Ready or not, here they come. With perhaps also an opportunity over the next week or so for these new Bulls kids to come out of hiding and seek out who may be it. It’s time for their games to begin.
Come out, come out, whoever you are.
The defending champion Bulls Saturday begin the 2017 Las Vegas Summer League 3:30 p.m. (Central) Saturday against the Dallas Mavericks.
It’s the first look at the remodeled Bulls featuring two players from the Jimmy Butler trade, point guard Kris Dunn and No. 1 draft pick Lauri Markkanen. Zach LaVine remains in rehabilitation after knee surgery. Second year draft choices Denzel Valentine and Paul Zipser also will be playing in Las Vegas along with Cameron Payne, acquired in the Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott trade, and several free agents hoping to earn an invitation to Bulls training camp.
“I’m excited to see our guys in game situations out there, obviously, the guys who are going to be on the roster,” said Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, who will be overseeing with assistant Randy Brown coaching the Summer League roster. “To see what they can bring once we start training camp and into the season. We have five guys who will play out there with Cam Payne, Denzel, Paul Zipser, Lauri and Kris Dunn, five guys who have a chance to be in our rotation next season out there playing.
“So the biggest thing is going to be going out there and playing hard,” said Hoiberg. “We’ve changed some things up we’re going to do offensively to generate some movement. Hopefully our guys grasp that and go out there and play with effort.”
Dunn figures to start at point guard with Valentine at shooting guard and Zipser at small forward. Markkanen probably will start at power forward. There are four free agents 6-10 and above also on the roster.
The Bulls recently concluded a mini-camp with several of the new players working together and on concepts Hoiberg had difficulty incorporating the last two seasons with intractable veterans like Pau Gasol and Dwyane Wade. It will be a first glance at the Bulls of the future and the style of play.
“We’ll change the way we play some to generate more movement. The big thing we are stressing is to make simple plays, the pace into the action, improve our cutting and screening, movement on both sides with different split actions; they’ve picked it up well for the most part.”
“The biggest thing is to get comfortable with our system,” said Hoiberg. “(Especially) the five guys who are going to be with us and see if there are some guys you want to bring back as camp invites; going out and competing and finding a way to play together because these guys will be playing minutes for us next year.”
So just who are those guys?
There’s the perimeter shooting big man, Markkanen.
“For a kid his age who just came over to the states a year ago, he has shown a lot,” said Hoiberg. “He can really, really shoot the ball, a guy who can space it. He’s shown the ability to put the ball on the floor and attack closeouts. The biggest adjustment as with all college players, especially those who come out after one year, is the physicality and the defensive side of the ball; there are so many new concepts we are throwing at these young players. He’s shown the ability to pick things up quickly. He’s been taught well, he has great footwork going into his shot. He’s got a great release point. He shoots it like a guard as a seven footer. I’m really excited about him.”
Then there’s Dunn, the man at the point of the offense who will be large for this Bulls team eventually getting it done.
“We’re going to be playing young point guards this year with Cam Payne, Kris Dunn and Jerian Grant,” said Hoiberg. “We’ve got these young guys who are going to be facilitating our offense. Kris, he’s an attack guard; he’s a guy who hopefully will be able to make plays and get into the paint with some floor spacing we’ll have this year, hopefully. Can get to the rim where he can show off his athleticism. Defensively, he’s a guy who can get after the ball, a guy who can flat out guard the dribble. His best asset on the offensive end is attacking the basket and getting to the paint, attacking closeouts when he’s off the ball. The biggest thing we’re working on every day is his shooting; that’s something that hopefully will continue to improve not just in Summer League but heading into the season.
“He’s got a 6-10, 6-11 wingspan,” Hoiberg added about Dunn. “He’ll be able to use his physical attributes to get into the paint. He’s strong, a little older going into his second year. He has a physical body and he uses it well.”
Payne had a difficult stretch with the Bulls after the February trade with injury and adjustment.
“It was tough for Cam to show as a young player who hasn’t played a lot, to come in 57 games into the season to a new situation,” said Hoiberg. “With Cam I got excited when we were in our playoff prep and he was playing the role of Isaiah Thomas and he showed a lot. We’ll even add a few actions because of the way he played out of it. His pace has been great, he’s been getting into the paint, doing a good job making simple basketball plays.”
And then there’s been the star of the week. Paul Zipser?
“Paul he’s been terrific, probably the best guy we’ve had in our mini camp,” said Hoiberg. “A two-way player. smart, high IQ guy. He’s more comfortable going into his second year, really shooting it. Coming in as a foreign player who’s never played in the states, it’s a big adjustment. You can tell he’s a lot more comfortable.”
It’s the first look at how comfortable we all may be with these new Bulls kids playing games.