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Monday, July 23, 2012

Chicago Bulls Fan Beat: Butler Shines at SL Games, Thomas Turns Heads

The Chicago Bulls didn't notch many wins at the NBA Summer League games, but winning wasn't really the goal. What they did get was a first-hand opportunity to see Jimmy Butler and rookieMarquis Teague in action, and a head-turning performance from a previously unheralded prospect.
Here's a rundown on three of the Bulls' summer league players - two already on the big league roster, and one who should be - and how they performed this past week.
Jimmy Butler: The Bulls' summer league offense was designed to run through Butler, and he responded with some very impressive numbers. In four games (he sat out the finale with an undisclosed injury), he averaged 20.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. He was aggressive taking the ball to the rack and consistently drew contact in the process; he shot 39, that's no typo, 39 free throws, connecting on 90 percent. He also showed a smooth stroke and some range by hitting 4 of 8 three pointers. In short, Butler passed his summer league audition with flying colors, showing that he's hungry and ready for a bigger role. I'm excited, as I think he'll blossom with regular practice and PT.
Marquis Teague: Prior to the summer league, I wrote that the Bulls shouldn't count on Teague for big minutes this season (I'm in good company, as Hall of Famer Sam Smith agrees). Unfortunately, a negative assist-to-turnover ratio (3.0/3.8), 29 percent shooting from the floor and some really ugly +/- numbers did little to change my opinion. Despite his blazing speed and quickness, Teague just isn't ready for the all-around speed of the NBA game. He doesn't make big-league decisions, and he doesn't have the shot to keep defenses honest. Sorry, Bulls fans, but the 19-year-old rookie is going to require some time and patience, and he's a year or so away from being able to consistently make meaningful contributions.
Malcolm Thomas: If it were my call, I'd get this kid under contract today and kick myself for not doing it yesterday. Thomas was sensational in Vegas, averaging 11.4 points on 54 percent from the field to go along with a SL-leading 12.4 rebounds a game. He can block shots, run the floor and is good on the offensive boards (a third of his rebounds in Vegas were on offense). He also showed a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Thomas is sure to draw a fair amount of interest; I hope the Bulls take a shot, as I'd rather see them gamble on a young player with upside potential rather than a washed-up veteran has-been or never-was.
Other players: I figured Leon Powe was a lock to make the roster, but he looked awkward and out of shape at times, and given the recent signing of Nazr Mohammed, I don't see it happening. I had high hopes for Henry Sims, the undrafted 7-footer out of Georgetown, but he's passive and lacks the bulk and strength to play his position. Despite those shortcomings, I'd expect both Powe and Sims to at least make a training camp roster somewhere. Other players, like former Illini star Demetri McCamey, have no shot at making a big league roster but could still get invites to be training camp bodies.

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