Finishing the Las Vegas Summer League 4-1, the Chicago Bulls have plenty of optimistic outlooks to take from Vegas. Although summer league is not an exact science for evaluating or indicator of sustainable basketball playing ability, it is the first time some rookies get their first taste of NBA level competition. It’s also a congregation of second-year players, D-Leaguers, ex-NCAAers, and Euro professionals. A crucible of hopeful and hope-filled ballers.
At any given time when watching a summer league game, you might recognize a name you haven’t heard from in years (you also will find some pretty questionable shot-selection in abundance). Yeah, you’ll see some hero-ball but it’s not because these guys playing in summer league are trying to “get theirs” or boost their personal statistics to ameliorate their next contract. Most of these guys are fighting for the slight opportunity to get an NBA contract.
That’s what makes summer league fun for the die-hard fan; summer league becomes a game within a game – trying to spot out what fringe player could conceivably earn an invite to an NBA training camp. Aside from studying the first-steps of the notable names headlining summer league, it’s the guys who’ve gone from Milwaukee to Melbourne to Moscow keeping their professional dreams afloat that make summer league more than a glorified exhibition.
For the Summer Bulls, everyone besides three players: Doug McDermott, Tony Snell, and Cameron Bairstow were vying for the attention of just one scout or assistant coach. All it takes is one. Of those remaining nine players, a couple stood out and maybe, just maybe played well enough to earn a training camp invite from the Bulls in September.
Lazeric Jones – For those with their ears close to the ground of the Chicago high school hoops scene over the past few years, Jones’ name may ring a bell – he was a high school teammate of Derrick Rose at Simeon High School of the Chicago Public League. Post-Simeon Jones landed at a junior college in Cartersville, Illinois called John A. Logan College. After his two-year JUCO stint Jones signed a national letter of intent with UCLA and played two seasons for the Bruins under Ben Howland.
Jones went undrafted after his senior season at UCLA, and went to play in Israel professionally after being unable to capture the attention from any NBA teams in his first summer league experience with the Sacramento Kings in 2012-13. So when Jones was invited back to summer league with Chicago, his play elevated to the occasion and beamed with confidence. Jones put up a respectable 10.8 points and 4.8 assists over five games to go along with .51/.67/. 80 as his percentages slash line. Oh, and the 6-foot-1 Jones boasts a 6-foot-7 wingspan. Would like to see the kid given a chance to hang around in Chicago.
Lance Thomas – Thomas’ name is probably more familiar than Jones’ to casual basketball fans. Thomas’ stellar past includes high school All-American and starting power forward for the NCAA National Champion Duke Blue Devils in 2010. Thomas is limited in his measurables, but is fundamentally sound and disciplined. He’s tasted the NBA before spending a few seasons in New Orleans, but played overseas in China last season. Thomas is the type of player who’ll be able to make basketball a job and financial stable income for the rest of his life if he so chooses, but the sustenance of his NBA career is hanging on by threads.
His summer stats aren’t anything special – around seven points and four rebounds, and he shot an above average percentage from the field, but his contributions are in being reliable in rotations, physicality, and strong screen-setting. Perhaps Thomas receives a camp invite from Chicago, but what may be best for his own personal interest is to obtain an invite from a team who are actually in need for what Thomas does best.
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