a lengthy wing with good feet. He stepped into a couple above-the-break 3-pointers and shot better than his splits would lead one to believe. The solid Summer League performances shouldn’t have been a surprise, as Mokoka has been playing professionally for three seasons.
Where he struggles
Mokoka looked comfortable from beyond the arc in the Summer League, making 7 of 21 triples. But last season, which he spent with KK Mega Bemax in France, he made just 32.3% of his 130 3-point attempts, and he shot just 41.4% from the field in that span. That’s obviously troubling for a slasher, but the international game is different from the NBA. The 43.6% shooting in the Summer League was better, and it came in a variety of ways with transition layups, jumpers and drives.
For what it’s worth, he averaged 3.34 fouls per game in France last season in 28.4 minutes. Perhaps that's just a case of a young player adjusting to a new league, but regardless, that’s something he’ll likely have to work on at the next level. Those fouls were down to 2.0 in 28.8 Summer League minutes per game.
Best case/worst case
In a best-case scenario, Mokoka is able to bump up that 3-point field goal percentage to add to his athletic, slashing frame. While it may not result in minutes at the NBA level, he’d give the Bulls an intriguing young piece to consider moving forward. It seems like the defense is going to be there. If he rounds into a productive offensive player, there’s a chance for him to stick at the NBA level.
There’s no real worst-case scenario for an international 21-year-old. Mokoka is house money for the Bulls. If his efficiency never improves it’ll be tough for him to make it at the next level. For now, he’s a project (and an enticing one at that after a five-game sample size in Sin City).
One key stat
We’ll just give you Mokoka’s per game stats from last season with KK Mega Bemax: 11.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.3 steals in 28.4 minutes. He also shot 41.4% from the field and 32.3% from beyond the arc.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.