This weekend was the official start of the NBA Summer League, an event in which all of the rookies, and a good number of young players in the league, hit the hardwood to prepare for the upcoming season. This year, the event is saturated with Tar Heels, as players like Coby White, Nassir Little, Kenny Williams, Luke Maye, and others suit up in hopes of earning quality minutes for their respective organizations this fall.
Now that the first weekend is complete, we thought it would be a good idea to discuss some of the highlights from the games that took place. We will highlight the best of the weekend, and then from there we will briefly touch on some more of the highs, some lows, and a little bit of free agency madness as well. Without further ado, let’s jump right in.
Coby White continues to do Coby White things
Despite some concern regarding his ankle, Coby White suited up for the first time ever in a Chicago Bulls uniform Friday night against the Los Angeles Lakers. The team as a whole did a really good job against the Lakers, with fellow rookie Daniel Gafford scoring a team-high 21 points and also recording 10 rebounds. As far as White goes, there was a lot to be excited about, and yet there were some struggles that Tar Heels fans are rather familiar with.
White finished the game with 17 points, three rebounds, three assists, and went 6-18 from the field. If we were to grade his entire performance, I would give White a B-. Right off the bat White displayed his quickness, court vision, and ability to create shooting opportunities. Most notably was a fantastic alley-oop that he tossed to Daniel Gafford, which was delivered via tossing the ball over his head and over two defenders.
From there, Coby did a really good job creating plays for his teammates, and would probably have recorded close to an assist double-double according to Roy Williams’ grading methods. There were a number of passes he made that had great chances of leading to points, but his teammates weren’t able to finish the job. Defensively, White did a really good job navigating pick-and-roll plays, had great feet, and didn’t really get beat all night. The Bulls as a whole seemed to overwhelm the Lakers on defense, and really the game wasn’t very close the whole way through.
When looking at the not-so-great highlights of the game, White’s turnover issues expectedly traveled with him from Chapel Hill to Chicago. There were times when he tried forcing plays that may not have been there, but then he would make up for it by doing things like skipping the ball into the paint to record a crazy assist. The hot and cold nature of his facilitating skills likely aren’t going away anytime soon, but the Bulls aren’t likely to rush his development or drown him in the depth chart, as they are still very much a franchise in rebuild mode. He should have plenty of time to work this out, and he will also be surrounded by a better supporting cast in the fall. Coby will just have to make sure that he upholds his end of the bargain and focuses on making smarter plays.
The other struggle for White against the Lakers was his perimeter shooting. He missed each of his seven three-point attempts, joining everyone on the team except Chandler Hutchinson in laying a goose egg from the perimeter. To his credit, White was able to remedy the situation by being extremely effective elsewhere offensively, but the rim seemed extremely small for the Bulls, despite the Lakers shooting 31% themselves (for those who are curious, Chicago went 1-20 from the field collectively). Unfortunately, things didn’t get much better for White in the game against Cleveland. In fact, there were a couple of issues that seemed to get worse.
Against the Cleveland Cavaliers Sunday night, Coby White finished with 15 points, six rebounds, five assists, and seven turnovers. The final +/- for his performance was a -15, as he struggled to make plays without giving the Cavs extra opportunities to score. His three-point shooting also didn’t improve, as he went 0-4 from deep. When looking at positives, however, White shot at a 43.7% clip, and made 58% of his two-point attempts. Perhaps the most positive part of the entire game, however, was him putting his defender on skates and nailing a baseline jumper.
Overall, Coby showed in his first two games that he is indeed going to need some work, but there are a lot of positives that he will bring to the Bulls. The most fascinating aspect of their team right now is that their true starting lineup didn’t even play more than a few games with each other last season, as they were all plagued by injuries throughout the season. Also, Bulls head coach Jim Boylen will be going into his first full year as a head coach, and has hired his own staff after having to utilize Fred Hoiberg’s staff to finish out the 2018-19 season. There is a whole lot of newness in the Windy City right now, and with that comes a large amount of patience. White will fit in just fine with the Bulls as they try to regain at least a fraction of their glory days from the 90s.
Other Summer League Highlights
- After only scoring two points in what was a rough introduction to professional basketball, Nassir Little logged seven points and five rebounds in the Trailblazers’ win against the Houston Rockets. It was a much needed performance for Little, as he struggled on both offense and defense in their first game against the Pistons. It’s not a secret that Little’s development will take some time, and his performance against the Rockets show that he is capable of moving things in the right direction.
- Speaking of moving things in the right direction, Utah Jazz’s Tony Bradley continues to make strong moves towards landing on a NBA roster. In Saturday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Bradley finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds, and three assists. Bradley was a double-double machine all week, and while it’s understandable to wonder if he will be able to have similar success on a regular season NBA team, he’s doing a great job of building his case as to why the Jazz should give him a chance to help them keep up with the big boys in the Western Conference.
- Finally, the Brooklyn Nets have decided to renounce Theo Pinson in order to free up cap space for the moves that they have been making in free agency. The Nets are still allowed to re-sign Pinson once they are done moving money around, but it’s still a possibility that the former Tar Heel could be on the move in the future. It’s a situation that will be worth keeping an eye on as the organization seems to admire Pinson a great deal. Re-signing him would mean he gets to stay on a team that just acquired Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, making them strong contenders in the Eastern Conference once Durant is healthy.