When it comes to the NBA summer league, winning is important just because it’s a competitive event, but it’s not the primary objective.
For the Bulls, like other teams playing in Las Vegas beginning next week — there’s another, ongoing league happening in Orlando, too — July is more about developing players under contract and evaluating free agents, of both the undrafted and veteran variety.
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The Bulls’ roster, which was announced by the team Tuesday, features some blast-from-the-past college stars, players with either local or familial connections and fairly anonymous players who have been plying their trade in professional basketball’s overseas and minor leagues.
With 12 players already set to participate in October’s training camp — including free-agent acquisition Mike Dunleavy Jr., re-signed backup center Nazr Mohammed and draft picks Tony Snell and Erik Murphy, both of whom signed rookie deals Wednesday — it’s likely that the Bulls add only one more player.
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That said, while another player could certainly put himself in the mix, there are five players on the summer-league roster for who Sin City will be about much more than a vacation.
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Andrew Goudelock: The sharpshooting combo guard had his moments with his previous team, the Lakers, and with outside marksmanship an area the Bulls have made a point to address this summer, a stellar performance in Vegas could give him a chance. It’s more likely that the Bulls will sign a veteran big man to reach the league minimum of 13 players, but the College of Charleston product can’t be completely ruled out. Regardless of whether he ends up in Chicago, there’s a good chance Goudelock plays in the NBA next season and uses the summer league as an audition for all 30 of the league’s teams.
Erik Murphy: Drafted for his long-range shooting, the stretch power forward is expected to be able to knock down shots in Vegas, but if he can display solid effort as a defender and rebounder, two areas not regarded as his strengths, it will only help the team’s impression of him. Although second-round picks are not automatically guaranteed to make the team, Murphy is likely to be on the regular-season roster because his contract will help the Bulls financially. That doesn’t mean that the Florida standout should feel too comfortable, not with Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau’s “next man up” mantra.
Tony Snell: The Bulls’ first-round pick is a relative sleeper, due to not playing in a power conference during his college career, but within the organization, there are high expectations. Snell made a name for himself at New Mexico with his jumper and defense, but he’s also projected as playmaking wing with the ability to make plays for others and function as a secondary ballhandler. More important than whatever numbers he puts up at summer league is his intensity, as the physical tools are there, but even in a deep wing rotation, the lanky swingman must show he’s ready to compete and be called upon in case of injury as a rookie.
Marquis Teague: Teague’s progress is perhaps the most anticipated thing to watch in Las Vegas for the Bulls, as the 20-year-old point guard struggled last summer and while he displayed flashes of potential during his debut NBA campaign, his decision-making ability and outside jumper will be closely monitored. After a year in Chicago to observe Kirk Hinrich’s quiet, blue-collar style and Nate Robinson’s explosive scoring, it’s likely that the Indianapolis native has picked up some tricks, so blending those aspects with his blazing quickness and underrated poise should be fun to watch. However, the biggest thing for Teague will be showing that he can reliably knock down open perimeter jumpers, which will determine his professional future.
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Malcolm Thomas: A summer-league standout for the Bulls a year ago, after a stint overseas, in the D-League and with the Golden State Warriors, he made his way back to Chicago toward the end of last season and stayed through the playoffs. There’s not much more the active and athletic power forward can do statistically to top the double-double clinic he put on last July, but with his diligent offseason work at the Berto Center, a slightly bulked-up physique and more offensive polish would do wonders for his chances of earning a guaranteed NBA contract for next season, even if it’s not in Chicago. But although the Bulls now have three power forwards on the roster with the addition of Murphy, with one more roster spot to fill and another big man being the most logical signing, the team’s familiarity with Thomas doesn’t hurt his case.