Bulls open up 2018 NBA Summer League on Saturday night in Vegas
Bulls play Cleveland Saturday, Lakers on Sunday night
So just what did the Bulls accomplish in their transition 2017-18 season with 27 wins and two first round draft choices? Can it be a fast break slam dunk to contention?
The first official, if informal, look is Saturday evening in Las Vegas with Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison making their NBA debuts in the NBA Summer League on the UNLV campus. The game against Cleveland will be televised 8:30 pm CT on ESPN2. The Bulls Sunday play the Lakers Summer League team (no LeBron) 10:30 pm CT, also on ESPN2.
"I'm excited to see our new players, both Wendell and Chandler, in that setting with NBA talent," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said with the conclusion of a minicamp at the Advocate Center earlier this week. "It's been fun in (camp) to see their skill sets. Now to see what they can do in five-on-five situations.
"I've been very impressed with both players," Hoiberg said. "Wendell for a 19 year old player has an unbelievable level of physicality. We have some bigs (on the Summer League roster) with NBA experience, Shawn Long and Jarnell Stokes, and he has not one time backed down to anybody. He has a nice skill set, good at the elbow, makes quick decisions and is very good defensively, especially with his length and verticality.
"As far as Chandler, he's really, really good up the floor," Hoiberg added about the 6-7 No. 22 overall selection. "He's a dynamic playmaker in transition, gets the defensive rebound and pushing the ball up the floor; he's been really good in the open floor. His shot has been solid. He's been a guy who's come in every morning two hours before practice, gotten a lot of shots up before we actually started. It's been fun to see."
The Bulls hope there will be more fun to see these next 10 days or until the team is eliminated in the tournament-style competition following the first three games. The Bulls play the Atlanta Hawks team 5 p.m. CT Tuesday on NBA-TV before seeding play begins.
Assistant Randy Brown will coach the team and be assisted by Nate Loenser, Charlie Henry, Paul Miller and Karen Umlauf.
For the Bulls, it's the opportunity to get that first look at whom they hope will be foundational players from this draft. Carter figures to start at center with Hutchison at small forward. Holdovers from two-way contracts Ryan Arcidiacono and Antonio Blakeney likely will start in the backcourt.
Loyola's 6-6 swingman Donte Ingram is with the team and figures to get a long look as a possible training camp invitee. Hoiberg said Ingram played well in the mini camp.
"He was knocking down shots, he competes, plays hard, a smart kid who can drive by his man," said Hoiberg of the local favorite who knocked down that biggest of game winners to open the NCAA tournament against Miami.
"Then there are some guys like Antonio, who showed some flashes last year," Hoiberg noted. "It's a really good opportunity for him to show how he's grown from last year. When he got hurt, it was unfortunate because he was just starting to get a rhythm when he went down."
Blakeney, undrafted out of LSU, was the surprise last Summer League and earned the new two-way contract. After starting the season with the Bulls, he went to G-league Windy City and led the league in scoring. He had scored in double figures in four of the previous five games in March back with the Bulls when he suffered a left wrist fracture.
"For Arcidiacono, it will be a good opportunity for him to go out and play heavy minutes in this setting," Hoiberg added. "For those four guys, especially, go out and compete at a high level and get better as the week goes on."
The qualifier, as always, is that "it's just Summer League."
And just the beginning. But it's a big beginning for Carter and Hutchison to show what they can do and if they are ready to run with their new teammates.
The 6-10 Carter as the No. 7 selection is the Bulls prize from this draft. The Bulls are counting on him for that presence and the scoring abilities he said were masked in college. But even Summer League is much different than college. Carter's more publicized teammate, Marvin Bagley, struggled in the Sacramento Summer League that began earlier this week. He often had his shot blocked and shot poorly at nine of 25. In a tandem Utah summer league, also with four teams, Trae Young, also selected ahead of Carter, shot poorly and had several air balls and numerous turnovers.
They're professionals now, but Carter only recently turned 19 years old. He isn't much removed from not even being able to play a slot machine at the airport. The Bulls understand he may not have a full house of success to begin.
"The first thing we all understand is neither one played five-on-five games," Hoiberg pointed out. "There's some rust; we saw a little of that in practice. But it's fun to think about these guys and, especially in Wendell's case, being 19 years old and now he is getting a lot of the little things, setting screens, rolling, defending at a high level, things he talked about (in his interviews before the draft). To go out there and think these guys are going to score 40 a game is unrealistic. They'll struggle a little bit because they have not played a lot of five-on-five basketball."
Hutchison is 22 years old and a four-year college player, though that still doesn't quite make you an NBA player. The Bulls probably want to see him do more than Carter because of his wing position. Hutchison has been regarded as someone who can make plays in the open court with the ball, but who needs to improve his shooting. The Bulls want to see him start to make those plays and shots against professionals.
"Looking at a guy like Chandler, when all is said and done, he's a guy who will play both forward positions," said Hoiberg. "We think he's a guy who you can put the ball in his hands and he'll bring the ball down the floor. He rebounds. We want to open up the floor for Chandler to get downhill. As the league continues to downsize, I think you can use him in both forward spots. And with Wendell, he's another guy that his skill set grew as the season went on. He's an impressive kid and a modern day big because at the end of the day, he's a guy who can step outside and stretch the defense. He's a good screener and roll man to get to the rim, and defensively, I think, you can do a lot of things with him. It will be fun to see them as the week goes on."
And, hopefully, during the 2018-19 NBA season as well. The trailer is Saturday.
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