Summer League statistics should not be taken seriously. Some young players come in and dominant then never are heard from again at the NBA level (hi, Josh Selby) and others struggle against their peers only to prove valuable to their actual teams (Nicolas Batum).
But sometimes, some teams, some situations … just reek.
The Chicago Bulls’ Summer League team lost 75-55 Monday afternoon to the Atlanta Hawks’ squad. These two franchises hit the instant-rebuild button this offseason, trading away All-Star forwards Jimmy Butler and (free agent) Paul Millsap. Summer League has some importance to them, then, but it’s not the final result that’s sure to have Bulls fans apoplectic. It’s these two stat lines from the box score:
Lauri Markkanen: 31 minutes, 8 points, 1-for-13 shooting
Denzel Valentine: 31 minutes, 4 points, 1-for-12 shooting
Markkanen was the Bulls’ selection at No. 7 overall, using the pick they landed in the Butler trade. Valentine was the No. 14 overall pick last year. That’s two lottery picks, the Bulls’ last two first-rounders, combining to shoot 2-for-25 (8%) from the field in a Summer League game.
Now, the Bulls sat both Kris Dunn and Paul Zipser, two slightly more proven members of their rebuilding effort. And Markkanen and Valentine were more OK in Saturday’s 91-75 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, combining to shoot 10-for-22 (45.5%).
There also was at least one positive from Monday’s game: Markkanen, not known as a rim-protector or defender of any type, blocked four shots. But it’s not great when your guys are getting outplayed by players at the same position drafted several spots after them — Hawks swingman DeAndre Bembry (No. 21 in 2016) and power forward John Collins (No. 18 this year).
Collins in particular dominated Markkanen.
Still, this is Summer League. No one should write off Markkanen, Valentine or anyone else. Even Taurean Price, who had a quietly strong finish to the season and postseason for the Hawks, went 1-for-10 in his team’s win.
Projecting ahead for the Bulls is difficult because they have so many players who haven’t proven anything (plus Dwyane Wade, Robin Lopez and maybe Nikola Mirotic). Look at their projected depth chart:
PG: Kris Dunn / Jerian Grant / Cameron Payne
SG: Zach LaVine / Dwyane Wade
SF: Paul Zipser / Denzel Valentine
PF: Bobby Portis / Lauri Markkanen
C: Robin Lopez / Cristiano Felicio
Another of those unproven guys had the lowlight of the day:
So yes, the Bulls probably will be pretty bad next season. They’re counting on the top-heavy 2018 NBA Draft and future salary cap space to help with that. Monday was a preview, maybe. But don’t hold it against Markkanen and Valentine that they had a bad afternoon in Las Vegas.