Summer League was very telling for Bulls and rest of NBA

Big man Marko Simonovic had some moments for the Bulls, but Las Vegas had its share of young stars already serving notice to the league.

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Keegan Murray of the Sacramento Kings during a Summer League game.

Keegan Murray of the Sacramento Kings during a Summer League game.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Marko Simonovic wore his newly found 25 pounds of weight well during Summer League.

The knock on the Bulls big man throughout his 2021-22 rookie campaign was his lack of athleticism and physicality.

Simonovic took steps to fix the latter, and that was on display the last few weeks as the Summer League came and went in Las Vegas.

Simonovic had a 27-point game against the Mavericks in the opener and closed it out for the 4-1 Bulls with a 26-point game against the 76ers. There were a few stinkers in between, specifically a one-point outing in a loss to the Knicks, but he definitely took strides.

Even with first-round pick Dalen Terry on the floor, Simonovic was the best Bull playing. That was evident with him being named to the All-Summer League second team.

But what does that translate into for the big-boy roster?

Unfortunately, not much on the impact scale.

If Simonovic is getting regular rotation minutes at any point next season, then something went seriously wrong at the center position for the Bulls. It’s a position that right now goes three-deep, led by Nikola Vucevic, veteran Andre Drummond and Tony Bradley.

So while Simonovic outperformed Terry, neither made a statement in the instant impact department.

These five players did:

Keegan Murray, Kings

Selected No. 4 overall by the Kings in June, Murray looked the part of a franchise changer, not only with his play on the court but with his maturity as a future team leader. Even before Las Vegas, Murray put on a show in the California Classic. But he saved his best for Sin City, averaging 23.3 points and seven rebounds.

Sacramento has been more circus sideshow than NBA franchise for almost two decades, but Murray has a chance to help end the 16-year playoff drought. The only concern is Sacramento’s history of ruining top prospects, but Murray may be Kings-proof.

Cam Thomas, Nets

How did Thomas follow up his 2021 Summer League co-MVP title? By leading the entire event in scoring at 27.4 points per game.

Like last season, Thomas continued to get lost in all of the Nets off-the-court drama but is unquestionably the best young piece on the roster that Brooklyn has to build around. Even if Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving stay with the Nets, expect Thomas to take a huge jump in responsibility, much like Jordan Poole did for the Warriors this past year.

Paolo Banchero, Magic

How good was the No. 1 overall pick? After two eye-opening Summer League performances, the Magic simply said, “We’ve seen enough, shut him down!’’

Banchero not only showed an ability to score at 20 points per game, but also grabbed five rebounds, handed out six assists and nabbed 2.5 steals per contest. Banchero shot just under 41% from the field, and 50% from three-point range.

The next great young two-way player may reside in central Florida.

Chet Holmgren, Thunder

No rookie will have his game picked apart as much as the No. 2 overall selection, but Holmgren already is silencing the critics.

Yes, his skinny frame will remain a concern, but he plays more like a rabid dog than the soft unicorn he’s being portrayed as.

What did Holmgren show? With his guard-like ball-handling skills, ability to push the ball up the floor and play with thrust, as well as a smooth three-point shot, he will be a match-up nightmare if he continues to work on his body.

Tari Eason, Rockets

The forward out of LSU was high on the Bulls’ draft board, but was selected by the Rockets one pick before executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas could grab him.

On an up-and-coming Houston roster, Eason outplayed the likes of No. 3 pick Jabari Smith Jr. and last year’s first-round pick, Josh Christopher, to earn first-team honors.

New York’s Quentin Grimes could easily have Eason’s spot on this impact list, but could be on the move if the Knicks pull the trigger on a Donovan Mitchell trade. 

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