Summer League offered a preview of White and Gafford's play. Sam Smith reviews theirs and others' performance in Las Vegas.
See you in September. Or maybe early October.
With the conclusion of Summer League Saturday for the Bulls with a loss to the Orlando Magic and a 2-3 record, the next official gathering of Bulls players will be at the start of training camp for the 2019-20 season. The NBA season will begin a week later this year, Oct. 22, due in part to an NBA team in the FIBA World Cup in early September. So training camps will begin opening the last week of September and into the first week of October.
It will be a new look Bulls roster with veteran free agent forward Thaddeus Young and veteran guard Tomas Satoransky joining rookies Coby White and Daniel Gafford.
Starters seem assured at all but the point guard position with Zach LaVine expected at shooting guard, Otto Porter Jr. at small forward, Lauri Markkanen at power forward and Wendell Carter Jr. at center, the latter still targeted for the opening of training camp after recent surgery.
It's training wheels for the rookie draft choices, White and Gafford, who showed promise at times, though also demonstrating with expected inconsistency that patience will be required. Still, both were among the rare draft picks to play all five games, an encouraging indicator of their willingness and desire to compete, a sadly vanishing quality in the NBA these days, while so many lottery picks declined to play and risk injury or embarrassment.
Here's a look at the Bulls Summer League campers:
Coby White. 15 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists.
White led the Bulls in scoring and showed flashes of both offensive talent, aggression and leadership, though at 19 years old with one year of college he also showed he's not quite ready yet to step into a major NBA lead guard role. There are plenty of justifiable disclaimers of it being "only" Summer League, and "only" 19 and "only" after one year of college before which he wasn't even expected to be a one and done player. White shot poorly, three of 30 on threes and 34 percent overall, which he considered more an aberration. He is confident, which is good. He needs work on his shot as it comes off low and will get blocked in the NBA at that level because it's difficult to get as much space as he had in college. He also averaged nearly as many turnovers as assists in another welcome to pro ball. Yes, these guys are quicker and longer. He was a more willing and interested passer than advertised, though probably too much so since that had been listed as a weakness.
It was a positive that he was so anxious to respond to critics. One college comparison for White at North Carolina was former All-Star Gilbert Arenas. White is exceptionally fast in transition, though he doesn't seem to be an explosive finisher. His play also was somewhat reminiscent of volume-type big guard scorers like Rodney Stuckey and Tyreke Evans, whose toughness like White also enabled them to rebound well. White averaged a team most 16.6 field goal attempts per game. White is tall like those guards with a bold playing attitude toward scoring, which suggests that will eventually be his primary role.
Daniel Gafford. 13.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 0.6 assists.
No, he's not passing to you, not unlike fellow former Arkansas first rounder Bobby Porter. But for those Bulls who played the entire week in Las Vegas, Gafford was probably the most impressive overall and a surprise for a second round selection. One requirement to be successful in the NBA is to have at least one NBA skill that can translate. Gafford has that, not unlike Joakim Noah. It's the so called motor, the willingness to relentlessly run the court and finish. Though most observers usually identify skills like shooting, passing and ball handling, an active motor has enabled players to succeed beyond expectations. Gafford actually seems closer for now than White to being a regular contributor because of the way he runs the court and can finish. He's not nearly as potentially skilled at White, and Gafford doesn't shoot much, which will be some hindrance. But he sets strong screens and rolls with an intent to finish. He led the team shooting almost 70 percent primarily on dunks and layups and led the team in double/doubles with a 21/10 and 20/10. He was one of the surprise players in Las Vegas.
Chandler Hutchison. 13.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists.
The second year forward sat out one game as a precaution in his first action since missing the last 33 games of the 2018-19 season with a toe injury. Which was the biggest positive for Hutchison in averaging almost 30 minutes for four games. Hutchison shot poorly, just 29 percent overall and two of 10 on threes. Hutchison moved exceptionally well and in the open court continues to have a remarkable resemblance to a graceful and lithe Scottie Pippen. But the agile 6-7 forward still tends to pull up short and not finish with the same confidence at the rim. Though it was a few years before Pippen developed that confidence and ability to finish on the run. Michael Jordan often worked with Pippen, showing him how to take the contact and finish, which Pippen despite four years in college, like Hutchison, was unable to do his first few seasons in the NBA.
Adam Mokoka. 9.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists.
The 20-year-old French shooting guard arrives after playing four years playing in Europe. He'll be a so called two-way player for the Bulls and Windy City of the G-league. He was generally the summer team's most reliable three-point shooter, though just 33 percent and 44 percent overall. He doesn't shoot as much off the dribble, but he was good when squared up on the catch. Plus, he is an active defender with good size.
Shaquille Harrison. 14 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.0 steals in one game.
The Bulls had to release Harrison after the first game for salary cap reasons with the signings and trades from the free agency period. Though Harrison was the catalyst in the best game the Bulls played in Summer League, the 20-point opening game win over the Lakers. Harrison with pestering defense and four first quarter steals initiated a transition game that gave the Bulls 28 fast break points and 14 steals. It's unclear if the Bulls will have a roster spot for Harrison this season.
Justin Simon. 6.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 0.8 assists.
There's usually a surprise player on the Summer League roster, and this time it was the St. Johns shooting guard. He shot 52 percent, though more so from his defense with steals and fast breaks. He demonstrated an ability to help a team as likely a G-league prospect for now.
Mychal Mulder. 8.8 points 3.4 rebounds and 0.6 assists.
The Windy City Bulls G-league guard was a prolific three-point shooter at eight for 24 overall and making a trio of three pointers in two of the five games.
Walt Lemon Jr. 4.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists.
The Chicago product was released for contract reasons along with Harrison, though he returned to finish the week for the Bulls. He penetrated well, which is his speciality, but did not shoot well at 33 percent.