While the Chicago Bulls have struggled to win less than 30 percent of their games, the Windy City Bulls are the hottest team in the NBA G League, having won 8 games straight heading into their Friday night matchup with the Wisconsin Herd. And a big part of their recent success has been the play of forward CJ Fair.
Fair, a 27-year old, 6-foot 8 forward, is having the best NBA G League season of his career.
Windy City is a team without a tremendous amount of length, so they play relatively small in the frontcourt. But following the departure of JaKarr Sampson to China, Fair started to turn it up on the offensive end.
Over the six-game span since JaKarr’s departure, Fair is averaging 19.6 PPG, over six points higher than his season average of 13.3 PPG.
In college, he shot 34 percent from the 3-point line on a career 178 attempts from 3-point range. He is a career 29.9 percent 3-point shooter during his time in the G League, but his true value at this point in time comes from his ability to be protect the rim, finish inside the paint and facilitate at a high level from the post.
In his three previous G League seasons, Fair had averaged just under 2 assists per game. This season he is putting up 3.2 assists per game--on a mammoth 15.8 percent assist rate--while committing only 1.48 turnovers per game.
His passing isn’t about making flashy or incredibly difficult passes, it is more about making the right decision often. He spots open 3-point shooters--especially if he is sharing the floor with a 3-point shooting big--and always takes his time when backing down in the post, surveying the floor constantly. Fair has a jump-hook that he likes to shoot with his left hand going over his right shoulder, and it is the perfect counter when they aren’t open cutters or shooters.
While his passing is one reason he has been able to maintain an incredibly impressive 117 offensive rating, his alertness cutting off the ball is the main thing that makes helps him provide a boost to lineups without spacing the floor. He has a basic handle that allows him to beat lumbering bigs off the dribble. Fair also is adept at facing up his man in the post and driving, which opens up even more drive-and-kick opportunities.
There usually would not be much of a place on the floor for a 6-foot-8 player that can’t dribble or shoot 3-pointer, but Fair’s relatively low usage rate (17.2 percent) means that he can mesh with most lineups. His 6.9 offensive rebound rate shows his willingness to get after it on the offensive glass, especially against lazy boxouts.
His ability to score and rebound--he has 8 double doubles through 25 games this season--is great, but the reason he has a shot to make an NBA roster this year is what he has shown on the defensive end of the floor.
Through 25 games, Fair has 31 blocks. It is impressive when you consider that his average wingspan (6-foot-9) prevents him from easily blocking shots. He has to actually track his man and be in the right place at the right time. Even if he is not the same level of shot blocker in the NBA that he is in the G League (1.24 per game), the fact that he is posting such consistent block numbers showcases the effort he will put in every night on the defensive end of the floor.
Ultimately, Fair will have a hard time becoming a full-time NBA player until he can consistently hit over 30 percent from the 3-point line, even if it is on limited attempts. In the 2015-16 G League season he hit 35.5 percent from the 3-point line on 151 attempts, so the precedent for him to become a capable shooter is there. But with the considerable improvements he has made as a playmaker, finisher and shot-blocker, don’t be shocked if you see Fair signing a 10-day contract very soon.