A final look at the 2023 Summer Bulls

Farewell, so long and farewell;
Even when it looked like the Bulls were starting to gel.
So see you in September;
See you then, the NBA Summer League is over.
The Bulls had a good time at 3-2;
Even if they didn’t remind anyone of Showtime.
So see you in September;
When they are also ready to reduce the heat to a simmer.

— Original lyrics 1959 Sid Wayne and Sherman Edwards; Update Sam Smith 2023

The 2023 Bulls Summer League concluded Saturday afternoon in Las Vegas with a 90-85 Bulls victory over the Washington Wizards summer school students.

Javon Freeman-Liberty again led the way for the Bulls, this time with 24 points and a three-pointer with 1:06 left in the game for an 80-76 Bulls lead. He added a pair of free throws and a layup for an Adama Sanogo slam dunk against the desperation of Wizards pressure in the final seconds.

Dalen Terry had his best game of the five with 20 points and four of five threes including a rebound and a smart long pass to a lane-running Sanogo for dusters after the three by Freeman-Liberty. That gave the Bulls the breathing room they needed to finish with a 3-2 record.

The Summer League concludes on Monday with a title match. The Bulls were previously disqualified with another loss.

Sanogo had 15 points and nine rebounds in 19 minutes. Rookie Julian Phillips started and had five points and two rebounds in 22 minutes. Brazilian point guard Yago Dos Santos off the bench had 13 points and three of four threes.

And so the next time we see the Bulls will be the opening of NBA training camps on September 27.

Here’s a look at who could be, should or could be around based on the Summer League experience and my take on the mix of accomplishments and the Bulls’ varsity needs.

He had his worst game of the tournament Saturday with four points in 18 minutes and went 0-for-4 on 3-pointers. That lowered his three-point average for the five games to 32.4% after mostly hovering near 40% earlier. He was 39% in the G League this season. The Bulls guards rarely looked to look for him or make any moves for him. But he fills the Bulls’ biggest need for a classic catch-and-shoot long-range shooter in the mold of players like Cavs free agent Max Strus, Miami’s Duncan Robinson and Memphis’ Luke Kennard.

The Bulls, according to basketball executive Artūras Karnišovas, speaking on a summer league broadcast, added free agent shooting in guard Jevon Carter and forward Torrey Craig. Neither are high-volume stand-still shooters, although they shoot well from three and are top defenders. The 6-foot-6 Darling from Canada fits the offensive profile the Bulls lack with size, a clean shooting stroke with a quick release and an ability to score off the dribble. He finished the Summer League averaging 11.2 points despite the offense operating mostly through Dalen Terry and Freeman-Liberty.

This summer league for the Bulls was primarily aimed at the development of Terry and to aid in the assessment of where the 2022 first-round draft pick fits on the roster; and if in the regular player rotation. With his highlight game Saturday, Terry finished the Summer League second to Freeman-Liberty in scoring at 12.6 with both averaging just under 30 minutes per game. match. After shooting under 30% in the first four games, the last game pushed Terry to 33.8% overall and 34.8% on threes. He averaged five rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.8 steals.

Terry was a mixed bag with the ball as he struggled to finish, but he delivered well off the dribble in the lane. His defense was the best among the players by playing the lanes and disrupting the ball handlers. He shot reasonably well if left alone to face up, but struggled when challenged by rushing his shots. However, he argued for the rotation, at least as it stands for the Bulls now. Although there are still places available.

Point guard: Coby White and Jevon Carter
Shooting guard: Zach LaVine and Alex Caruso
Small forward: DeMar DeRozan
Power forwards: Patrick Williams, Craig and Julian Phillips
Center: Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond

That doesn’t account for Ayo Dosunmu and Javonte Green. The Bulls have some salary cap exceptions and there are still free agents who could fit given the team’s lack of height like Christian Wood, Kelly Oubre, TJ Warren, Markieff Morris and Frank Kaminsky. Or a player with a year left on injury waivers like Kelly Olynyk, though his salary might just be a little too much to fit.

It seems like there could be an opening as a backup small forward that could fit Terry. He could be a defensive presence to follow DeRozan, someone who could help change the pace and tempo of the game and combine with Caruso and the newcomers for the kind of defensive pressure that Bulls coach Billy Donovan prefers because the Bulls are often left behind to make so many difficult shots for scores.

He was by far the best player on the Bulls Summer League team. No one was even close. He averaged 21.2 points in 27.9 minutes and made the most clutch shots. He shot 49.3% overall and a brilliant 46.2% from three-point territory. He was in the top 10 among all Summer League players in scoring and shooting for those who attempted at least five threes in the game. His analytical rating was top five. The DePaul and Windy City product carried the team with poise and confidence, but likely faces the dreaded numbers game with the Bulls.

Remember, they also have G League MVP Carlik Jones coming to training camp. Jones was injured and could not play in the Summer League. Freeman-Liberty endorsed Jones for the Windy City. Plus, the Bulls just added Carter and resigned White and have Caruso and still undecided on Dosunmu. Perhaps Jones and Freeman-Liberty are competing for a roster spot in training camp. Perhaps Freeman-Liberty has opened some eyes in the basketball world as he is tough, can make a shot and drive a team, which is the kind of player the Bulls seemed to lack most last season with Lonzo Ball out. Perhaps Freeman-Liberty, a popular player from Whitney Young High School, makes it difficult for the Bulls; a good problem to have.

The rookie second-round pick sat out the first game to settle contract issues and then averaged 8.8 points in 23.8 minutes. He shot 44% on threes, but averaged just three rebounds, zero assists and less than one block.

He seems like an excellent candidate for the Windy City Bulls to develop what appears to be an appealing game. He showed the expected burst onto the offensive boards with his heralded excellent leaping ability and a surprisingly nice shooting stroke despite questions about his three-point shooting in college. He didn’t rebound well on the defensive end, which is a concern for the Bulls given their lack of size up front. Williams had hoped to move to small forward this season with a taller player moving in at power forward. That doesn’t seem to be the plan right now, though some roster decisions still need to be made. It seems like playing against NBA-level competition in the G League would benefit the inexperienced Phillips, as he doesn’t appear ready for a rotation spot with a veteran team facing playoff urgency.

The big man showed promise after a rough start with a smart inside game, good feet and hands and active on the offensive boards. He averaged 10.2 points and 8.4 rebounds in 18.4 minutes. He shot 65.7% after making all seven of his attempts Saturday, mostly on follow-ups and runouts. He did not make a three-pointer in the five games. His problem is his size at maybe 6-foot-9, though not a high flyer. He gets position well and is strong. Which may have some success in the Summer League. It’s harder against interior NBA players, either taller or more athletic. He appears to be a smart, hard-working player who should see some development with the Windy City.

Dos Santos has a nice end to Summer League in Saturday’s win with some long threes and highlights point guard play. But for the Bulls, he’s too small in what has become a crowded position. He shot 44% on threes in the five games. Windy City’s Henri Drell and center Jontay Porter showed flashes, but too much inconsistency. The mystery man was tough luck Justin Lewis, who showed some nice power play inside after his ACL tear from last summer. Then he sprained his ankle early in the second game and sat out the rest of summer league. If he gets another chance with the Bulls, it will most likely start again with the Windy City.

It was a good time, but it’s not quite downtime.
So at least for now, it’s just goodbye, so long and goodbye.
Until the regular season bell.

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The content of this page has not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the views of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls, and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that come with being an NBA-accredited member of the media.

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