When most eyes were on the Chicago Bulls’ latest first-round selection, the front office’s second-ever draft pick played the best basketball of his career.
Marko Simonovic capped off a pretty darn successful Summer League stint with 26 points and 8 rebounds in the Bulls’ final matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers. Averaging 15.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 2.0 assists over the five contests, the big man was a pivotal part of leading this Summer League squad to a 4-1 record. And the NBA recognized that by naming Simonovic to the All-Summer League Second Team on Monday.
Here are how the two teams stacked up …
First Team: Tari Eason (Rockets), Quentin Grimes (Knicks), Sandro Mamukelashvili (Bucks) Keegan Murray (Kings), Cam Thomas (Nets)
Second Team: Bennedict Mathurin (Pacers), Santi Aldama (Grizzlies), Trendon Watford (Trail Blazers), Lindell Wigginton (Bucks), Marko Simonovic (Bulls)
Is cracking an All-Summer League team worth putting on the career resume? I’ll go with a confident “no.” But it does help demonstrate the progress Simonovic made during his first full year in the NBA.
Heading into the Las Vegas festivities earlier this month, Summer League head coach John Bryant said he expected viewers to be pleasantly surprised with Simonovic’s progress. The 22-year-old had averaged 17.0 points and roughly 10.0 rebounds in the G-League the season prior, also informing reporters that he added 30lbs to his six-foot-eleven frame over the last year.
Still, considering Simonovic appeared in just nine NBA games during his rookie campaign, questions remained about how much improvement he really made. Fortunately, Summer League answered some of those questions.
|vs. DAL||27 (10-19 FG)||13||1||2||6||0|
|vs. NY||1 (0-5)||7||2||3||7||-12|
|vs. TOR||7 (3-6)||3||3||1||1||+10|
|vs. CHA||17 (6-14)||13||4||3||5||+12|
|vs. PHI||26 (11-15)||8||0||3||5||+12|
Simonovic performed in the way a sophomore should. Outside of his one-point stinker against the New York Knicks, he stood out as a comfortable talent in a sea of inexperienced youngsters. While he failed to show the kind of spacing that has long been expected to become part of his game, he did flash more efficient shotmaking around the rim, as well as the kind of playmaking ability we know the Bulls’ front office covets.
I also can’t help but be impressed with Simonovic’s activity on the offensive glass. His 3.4 OREBs per game were tied for the fourth most in Summer League. He kept a handful of possessions alive and always seemed to be at the ready for the putback slam. Considering this Bulls team ranked a ghastly 28th in offensive rebounding percentage last season, there is no question this is a skillet the current version of the roster needs.
Whether or not that can help get Simonovic on the floor, however, remains to be seen. As improved as he looked, we have to remember where he started. The No. 44 pick in the draft turned out to be unplayable last season despite the Bulls’ desperate need for size in the frontcourt. The fact that head coach Billy Donovan didn’t feel compelled to give him a chance – even after numerous strong outings in the G-League – tells us how far away the organization perceived him from being an NBA contributor.
I can’t imagine these five Summer League games have changed the coaching staff’s opinion drastically, especially when we consider how poorly Simonovic played against the NBA-caliber physicality and athleticism of Knicks’ big man Jericho Sims. He’s also had his problem racking up fouls.
But consistency is all it takes to earn a spot on the floor, right? We saw Javonte Green take advantage of things like training camp and the preseason to steal big minutes last season, and I guess we can’t rule out the possibility of Simonovic building on this Summer League showing as we head into this fall.
Regardless, it’s always nice to see a player take a step in the right direction, and Simonovic did that over the last two weeks.