Bulls

Getting to know Bulls summer leaguers

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Getting to know Bulls summer leaguers

LAS VEGASSo who are these guys, exactly? Aside from returnee Jimmy Butler, first-round pick Marquis Teague and Leon Powethe undersized power forward is best known for winning a championship with the Celtics, but didnt play in the NBA last seasonthe players on the Bulls summer-league roster might be a collection of no-names to most fans.

That may be the case now, but judging from how the organization is proceeding in free agency, theres a good chance one or more of these participants in Sin City winds up at the Berto Center for training camp this fall. And if the franchise maintains its loose policy of not paying the luxury taxwhether or not it is decided to match backup center Omer Asiks offer sheet from the Rockets, once its received; now that Houston will reportedly acquire free-agent point guard Jeremy Lin, Asiks offer should be signed in the next few days, beginning the three-day window to match the dealit wouldnt be a shock to see a summer-league player stick on a non-guaranteed deal.

For Butler, who was deprived of a summer league before his rookie season, this is a chance to showcase the skills hes been working hard on in practice and during the offseason after only receiving scant minutes in his rookie campaign. While theres no substitute for experience, the swingman showed an aptitude for defense and was praised by coaches and teammates alike, so these games will be key in showing if he can be a reliable offensive optionknocking down open jumpers, finishing at the rim and creating off the dribble, in particularespecially now that Ronnie Brewer wont be back in Chicago.

Still an NBA novice, Teague wont be expected to dominate, but if he can take care of the ball, demonstrate a semblance of an outside jumper and on the defensive end, pressure the ball effectively, it will have been a successful trip for the Indianapolis native.

Powe is easily the most pedigreed of the names on the roster and given that hes a favorite of Tom Thibodeaus from their time together in Boston, he certainly stands a good chance of making the regular-season team, as somewhat of a Kurt Thomas-type veteran big man. His biggest issue will be showing that hes regained the mobility he once possessed, but after a hard-luck background, on and off the court, the tough product of Oakland is certainly used to persevering.

As for the other players, point guard Demetri McCameyan alum of both St. Joseph High School, where he teamed up with Philadelphia 76ers swingman Evan Turner, and the University of Illinoisis certainly a familiar name to Chicago basketball fans. After a year playing overseas, there are whispers that the organization is high on the big floor general.

Jermaine Taylor, a shooting guard with NBA experience, has bounced around in the NBA, but possesses scoring ability, something that could give him an opportunity, if he has a successful July stint. Malcolm Thomas, an athletic big man, and swingman Edwin Ubiles both had cups of coffee with NBA teamsthe Spurs and Wizards, respectivelyas rookies last season, potentially giving them a leg up on some of their peers.

As far as undrafted rookies, slender big man Henry Sims, is an extremely skilled player for his size and was projected to be drafted after exploding in his senior season at Georgetown, while Temple product Ramone Moore, a smooth shooting guard, also needs to add strength, but brings both savvy and outside shooting, an area of need for the Bulls, to the table. Even longer shots to make the team include: Olek Czyz, an athletic, but undersized power forward out of Nevada; Chase Simon, a swingman from Detroit; and Jamie Skeen, a power forward who played in Europe last season, but was a hero on the VCU squad that upset its way to the NCAA Final Four in 2011.

Chandler Hutchison's unusual basketball background makes him an intriguing target for the Bulls

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USA TODAY

Chandler Hutchison's unusual basketball background makes him an intriguing target for the Bulls

Over the past several weeks, the Bulls have been heavily rumored to be selecting Boise State small forward Chandler Hutchison with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Although the 6-foot-7 Hutchison had a stellar four-year career with the Broncos, and was regarded as a top-100 national prospect coming out of high school, his background is relatively unknown compared to many of his first-round counterparts. Not many recruiting gurus watched Hutchison in-depth in high school. The same could be said about draft analysts watching Hutchison's career unfold at Boise State.

Part of the reason Hutchison has flown under the radar for so long, despite being a first-round talent, is his unique basketball upbringing. Many elite high school players opt to transfer to big-time basketball schools while playing in high-exposure shoe-company leagues during the spring and summer. Instead of the normal path, Hutchison chose to stick with the people that he trusted.

Playing for a small, independent grassroots program in high school known as Team Eastbay, Hutchison started showing special gifts as a sophomore in before blossoming into a top-100 national prospect towards the end of high school. Hutchison's trainer and coach with Team Eastbay, Perry Webster, saw that Chandler had the ability to be a big-time player.

"I walked into the gym and saw this 15-year-old kind of gangly kid. And he just moved different than anybody else. I thought he had a chance to be a pretty good player," Webster said of Hutchison.

As Hutchison developed more of a reputation in the Southern California basketball scene, becoming a starter at Mission Viejo High School his junior season, he started to draw more attention from local and national recruiting analysts — including former ESPN recruiting insider Joel Francisco, Scout.com's Josh Gershon and SoCal recruiting analyst Devin Ugland.

"You saw during his junior year that he was a legitimate Division I prospect. During the spring he started blossoming," Francisco said. "He had the ball skills and the prototypical length and things like that. And he was finishing plays. He had a good IQ for the game. It was a matter of strength and he had to fill out to become a more complete player."

By the end of summer going into his senior season, Hutchison had established himself as a potential Pac-12 recruit, as schools like Oregon and USC started to show heavy interest. But it was mid-major programs like Boise State, Saint Mary's and UC-Irvine who had long been involved in Hutchison's recruitment.

Knowing that Hutchison was a unique wing with a high IQ and passing skills, Webster, a former Division I player at Cal State Fullerton himself, advised that his star player take a close look at the programs that would put him in position to succeed right away.

"Every AAU program in Southern California was trying to get him for their team. Free ride this, free shoes. The kid stayed really loyal to me. I was very hard on him," Webster said. "I demanded a lot of him. I screamed at him, I yelled at him. And he looked me in the eye and took it. I realized, this kid is pretty special because he's not running away from what he is. He knows what his limitations are. That's not something he's afraid to address.

"Not everybody was sold on him. Joel [Francisco] was. Joel was one of the proponents of him. But being that he burst on the scene late, and that he didn't play for the big shoe companies, we kind of came to the decision that we wouldn't be so enamored by the Pac-12. He realized he had ability but he still had a long way to go." 

Hutchison eventually decided to sign his National Letter of Intent with Boise State before his senior season started as assistant coach Jeff Linder acted as his lead recruiter. Even though his collegiate future had been decided, Hutchison continued to evolve into a major prospect during senior year as he flourished at Mission Viejo.

Even with his strong senior season, skepticism remained about Hutchison since he hadn't played with and against many of the major names in Southern California. Ranked as the No. 83 overall prospect in ESPN's final Class of 2014 national recruiting rankings, Hutchison was viewed as the seventh best player in his own state. While Francisco pushed for Hutchison to be ranked in the top 50, he had to settle for him being a back-end top-100 talent.

"They're like, hey, he's going to Boise State, he's not on a major shoe company team. How good can he be? But if he can play, he can play. It doesn't matter if he's not on the adidas circuit, he's not in the EYBL," Francisco said.

Francisco wasn't the only major recruiting analyst to take notice of Hutchison's play. Rivals.com's Eric Bossi also labeled Hutchison as a potential breakout player at Boise State. Hutchison was even placed in the Rivals national recruiting rankings, ending up at No. 98 overall, after his senior season. Bossi was on vacation with his family during spring break and he happened to see Hutchison play during his senior season. But Hutchison's strong effort, along with some research, convinced Bossi that he was worthy of a top-100 ranking, even with only one serious viewing. 

"I decided to go watch some regional California high school playoff stuff. And it just so happened to be that Chandler's high school team was one of the teams I was seeing," Bossi said. "I knew he was on the team and committed to Boise State. But then when I watched him play I was like, 'Holy cow, what an incredible get for Boise State. Like, this dude's legit.' He had great size for a wing. He could handle the ball, he could really pass and I thought he could defend multiple positions at the next level when it was all said and done. I thought he was a versatile, well-skilled, well-rounded basketball player. So, based on that, I thought he was top-100. I wish I had seen him more."

Even as a former top-100 national prospect, it took some time for Hutchison to gain traction at Boise State as he didn't put up big numbers during his first two seasons. Although Hutchison played plenty of minutes and started a healthy amount of games, he often took a back seat to talented all-conference players like Anthony Drmic and James Webb III.

When those players eventually moved on from the Broncos, Hutchison was given his chance to shine, as his ascension into all-conference player and future first-round pick came with an intense work ethic that continually developed during workouts in college.

Hutchison also became a consistent three-point threat — something he had been lacking during his development — as he became a hot name in the 2018 NBA Draft despite his unorthodox basketball background.

"He's always been competitive. I think the big thing is reps. And it still will be as he continues to play in the league," Webster said. "He wasn't a bad shooter in high school, but I think the big adjustment for him getting to college, it's hard to put up good percentages in college. I think some of it is mental. But I think he's a good shooter and I think that he'll prove that." 

It's hard to predict if the Bulls will end up with Hutchison with the No. 22 overall pick on Thursday night — especially given all of the chaos that can occur on draft night. But if Hutchison does end up in Chicago, he won't be fazed by having to prove himself after already doing so at the high school and college level.

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