The NBA’s annual Las Vegas Summer League kicked off today for the Chicago Bulls as they faced off with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Bulls started out the game with strong Thibodeau-esque defense against the Clippers and uncharacteristic offense firepower. But from there any semblance of defense dissolved and both teams began scoring at will. The Bulls eventually won the game by a score of 86-70.
We could bore you with a more detailed recap of the game, but we won’t. The importance of LVSL is to get the draftees practice and evaluate any potential talent to see if they’re worthy of getting a roster spot on the 2014-2015 Bulls roster. This year’s team notably features sophomore Tony Snell and rookies Doug McDermott and Cameron Bairstow, all of whom stood out amongst the roster in tonight’s game.
Snell was by far the most impressive player on the court for either team. From the outset Snell demonstrated an aggressiveness we have yet to see from him. He was shouting instructions on both sides of the floor, calling for the ball and clapping whenever he got a good opportunity, and was aggressive taking the ball to the basket. His aggression was rewarded quite handsomely. Using his improved physique (he’s added 10 pounds of muscle mass thus far this offseason), Snell pushed around anyone who got in his way while using finesse and an improved dribble to crossover opponents and beat people with his first step. His three point shooting was also on point today as he hit 5 of 7 attempts, both misses occurred in the opening minutes of the game. Snell finished with 27 points on 10 of 14 shooting. Overall it was an excellent performance.
When the Bulls drafted Bairstow, my initial reaction was, “Who?” While I had seen him play a little bit I was far from familiar with his game. Though it’s only summer league and any production should be taken with a grain of salt, I can now see what the Bulls see in Bairstow. While he wasn’t an offensive savant he did have some nice post moves that he went to to get a shot off. Additionally, he worked well off of the ball making several nice cuts and rolled into the paint beautifully. Defensively is where he really impressed. Bairstow barely bit on any pump fakes and played incredibly physical and made his opponent fight for his shot. He could learn to show some restraint but as a raw product it’s a solid start. It’s easy to see why the Bulls could see Bairstow as an Omer Asik type player who is better on offense.
Aka- McBuckets. McDermott is perhaps the player Bulls fans are most interested in. First it should be noted that McDermott is much smaller looking in person than I would have imagined. Looking at images of him at Creighton University, it seems the camera either added 10 pounds or he’s dropped some weight. Our guess is it’s the latter. McDermott’s body as constructed seems more suited to play at small forward rather than at power forward and indeed that’s where he spent most of the night for Chicago.
Offensively McDermott was great. Though he only scored 10 points on 2 of 8 shooting, McDermott’s abilities shown through. His shot form was excellent (he should have had a few more buckets but they rattled out of the rim), his passing was crisp and clean, coming off of screens he was quick and decisive thus allowing him to get open, and his movement off the ball was strong. Defensively was another matter. Though McDermott put in effort, he was, to put it kindly, vulnerable on defense. At various points he showed poor defensive awareness (on one fast break he followed the ball handler who was fanning out to the 3 point line thus opening up an easy layup for another player) while at other times he would get lost, get beaten on the first step, and/or get caught in screens. Thibodeau is a genius on defense, and obviously Thibodeau is not coaching this summer league team, so it’ll be interesting to see how Chicago makes it work and if McDermott can show improvement over the next 4 games.