The 2012 Vegas Summer League has come and gone, and the Chicago Bulls came out on the plus side of the ledger during their six-day stint in Sin City.
While point guard Marquis Teague was clearly the focus of attention for Bulls coaches, several other players made names for themselves over the past week. Swingman Jimmy Butler was already guaranteed a spot on the roster, but he still showed the intensity of a player fighting for an invite to training camp.
So, as the Bulls return home and assess their performance, let's take a look at five things that the team learned from its time out West.
Jimmy Butler only saw spot duty for the Bulls as a rookie, but with Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver no longer with the team, the 6'7" forward will have every opportunity to earn significant playing time this season.
If what we saw over the past week is any indication, Butler will almost certainly double the 8.5 minutes per game that he averaged in 2011-12. The second-year player had a fantastic showing in the recently-completed Vegas Summer League, averaging 20.8 points and 6.5 rebounds.
More important than Butler's actual numbers was the fact that he looked far more aggressive and confident than he did during most of last season. With a full training camp on deck, don't be surprised if Butler quickly earns Thibodeau's trust and becomes a regular member of the Bulls' rotation.
During the Vegas Summer League, the 6'9", 225-pound San Diego State product averaged 11.4 PPG, pulled down 12.4 RPG, and was arguably the most impressive player on the floor for the Bulls. Because of his size and quick-twitch jumping ability, Thomas has often been compared to current Bulls power forward Taj Gibson.
At the very least, Thomas appears to have done enough to earn an invite to training camp this fall, and the 23-year-old forward seems to be willing to do whatever is asked of him. "The Bulls are a defensive minded team and I'm a defensive minded player," said Thomas last week to Bulls.com. "I feel I could be a good fit and make it work."
First-round draft pick Marquis Teague is a scoring point guard who is attempting to learn the nuances of running an NBA offense. As such, the Vegas summer league was something of a baptism by fire for the 19-year-old playmaker.
As it stands now, Teague—whose mid-range game leaves much to be desired—doesn't appear to be ready to step in at the backup point guard position while Derrick Rose recovers from a torn ACL. That said, the former Kentucky star has the rest of the offseason to learn the finer points of the Chicago playbook, and could carve out eight to 10 minutes per game behind Kirk Hinrich before Rose returns.
Four summers ago, Leon Powe was a key contributor for a Boston Celtics team that took home the NBA crown. Today, he's fighting to earn a roster spot on a Bulls team that is looking to bolster its frontcourt depth.
Powe isn't an overly athletic player, nor does he have a vast array of low-post moves. But as he showed during summer league play, Powe's a very solid defender who finds ways to contribute on both ends of the floor.
Pay little attention to his stats from last week: With talented big men in short supply in today's NBA, the Bulls owe it to themselves to take an extended look at Powe. The 6'8" forward has experience at both the 4 and the 5 spots, and would be the perfect complement to recently-signed center Nazr Mohammed.
Other than the obvious standouts, there were some interesting names on the Bulls' summer league roster (Temple's Ramone Moore, Georgetown's Henry Sims and Demetri McCamey from Illinois), but none of them made a noticeable impact.
Other than Malcolm Thomas and Leon Powe, it would be surprising if any of Chicago's non-roster invitees get a second chance to run with the team during training camp. But given that the primary goal of the Bulls' trip was to assess the prospects of Jimmy Butler and Marquis Teague, the team's journey to Las Vegas can very well be deemed a success.