Bulls

Bulls fall to Celtics in summer-league debut

819589.png

Bulls fall to Celtics in summer-league debut

LAS VEGASIt was ugly at times, as these things tend to be, but the Bulls 2012 summer-league debut ended with an effort that typified the regular-season teams effort over the past few seasons, as they rallied from a large deficit, but ultimately lost to the Boston Celtics, 79-74, Tuesday night at Cox Pavillion on the campus of UNLV. Swingman Jimmy Butler, the teams only returning player on the summer-league squad, led the way with an eye-opening 25-point outing in the defeat, which was observed by Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and general manager Gar Forman.

After first-round draft pick Marquis Teagues transition layup to open the contests scoring, followed by a three-point play by Butler, it appeared that the mostly anonymous Bulls summer-league squad had the chops to battle Boston, one of the more impressive teams in Las Vegas. But after a competitive first quarter, the Celtics, featuring several young players who could be in the rotation during the regular season, opened up a wide winning margin and dominated the action in the middle two quarters, as the backcourt of ETwaun Moore and Dionte Christmas was stellar.

There were bright spots, however, particularly Butler. Yet to enter his second NBA season, the swingman made up for lost timethe Marquette product didnt have a summer league before last season, as the lockout wiped that aspect of rookie development outas he was aggressive from the games outset. Butler showed off the skills hes honed during Berto Center workouts, both during a debut campaign in which he received scant playing time and since the Bulls season ended, and while it wasnt a true NBA game, he appeared to be prepared for an increased role, as he

Teague, on the other hand, struggled with outside shooting, ball-security issues and defense, as Moore, a second-year Celtics guardand ironically, an Indiana native, like Teaguemade his life difficult on both ends. While Teague was impressive in his ability to push the ball and get to the rim, it was also evident that there will be an adjustment period before he can be expected to make a major impact, though this is summer league and things often arent as good or as bad as they seem initially.

Of the players who arent guaranteed roster spots or even training-camp invites, power forward Malcolm Thomas was perhaps the Bulls most notable performer. The San Diego State product, who had a cup of coffee with the Spurs last season as a rookie, was extremely active from the start to finish on both ends of the court, using his length and athleticism to be a force on the interior.

Chicago would cut a double-figure deficit to just a two-possession game late in the affair, but in the end, the gap was simply too much to make up, as the rebounding of Celtics first-round draft pick Jared Sullinger and second-year forward JaJuan Johnson, as well as the outside shooting of the aforementioned Christmas and Moorenot to mention former University of Illinois guard Jamar Smith off the benchensured that Boston held on. Still, for a roster with low expectations compared to many others, the showing was more than respectable.

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

Anfernee Simons looks more like a ball boy than a 2018 NBA Draft prospect right now. He’s not considered small, what with having a 6-foot-3 frame with a massive 6-foot-9 wingspan, and he weighed in at last week’s NBA Draft Combine at 183 pounds, “heavier” than Lottery-bound guards like Trae Young, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Collin Sexton.

But there’s plenty of potential to unpack from the soon-to-be 19-year-old, baby-faced combo guard. Don’t let the appearance fool you. Simons is one of the most talented players in the class, and a team patient enough to let him develop at his own pace could reap major benefits in due time.

You won’t find much video on Simons, as the IMG Academy star is preparing to be the first prospect to go preps-to-pros without a year in college since Thon Maker did so in 2016.

Simons, a consensus five-star recruit in the 2018 class, originally committed to Louisville in November 2016 and then decommitted the following September shortly after Rick Pitino was fired. Since he had graduated from Edgewater High School in Florida and was playing a post-grad year at IMG Academy, he became eligible for the 2018 NBA Draft because he is a year removed from high school. That’s where he played this past season, declaring for the draft and signing with an agent in late March.

“The opportunity is there. Me and my parents talked about it a lot and I feel like I’m confident in myself that I’ll be able to make this jump,” he said at last week’s Combine. “So I just felt like, do it now and not waste any time.”

Simons has been on the radars of NBA teams, even if he’s not a household name like Ayton, Doncic and Bagley. He’s currently projected outside of the Lottery, in part because teams haven’t seen him compete against collegiate level talent and because his wiry frame almost surely means time in the G-League as a rookie. But again, the skill set is there.

Simons is a point guard with solid range beyond the arc. He may struggle off the ball because of his size, though that long wingspan and a quick release from his chest should allow him to get off shots. He’s a blur in transition and finishes well at the rim – his 41.5-inch vertical was tied for third best at the Combine, and his three-quarters court sprint was eighth fastest.

He’s a mixed bag defensively. Wingspan is the fun buzz word these days, and that will help him at the next level, but his small frame means there’s work to be done. A strength and conditioning coach will salivate at bringing Simons into the weight room and getting his body NBA-ready.

“Just staying durable through 82 games,” Simons answered when asked about his biggest challenge physically at the next level. “Taking care of your body is real pivotal so I feel like learning how to take care of my body now is a good thing.”

Simons maturely answered that the “unknown” of his game will be both a positive and minus during the pre-draft process. While fellow prospects he may face in team workouts don’t know as much about him and, thus, his game, teams also need to find out more about Simons’ game and off-court habits.

“Coming in young, people don’t know who I am and haven’t seen me play much. That’s the good side about coming in early,” he said. “It could be the same thing (negatively). People haven’t seen me like that, so I feel like they don’t know who I am. They probably think I’m too young to play in the league.”

Simons met with the Bulls and has scheduled a pre-draft workout with them. Though the Bulls feel like their rebuild could go quicker than anticipated – especially if they hit on their No. 7 pick – there could be plenty to gain from drafting for upside on a player like Simons.

Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne will both be free agents in 2019, and Denzel Valentine’s long-term future isn’t set in stone in Chicago. That leaves plenty of openings in the backcourt behind Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine. Simons won’t be ready to contribute much in 2018-19, but the Bulls wouldn’t need him to. A handful of outlets projected Simons as a top-5 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The Bulls could snag him a year earlier, let him develop in Hoffman Estates and bring him up in a year when they’re a step closer to contending.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

lauri-stl-pod-522.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

On this episode of SportsTalk Live, Hub Arkush (670 The Score/Pro Football Weekly), Danny Parkins (670 The Score) and Lauren Comitor (The Athletic) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Manny Machado Mania continues in Chicago. Do the Cubs even need to trade for him to win the World Series this year?

Ricky Renteria has to bench another player for not hustling. Is this becoming a problem on the South Side?

Plus, Lauri Markkanen is named to the All-Rookie team. Could he be the centerpiece of a trade if the Bulls want to acquire a superstar or move up in the draft? 

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: