Patrick Williams has been the Bulls best player in Summer League, which continues for the Bulls 9 p.m. Sunday (CT) against the Memphis Grizzlies. Though likely without Williams, who figures to shut down after averaging 21 points and 9.7 rebounds in a dominating and starring role for the team.
Marko Simonovic, the 6-11 2020 second-round draft pick from Montenegro who is expected to join the Bulls this season, was highly efficient at center, averaging 12 points in just 18 minutes per game. Ethan Thompson, a 6-5 combination guard from Oregon State, led the team in three-point shooting at close to 40 percent even with a poor one of seven in the Game 3 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves to drop the Summer Bulls to 1-2. Their final games are 9 p.m. Sunday and Monday.
Though the most important Bulls player, at least for Summer League results, probably has been fleet point guard Devon Dotson. Which is the incongruity of the Chicago native's presence. Despite his value, he's probably a long shot to make the regular season roster with the addition of so many guards in Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and DeMar DeRozan. Yet, when he left Thursday's Game 3 with a sprained ankle, the Bulls played by far the poorest they did in the Summer League games, lost without his playmaking and defense on the ball.
The 6-2, 185 point point guard is a game time decision for Sunday night's game. And the Bulls may be in more trouble without Dotson than if Williams doesn't play.
Point guard Devon Dotson has been the Bulls' primary facilitator in Summer League play.
The Summer Bulls were basically being competitive for the first two and a half games, still within four points with six minutes left in the Game 1 loss before New Orleans closed strong. Dotson led the Bulls in scoring that game with 16 points along with seven rebounds and four assists. The Bulls won Game 2, and though Dotson had just two points, he led the team with five assists. And he set up Williams for the game winning dunk on a clever drive and dish off play for the winning points.
Dotson played just 11 minutes in Game 3 and the Summer Bulls were leading at halftime 32-30. After he went out and Williams had to take much of the ball handling responsibilities, the Bulls were outscored 48-27 in the second half. Without Dotson's playmaking to set up shooters, the Summer Bulls shot 21 percent in the second half and three of 19 on threes.
"We just didn't have as much cohesion," said summer coach Damian Cotter. "Guys lost confidence and started forcing shots."
Williams had six turnovers and replacement Jaylen Adams added three. The offense came to a stop, though they were running back trying to chase down turnovers often.
That's also been Dotson's hard luck story. He does so much impressively, but there's always something, Covid short circuiting his second collegiate season and then being undrafted and now with the sprained ankle while leading the summer team.
"Keep improving no matter the circumstance," Dotson said. "An opportunity is going to come. So keep improving any way I can, be a great teammate. Play lockdown, push the pace, be a leader on the court, be vocal. My niche is picking up and defending.
"I'll assess the situation and see how much opportunity is there with the team," said Dotson. "Just going day by day."
By all accounts, the coaching staff are Dotson fans for his intense work ethic. He's probably the fastest player on the roster, though shooting has been the issue that probably left him out of the draft. He's only about 25 percent on threes in Las Vegas after about 33 percent in college.
He looks like an NBA player; he just hasn't gotten his chance yet. It happens sometimes when you have to fight all those guaranteed contracts.
"One day being a starting point guard in this league," Dotson said when asked about his aspirations. "I'm working every day toward it. Sometimes you have luck or not. I look at it as motivation. It was the Covid year, so I didn't get the best college season and slipped in the draft. So that's motivation. I can't knock the guys who went in front; just got to outwork them. That's how I look at it."
Dotson signed a two-way contract with his hometown team, though the family moved when he was 11 and he played his high school ball in North Carolina before two years at Kansas. He was one of the finalists for the Cousy award that was won by Summer League backcourt mate Ayo Dosunmu.
There was no Summer League last year with the virus and the Bulls didn't field a G-league team. So Dotson was loaned out to the Cavs G-league team to play in that bubble. He started for Canton and averaged 13 points and 5.5 assists with almost a four-to-one assists to turnover ratio. The kid who grew up idolizing Derrick Rose and wearing his No. 1 played briefly in 11 late season games with the Bulls. So he did get to that United Center floor. But he's ready for more.
Dotson by far has been the best and only reliable ballhandler for the Summer League Bulls. While just about every player on the roster averaged either more turnovers than assists or about the same, Dotson's ratio of assists to turnovers was 10 to one.
But there's a guard glut on the roster, he's small, doesn't shoot reliably. It's difficult when you aren't drafted and pretty much every game is an audition.
Dotson said he's talked with undrafted players like Toronto's Fred VanVleet about their journey. Dotson says he'll continue his.
"Leading, being vocal, using my voice a lot more, getting guys in the right spots and just controlling the team," Dotson said about his play. "Not scoring as much, but controlling the tempo and pushing the pace. Be a great teammate, push the pace, be a great pickup defender and control my speed, get in the lane at will, attack and make plays. I think my speed is a big to help the team. My shot feels comfortable and feels good.
"VanVleet went undrafted and I've talked to him a couple times about his ride," said Dotson. "It can seem like there is no light, but as long as you keep working things will work out. I'm not putting my head down. I'm a competitor. I don't look at the negatives. I look at the positives, the up side of everything. Just trying to stay at it. I'll talk to my agent and take it day by day."
With a kid like that you root for a good day.