The Bulls have officially signed wing Brandon Sampson to a two-way contract, while releasing injured guard Tyler Ulis. Now that all of the confusion over which Sampson is joining the Chicago Bulls is over, it is time to figure out....who is Brandon Sampson and how could the help the Bulls rotation?
For starters Sampson is a 6-foot 5 guard with a 6-foot 9 wingspan. He is currently averaging 17 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists per game in the 2018-19 NBA G League season. Sampson played three years at LSU, in which he played two seasons with current Bulls guard Antonio Blakeney. An ankle injury derailed Sampson’s junior season, in which he started 9 games after starting 26 games as a sophomore.
Despite not getting drafted, Sampson turned in quite the performance at the 2018 Pro Basketball Combine.
With his athleticism obviously translating to the NBA level, the things scouts were worried about with Sampson was his ability to lock-in defensively and whether or not he would put it all together--it, being all of his offensive skills and athletic traits--on a consistent basis. But again, his athleticism is remarkable and serves as the foundation of his game.
Sampson has a quick and easily repeatable delivery on his jump shot despite being an inconsistent shooter. Over his three years at LSU he took a total of 262 3-pointers and hit 32 percent of them. He was a 74 percent free throw shooter for his college career, a good piece of information to show that his better shooting seasons were no fluke.
In the NBA G League, Sampson played 18 games for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, a team credited with helping contribute to the NBA’s 3-point obsession. And in his time with the team, he has shown the makings of a very solid wing prospect.
He attempted just over seven 3-point shots per game with the Vipers and is hitting a remarkable 39.8 percent of them. In accordance with our earlier exercise, Sampson is shooting 84 percent from the free throw line, which would support the idea of his shooting improvement being real.
With over 50 percent of his shots coming from 3-point range, it is impressive that he is getting to the free throw line about 3 times per game. Playing for a Rockets-inspired team, he has all but eliminated the midrange jumper from his repertoire. Midrange shots account for less than 4 percent of his total field goal attempts.
Opponent’s I.D. Sampson as a shooter early, so it is important that he is able to attack closeouts. In the G League he has shown the ability to attack the basket off of a straight line drive, which is the extent to which he will need to get to the rim at the NBA level.
When he is forced to pick up his dribble, Sampson can be quick to give up the ball and relocate elsewhere on the perimeter. On a Bulls team that is bottom-five in the league in secondary assists, a player who is willing to move the ball is a very welcome addition.
So with a great jumper and an understanding of what good shots are, defense is the last step towards making Sampson a solid NBA rotation piece. Defense is still incredibly hard to judge on an individual basis just off of numbers, but the statistics say that Sampson is a competent defender.
His individual defensive rating is 106.1, a mark that would be top 5 on the Bulls among the players who see regular playing time. Sampson’s defensive rating is also slightly better than the Vipers as a whole, suggesting that he can have--even if it is slight--a defensive impact. He is not the type of player who is going to rack up a lot of steals or blocks but he can be counted on to be in the right position, which is just as--if not more--important.
As Sampson continues to work out the kinks in his game, it would be wise for Boylen to try to integrate him into the rotation in a small role. Of course, we said the same thing about the Bulls’ other two-way contract player, Rawle Alkins, who has yet to see meaningful playing time.
Despite Alkins being a better 3-point shooter (percentage-wise) between he and Sampson while in college, Alkins shot worse than Sampson from 3-point range and a miserable 60 percent from the free throw line in the G League. This, along with the way Sampson’s jump shot form looks, would suggest that perhaps he is the more natural shooter between the pair. So while both two-way players certainly deserve a look, Sampson could do more in the short-term for the Bulls, who are in the bottom 10 teams in the league in terms of 3-point attempts and 3-point percentage.