Antonio Blakeney

Odd men out?: Did the Bulls make the right decision in committing to Blakeney?

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USA TODAY

Odd men out?: Did the Bulls make the right decision in committing to Blakeney?

Just under a week ago, the Bulls waived Sean Kilpatrick after just nine games with the organization. Hours later on the same day, the team rescinded their qualifying offer to David Nwaba, a key piece to last season’s squad, making him an unrestricted free agent.

These moves begged one main question: what was the team going to do next?

The next step for the Bulls would come two days later when the team signed Jabari Parker to a two-year, $40 million deal with a team option in the second year of the deal.  

But how was Chicago going to fill the backup shooting guard void caused by Nwaba and Kilpatrick’s absence?

Today, the Bulls answered that question by signing Summer League star Antonio Blakeney, who spent most of his time in the G-League with the Windy City Bulls last season, to a two-year deal.

After the move, it’s easy to ponder another question: did the Bulls make the right decision by choosing Blakeney over Kilpatrick and Nwaba (if he does not re-sign)?

The team surely took Blakeney’s Summer League performance into account when deciding who to keep in Chicago. The 21-year-old guard was hot in Las Vegas this month, averaging 21 points, 2.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds in five July games.

Last season in the G-League, Blakeney was an All-Star and the Rookie of the Year after averaging 32 points (most in the league), 3.9 assists and 6.7 rebounds over 32 games. He did it all in 38.3 minutes per game.

Because he had a two-way contract with the Bulls last season, Blakeney also appeared in the NBA in 19 games, when he averaged 7.9 points, 1.1 assists and 1.7 rebounds. Nwaba averaged the same amount of points over 70 games with 1.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds, exactly three more boards per game than Blakeney.

But Nwaba averaged 23.5 minutes a game to Blakeney’s 16.5. At the same time, Nwaba’s field goal percentage (47.8 percent) last season was significantly higher than Blakeney’s (37.1 percent) in the NBA.  In defense of Blakeney’s poor shooting with the Bulls, his game is solely reliant on scoring compared to Nwaba’s defense-first mindset.

To paint a picture of just how different these two players are from each other, it is useful to look at their field goal attempts per 36 minutes. Nwaba’s FGA per 36 minutes was 9.3 last season, while Blakeney’s was a whopping 16.4. Their three-point field goal percentages are very different as well with Nwaba (34.6 percent) having the advantage compared to Blakeney (28.8 percent), who is certainly a streaky shooter.

Kilpatrick provided a smaller sample size with the Bulls, playing only nine games with Chicago after being signed in March.

The 28-year-old Kilpatrick averaged 15.4 points, 1.4 assists and 2.8 rebounds with the Bulls while averaging 23.8 minutes towards the final stretch of the season with the team. His play, combined with the organization hoping to strike gold with a high draft pick earned him the nickname “Sean Kildraftpick. from some Bulls fans.

He almost couldn’t miss during the months of March and April. During his time with the Bulls, he obtained a shooting percentage of 43.9 percent and shot 39.6 percent from beyond the three-point arc. His field goal attempts per 36 minutes amounted to 18.

Kilpatrick played with four total teams last season, and he’s only played in four NBA seasons. According to Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors, the Bulls paid the shooting guard $2.16 million for his short stint with the team. Nwaba was paid $1.3 million for the entire season. In other words, Kilpatrick wasn’t cheap.

So after comparing their statistics, who deserves to play with the Bulls?

All three players made solid contributions with the organization, and the team would be getting a solid role player with any of these guards.

It depends on what type of style the Bulls are looking for, and in this case, it looks like the team is impressed with Blakeney’s scoring abilities, adding to an already offensive-oriented group.

Report: Bulls will sign Summer League standout Antonio Blakeney to two-year deal

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USA TODAY

Report: Bulls will sign Summer League standout Antonio Blakeney to two-year deal

Antonio Blakeney's past 12 months have landed him a permanent spot on the Bulls, according to Yahoo Sports' Shams Charania.

The signing comes as little surprise for a number of reasons, beginning with Blakeney's play.

He was named the G-League Rookie of the Year after averaging 32.0 points per game for the Windy City Bulls last season. He then fared well alonside Wendell Carter Jr. in the Las Vegas Summer League, averaging 21.0 points on 40 percent shooting, 4.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists in five games.

Blakeney, playing on a two-way contract, had a cup of coffee with the Bulls in 2017, averaging 7.9 points on 37 percent shooting in 19 games. He scored a career-high 16 points on two different occasions.

He'll likely take the spot left vacant by wing David Nwaba, a player whose qualifying offer from the Bulls was rescinded in order to free up more cap space to sign Jabari Parker.

Blakeney will battle with Denzel Valentine, Justin Holiday and Chandler Hutchison for minutes on the second unit.

Just as we all predicted, two rookies stole the show in L.A.

Just as we all predicted, two rookies stole the show in L.A.

There's not often hype surrounding a game between two of the NBA's worst teams, but Tuesday's Bulls-Lakers matchup was intriguing to many because it offered a chance to see a pair of top rookies compete. 

Oh, but you didn't think we meant Lonzo Ball and Lauri Markkanen, did you?

Nah, it was two different, less-touted first-year players that ended up stealing the spotlight at the Staples Center. 

Kyle Kuzma and Antonio Blakeney may not be household names, but they sure played like they were in the Bulls' 103-94 loss. 

Kuzma, the Lakers rook drafted 27th overall, has been a spark for Luke Walton's squad all season long. Boasting a terrific scoring arsenal, the Utah product carried the load for the Lakers' offense in the first half, dropping 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting. He finished the game as L.A.'s leading scorer with 22 in 40 minutes. But if you still need a more in-depth scouting report on Kuzma, just let Lonzo break it down:  

More importantly for Bulls fans, though, was the play of their undrafted guard who's signed to a two-way deal. 

Blakeney, the unofficial Summer League MVP, came off the bench on Tuesday and immediately left his mark on the game. The 21-year-old out of LSU posted 15 in the first half, finishing through contact as well as connecting on outside jumpers. 

Blakeney's shooting isn't reliable quite yet, but his energy has clearly influenced Hoiberg's rotation. The guard went from playing one NBA minute in the Bulls' first 11 games to playing 75 in the last four. Given that his two-way deal allows him to only spend 45 days with the team, it'll be fascinating to see how creative Gar Forman and John Paxson will get with his contract if this type of production continues. 

In a season that's obviously going to have its share of rough moments, an offseason flyer hitting is a huge plus for the rebuild. 

As for the recognized rookies, Lonzo's shooting woes persisted and Markkanen had maybe his worst offensive performance of his young Bulls career. Combined, they finished 7-for-30 with 21 points. Not ideal.