Getting to know the Bulls' Summer League roster

Getting to know the Bulls' Summer League roster

The Bulls finalized their Summer League roster on Thursday. Here's a quick background on each of the 11 players.

Rasheed Sulaimon, G: The 6-foot-4 shooting guard played a year at Maryland following his dismissal from Duke. In his senior season he averaged 11.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists for the Terrapins, who advanced to the Sweet 16. He went undrafted in the 2016 NBA Draft.

Jerian Grant, G: A first-round selection by the Knicks, Grant made his way to the Bulls in the deal that sent Derrick Rose to the Knicks. Grant will get all the run he can handle in Las Vegas as the team's starting point guard, and it will help him to learn the offense with Fred Hoiberg in the huddle. Grant had a quiet rookie year, notably in his struggles from the field. He shot just 39 percent in Summer League as a rookie, but should find more success playing alongside Bobby Portis, Cristiano Felicio and Denzel Valentine.

Bobby Portis, F: The Bulls' 2015 first-round pick showed potential in his rookie season, averaging 7.0 points and 5.4 rebounds in 17.8 minutes. He's slated for a bigger role in his second season following the departures of Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah. He was impressive in last year's Summer League, averaging 14.5 points and 8.7 rebounds. He also shot 42 percent from deep, and the Bulls could be looking for him to make an impact from beyond the arc in his sophomore season.

Cristiano Felicio, C: No Bull looked more impressive down the stretch than Felicio, who averaged 11.5 points on 66 percent shooting and 6.5 rebounds. That stretch included an impressive 16-point outing in a win over the eventual champion Cavaliers. He's in line for more minutes behind Robin Lopez as the Bulls overhaul their frontcourt, and the progression he shows could be the most important takeaway from the Bulls' Summer League outings.

Patrick Miller, G: The Chicago native who played for Hales Fransiscan had an excellent career at Middle Tennessee State, averaging 23.7 points in his senior season. He went undrafted and spent a year in Turkey. He played for the D-League's Texas Legends a year ago, averaging 11.5 points and 4.1 assists. The 6-foot-1 point guard shot 48 percent from the field.

Tre Demps, G: Northwestern's leading scorer a year ago, the senior Demps connected on 2.6 triples per game at a 33.2 percent clip. He went undrafted in the 2016 NBA Draft.

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Raymar Morgan, F: The former Michigan State product has bounced around leagues overseas, making stops in Israel (three times), Turkey, Germany (twice) and Greece since 2010. In Germany last season, the 6-foot-8 forward averaged 15.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and shot 55 percent in 45 games for Ratiopharm Ulm.

Dez Wells, G: An honorable mention All-American in 2015, Wells went undrafted and spent last season playing with Oklahoma City's D-League team. In 24 games (21 starts), Wells averaged 12.7 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists. He struggled from the field, shooting just 43 percent, and had nearly as many turnovers (43) as he did assists (46).

Denzel Valentine, G: The Bulls' first-round draft pick will see plenty of playing time in Las Vegas. Though the Bulls signed Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade to help overhaul the backcourt, Valentine's 3-point capabilities will help a backcourt void of outside shooting. He's one of six guards on the team, and it will be interesting to watch how much Fred Hoiberg allows the Michigan State guard to run the offense.

Jack Cooley, F: The Evanston native who played for Glenbrook South went undrafted in 2013 after a successful career at Notre Dame. He bounced around a number of Summer League teams in 2013 and 2014 before signing a pair of 10-day contracts with the Jazz in 2015. He wound up appearing in 16 games with the Jazz. He was waived at the end of the year and played last season in Spain. He holds the NBA D-League record for rebounds in a game (29), which he accomplished in 2015.

Sandi Marcius, C: The 6-foot-10 center spent three seasons at Purdue and transferred to DePaul for his senior year. He played in Croatia two years ago and spent last year in Spain, averaging 14.9 points and 9.3 rebounds for Sammic ISB. 

B/R names Zach LaVine as one of the NBA’s most overhyped players ahead of the 2018-19 season

B/R names Zach LaVine as one of the NBA’s most overhyped players ahead of the 2018-19 season

Bleacher Report named Zach LaVine as one of the NBA’s most overhyped players ahead of the 2018-19 season. The list included five players whose expectations have exceeded what author Grant Hughes, felt is realistic for this upcoming season. It is not entirely shocking for LaVine to make this list, and his defense was the main reason he was included. But the potential for his offensive output to get even better was somewhat overlooked. 

Per Hughes:

In 2016-17, he ranked 441st out of 468 players in ESPN's defensive real plus-minus metric. Last year, he was 490th out of 521. According to Basketball Reference, he's never posted a defensive box plus-minus in positive territory. He topped out at minus-2.0 in his abbreviated 2017-18 season.....It's hard to justify rotation minutes for a player like that, let alone $78 million.

Hughes’ critique is harsh, but based off of statistics that are hard to argue with. LaVine has indeed been one of the worst defenders in the league for the entirety of his NBA career, and his netting of the $78 million falls hand-in-hand with Jabari Parker’s comments on players not being paid to play defense. But for the Bulls to take the leap from lottery-to-playoff contender, at least a league-average D will have to be cobbled together. But that responsibility will not fall solely on his shoulders, and that is why I am skeptical on the idea of LaVine being “overhyped”. 

The post goes on to elaborate that even if LaVine was to recapture the magic of his solid 2016-17 season, he still would be a player who gives up more points on defense than he gets his team on offense. That is a strong possibility, but with the addition of Wendell Carter Jr. as another rim protector, capable of at least providing a hard hedge (if not an outright switch), there is a possibility that LaVine becomes a more aggressive defender out on the perimeter. But that is unlikely, and a much more realistic outcome is LaVine’s offensive value surpassing what is expected.

LaVine’s strength last season was his ability to get to the free throw line. Despite coming off a major ACL injury, he was able to get 4.5 free throw attempts per game, a mark that would’ve had him sandwiched between players like Kyrie Irving and Victor Oladipo had he qualified (LaVine only played in 24 games). It was the highest free throw attempt rate of his career, and assuming he expands on that in a year where he should be completely healthy, he will be one of the best in the league at getting to the line. 

His efficiency will be helped by players like Parker and Lauri Markkanen, who will draw attention off of him. LaVine’s 3-point percentage last season was 34 percent, a number that was more of a reflection of that fact that he was still working his way back into game shape. That 3-point percentage will soon trend more towards the 38 percent mark he shot the previous two seasons. And his 3-point attempts were also down, another mark that is sure to trend upwards, especially with Parker’s inclusion as a scorer who does most of his half-court work in the mid-post area. 

The way the 2018-19 Bulls are built, there is little behind Kris Dunn in the way of a reliable backup point guard, though there is belief internally that Cam Payne can develop into that player. But there is a strong possibility that LaVine will be used as a backup point guard to free up minutes for one of Justin Holiday, Denzel Valentine or Chandler Hutchison. And in his rookie year, playing point guard, LaVine had an assist rate of 24 percent, but also an incredibly high turnover percentage. Since making the full-time switch to shooting guard, he has not posted a turnover rate above 10 percent. So, if he can adjust to the fact that there are other players capable of scoring 20 points on the floor—like he did in Minnesota—it is entirely possible for LaVine to be a player capable of getting you 20 points and five assists per game while scoring efficiently and avoiding turnovers. Even if his defense continues to be dreadful, a player who can keep the offense running well from either guard spot is definitely valuable in today’s league. 

In his last season with Minnesota, LaVine had a usage rate of 21.7 percent, a number much lower than his extremely high 29.5 usage rate last season with the Bulls. And while many think of LaVine as a high-volume shooter, his usage rate last year was likely a result of him forcing the issue to try to prove he was worth a significant investment. With his shiny, new contract in tow, LaVine should be focused on making the team better, and get one step closer to his Timberwolves self. On that squad, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins each scored 20+ points per game, while LaVine was averaging 18.9 points per game. And the team finished in the top 10 in the NBA in offensive rating.

It is not crazy to think the Bulls could have their own high-scoring trio in LaVine, Markkanen and Parker. And if that is the case, then the expectation is for LaVine to be a efficient scorer who can occasionally spot the open man. Hyped? Yes. But overhyped? No one is banking on him being an All-Star, though it remains in the realm of possibility. The idea that he is overhyped is based on the fact his new contract is $78 million and he is poor at defense, but this is overlooking the fact that LaVine has proven he is a player capable of having a large role on a top-10 offense. September 30 can’t get here fast enough.  

Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short


Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

Lauri Markkanen doesn't often feel short.

The Bulls forward is 7-feet tall, which even in the land of NBA giants makes him one of the tallest players on the court at all times. So when Markkanen stands next to Yao Ming, it changes perspective quite a bit.

Markkanen posted a photo with him and the 7-foot-6 Chinese Hall of Famer. Markkanen looks like a child.

Makes you wonder if Markkanen pulled some "What's the weather like up there?" jokes just because he otherwise never can.