Bulls Observations: Marko Simonović shines in Summer League opener

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Observations: Simonović shines in Summer League opener originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Chicago Bulls opened their 2022 Summer League slate with a — dare we say, thrilling — 100-99 overtime victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

The Bulls trailed by as many as 16 in the second quarter, but clawed back to begin their time in Las Vegas 1-0.

Here are a handful of observations from the contest:

Simonović stuffs stat sheet

Much was made in the run-up to Summer League about Marko Simonović’s offseason gains. According to the second-year big man, he has added 25 pounds since the start of his rookie season, shooting from 215 to 240.

How did that translate on the court? In a word: Quickly.

Simonović started the game by flushing home the Bulls’ first two buckets — one, a floater after reeling in a pocket pass while rolling hard to the basket, the other a thunderous putback dunk. He also buried a 20-foot jumpshot and stonewalled a Mavericks drive of a block in his first-quarter stint.

That hot start foreshadowed Simonović being heavily featured in the summer Bulls’ offense. He ended the game with 19 shot attempts, 10 more than any other teammate.

The results were mixed, as he missed multiple looks at the basket in the middle part of the game and failed to immediately assuage questions about his outside shot by going 0-for-3 from 3-point range.

But Simonović gets credit for playing closer down the stretch. In the final minute of regulation, he submitted two strong finishes — one a layup after an offensive rebound, the other a transition slam he followed with a double-bicep flex — to knot the score 90-90 and send the game to overtime. In the closing moments of that period, he poked free a steal and completed an and-one transition layup to put the Bulls ahead 99-97; then, after Dallas leveled again, he pulled down a contested offensive rebound and converted an ensuing free throw to win the game.

In all, Simonović finished with a 27-point, 13-rebound double-double and added 3 blocks and a steal. His emotional celebrations in the game’s closing moments say that, despite this being an exhibition, this performance meant a lot for the developing big man.

Do-it-all Dalen

Bulls first-round pick Dalen Terry didn’t look much for his shot in his Summer League debut, scoring 9 points on 3-for-7 shooting. But he was active in other areas.

At the defensive end, Terry’s energy level jumped off the screen, especially navigating screens, chasing loose balls and vying for rebounds as a 6-foot-7 guard. He even used his 7-foot wingspan to block a jumpshot attempt in the first quarter.

Terry was also deployed as a playmaker on multiple occasions, to mixed results. He made a couple crisp cross-court dimes, and even a full-court touchdown toss late in the fourth quarter. However, there were enough errant tries that he finished with a 6-to-6 assist-to-turnover ratio.

But playing aggressively and working through mistakes is what Summer League is for.

Two things were mildly disappointing about Terry’s debut: For one, we only got two looks at his jumpshot, which has been cited by Terry and Bulls brass as an area for development. He badly missed a contested pull-up early in the fourth, then fell short on a spot-up 3-point try minutes later.

And secondly, Terry didn’t have much success finishing the few drives to the basket he made. On three occasions, the Bulls’ rookie was called for offensive fouls for pushing off on his defenders, highlighting a need to improve his strength. Two of his three made field goals came on fastbreak run-outs, which is where he figures to most thrive.

Other nuggets of note

  • Malcolm Hill, who filled one of the Bulls’ two-way slots last season, continued his bid to do the same this season with 18 points, 6 rebounds and 2 steals. By going 2-for-2 from 3-point range, he also made half of the Bulls’ four long-balls in the game. They shot 4-for-14 from distance as a team.

  • Justin Lewis, who already has a two-way assurance from the team, started strong with two dunks in his first-quarter stint, and finished with 8 points and 5 rebounds.

  • In addition to shooting the ball poorly from the outside, the Bulls, as a team, committed 21 turnovers in the game, a reminder that the Summer League environment is far from analogous to true NBA competition.

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