I know Derrick Rose will be back next year, but I still can’t help but think the Bulls will regret this.
On Monday the Bulls let yet another quality bench player leave via free agency when Robinson signed a two-year, $4 million deal with the Denver Nuggets. Yes, the same guy that was second on the team in PER (17.4), fourth on the team in win shares (5.9), and had one of the best performances in Bulls playoff history, proved to be too costly for Jerry Reinsdorf and Co. He was also without a doubt the most entertaining player on a Bulls team that was at times almost unwatchable. Maybe I was a little too quick in blaming this decision on Reinsdorf, since Tom Thibodeau had “reservations” about bringing back arguably the Bulls best postseason player. So who’s the “next man up” as Thibodeau likes to proclaim? Look no further than 20-year old sophomore Marquis Teague.
Saying Teague struggled as a rookie is quite an understatement. As one of the youngest players in the league last season, Teague shot 38.1 percent from the field while sporting an awful 6.0 PER. Teague only played in 56 games (including eight in the postseason), but I’m a bit surprised the Bulls are ready to thrust him into the rotation after such a sub-par season (albeit he never really got a chance). Even the biggest Teague critics couldn’t help but be impressed by his play during this year’s Las Vegas Summer League.
OK, I understand the summer league isn’t always the greatest indicator of future success (Josh Selby shared MVP honors with Damian Lillard last year and was subsequently cut during the regular season), but ESPN insider Kevin Pelton found that certain areas actually translate well to the regular season. First of all, the summer league numbers for rookies translate much better than veterans (a correlation of .463 to .101). This does not bode well for Teague who is a second-year player. Secondly, certain stats translate better than others (defensive rebounds, assists, blocks and free-throw attempts translate best while 3-point percentage, 2-point percentage, and steals all translate poorly). Teague averaged 18.25 PPG (ranking eighth among summer league players), 4.75 APG (ranking fifth in the summer league), while shooting 44 percent from the floor and 75 percent from behind the arc (on 6-of-8 shooting, but still impressive). All of those numbers equated to a 23.84 PER, improving his PER by over 20 from last summer (in last year’s summer league Teague only mustered a 2.83 PER). Perhaps the strongest number for Teague was his 7.25 free-throw attempts per game. Remember, free throws are one of the best translating statistics according to Pelton’s study (ranking behind only block percentage and defensive rebound percentage).
Teague was aggressive on the offensive end, which was a huge difference from his play during the regular season. Defenders couldn’t stop Teague from getting to the rim with his quick first step, but unfortunately he blew many of his opportunities by getting blocked or missing easy layups. Teague’s ball-handling is probably his most NBA ready trait. He also showed an improved jumper even if his form is still ugly. I can’t remember him missing one jump shot the entire summer league when his feet were set. Overall on the offensive end Teague was fearless. I understand the summer league isn’t necessarily a stressful environment, but Teague’s 12 straight points in the fourth quarter against Portland was something to behold.
On the defensive end Teague didn’t get many steals, blocks or rebounds, but he did a solid job of staying in front of his opponent by using his quick feet. The biggest trouble he had against anyone was C.J. McCollum, who used his craftiness and size to score around Teague. Late in that matchup between the Bulls and Blazers McCollum tied the game with a 3-pointer as Teague got caught up in a screen by Thomas Robinson. Teague has a lot of room to grow offensively, but he will be a better defender than Robinson from Day 1 (I go into detail on Teague’s defensive prowess here).
I would’ve preferred for the Bulls to choose Robinson over Teague, but at least the Kentucky product showed a ton of improvement during his four games in Las Vegas.
Don’t forget Jimmy Butler averaged 20.8 PPG during the 2012 Summer League and look how that turned out…
-Free agent Marcus Camby will reportedly choose between the Miami Heat, Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls in the next couple days. The signing wouldn’t be a game changer for the Bulls, but Camby is certainly an upgrade to Nazr Mohammed as the backup center. He doesn’t provide any value on the offense end as a 39-year old (he averaged 6.7 points PER 40 MINUTES!), but he led the NBA in rebound rate during his last full season. He’s also still an above-average shot blocker with uncanny passing skills for a big man (he was third in pure point rating among centers during the 2011-12 season). I bet he ends up back with the Rockets, if not the Heat, but it’s good to see the Bulls at least trying to sign him.
-The Bulls are “likely” to kick off the NBA season on Oct.29 against the defending champion Miami Heat. This is pretty much the best of circumstances for Derrick Rose’s return. OK, it’s a bit disappointing his first game won’t be at home, but how awesome would it be if Rose dropped 30 in a Bulls victory on the road in Miami. Few things in life are better than ruining a ring ceremony. Remember the last time the Bulls opened the season against the defending champs? After the Heat won the 2006 title the Bulls opened the following season with a 108-66 ass-whopping of the Heat. The NBA season couldn’t start soon enough.