Doug McDermott and Tony Snell of the Chicago Bulls entered Summer League as virtual locks to make the Bulls NBA roster. Although Summer League implies a lax and less-than-stellar basketball environment, it’s equally a showcase for young players fighting for NBA entry and acceptance. McDermott and Snell didn’t face that uphill battle 70 percent of their teammates faced – the harsh reality of Summer League as a tryout as opposed to a place for development.
Ostensibly, no matter how well or poorly McDermott and Snell played in Summer League, unlike their peers, it’d have little bearing on their standing in the NBA – that is, until McDermott and Snell outplayed their competition by such a significant margin during the Las Vegas Summer League that it demanded attention usually reserved for Chicago Bears training camp headlines by major Chicago media.
McDermott, a rookie from Creighton University and the NCAA’s fifth all-time leading scorer looked like he was playing in an inferior league for the course of his four games this summer (he was held out of the Bulls final game due to a minor foot injury concern). His offensive repertoire as complete as any in Las Vegas; McDermott also ran off screens and maneuvered without the ball which is what he was brought to Chicago to do (a la Kyle Korver).
Of course, he's still a rookie and at times McDermott did force the issue. Driving baseline and barreling into rotating defensive players prompting an offensive foul or bailout call by the official. He had moments on defense where his lateral quickness and foot speed warrant concern. But, overall, the Bulls rookie was the most poised and polished player in the lauded 2014 draft class over the duration of the Summer League.
For Tony Snell, Summer League serves a different purpose for a second-year player than it does a rookie. Last season, Snell’s rookie campaign, was filled with ups-and-downs you might expect from a first year player. He had back-to-back games where he shot (3-5) from three and finished in double-figures (13 and 18) in November. Then, he went the entire month of March without reaching double-digit scoring totals. His minutes decreased and his confidence fluctuated.
This summer, you’d have a hard time believing the Tony Snell who was fifth in scoring at Summer League with 20.0 per game was the same guy whose career high is 20 points in an actual NBA game. Reinvigorated and revamped, Snell used Summer League as a presentation and announcement that Tony Snell the rookie is long gone. He too, like McDermott, didn’t look as though he belonged on the same floor as college castoffs and International hopefuls.
Furthermore, according to a poll asking 34 Summer League players which player they believed looked most impressive in Vegas, McDermott and Snell finished first and third in that poll respectively. Accompanied by All-NBA Summer League First team selections, could McDermott or Snell have had any better of a summer?
The Bulls continue to round out their roster, and depth is emerging as the key component. Snell and McDermott are two of as many as ten players who could be in the regular rotation. Chicago’s suitably named “Bench Mob” was all but obsolete these past two seasons (sans Taj Gibson), but with their Summer League performances, Snell and McDermott could revive Chicago’s second-unit.
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