Every two weeks we will be looking at one player performing well with the Windy City Bulls in the NBA G League and take a look at how they could help the Chicago Bulls (NBA).In his two NBA seasons, Tyler Ulis averaged 7.5 points, 4 assists, and 1 steal per game for the Phoenix Suns. The Marian Catholic alum signed a two-way deal with the Windy City Bulls this offseason, looking to prove he is a legitimate, NBA rotation-caliber point guard.
Entering Wednesday night’s game against the Memphis Hustle, Ulis is averaging 23 points, 3 rebounds and 8 assists per game.
Most impressive is the fact that the 5-foot 8 Ulis is getting to the free throw line nine times per game. That kind of volume and accuracy--83 percent from FT line--at the charity stripe can make up for the fact that he has yet to develop a reliable 3-point shot.
Despite shooting 26 percent from the 3-point line, he is still getting up just under five 3-point attempts per game. This can be good or bad depending on how you look at it. I lean towards seeing the positive in this figure. If Ulis is to get the call up to the NBA (Chicago Bulls) at some point, Chicago will benefit greatly from his aggressiveness in getting to the basket. But for him to stick with this team long-term, he will need to keep defenses honest by at least attempting to be a threat from deep.
Overall he is still committing too many turnovers (3 per game) but the advanced numbers suggest his making strides as a player capable of running an offense for at least limited stretches.
He is in the “Zach LaVine-role in the G League--has a sky-high 33 percent usage rate--on a struggling (1-4) team and so it is quite normal that his field goal percentage is not great, even more so since he is taking a bit of punishment at the rim with all the fouls he is absorbing.
A bigger sample size is needed to see if the remarkable (considering his size) free throw attempt rate is sustainable, but right now he is looking like he deserves a shot at spot minutes with the bench unit.
One of the (many) issues with the Bulls defense is the lack of turnovers they generate. Chicago is 23rd in the league in opponent's turnover rate, and Shaquille Harrison and Justin Holiday have been the only players to rate above average in steal percentage.
Ulis has been very good at generating turnovers, which helps mitigate the fact that he is undersized. His two steals per game would lead the Bulls. With the starters, Ulis would be counted on to knock away entry passes in the post if he was to get a bigger man matched up on him. But playing him in lineups with Lopez would benefit both of them since neither are proficient in switching defenses.
Through Wednesday afternoon, the Bulls best two-man pairings in terms of opponent’s effective field goal percentage were:
Lopez-Holiday: 43.9 percent
Lopez-Portis: 44 percent
Lopez-Hutchison: 44.1 percent
When you look further down the list, you notice that the Ryan Arcidiacono-Lopez pairing has held opponents to a lower percentage than Cam Payne-Lopez duo. This by no means shocking, and is a big part of why Fred Hoiberg has went to Arcidiacono over Payne as of late.
With Lopez and Wendell Carter Jr. (to a much greater degree) showing the ability to block shots at a high level, it would be great to see what Ulis can do at the point. Switching is a good defensive strategy but certain teams demand that your guards simply fight over screens to avoid confusion, as well as get hands in the passing lanes on the pick-and-roll early and often.
Ulis is small, but he, Harrison, Holiday, Arcidiacono and Hutchison could make up a solid point guard/swingman rotation that would provide a solid defensive component on a team that has made little strides on that end of the floor. The Bulls are going to be a bad defense until the team is 100 percent healthy and maybe even after that. And with that in mind, Ulis is at least worth a brief call-up on a team that appears to be placing too great of a ball handling demand on LaVine.