Bulls Prospect Shows Out, But May Not Be Ready for Prime Time: Coach

Marko Simonovic Bulls

Getty Chicago Bulls forward Marko Simonovic celebrates a game-winning foul shot against the Dallas Mavericks during summer league play.

Marko Simonovic continues to be a curiosity for Chicago Bulls fans, even as he failed to make an impact for the club last season. It was difficult to predict how he would perform from game to game during summer league, too, but he still provided some excitement in capping off his Las Vegas experience.

Simonovic dropped 26 points on 11-of-15 shooting in Chicago’s Sin City finale against the Sixers. And that game came hot off the heels of a 17-point, 13-rebound, four-assist effort versus Charlotte.

Whether or not those performances mean that the Bulls will be able to depend more on the 22-year-old in the season ahead remains to be seen, however.

He may have ignited Bulls Nation with some standout games and a highlight reel moment or two, but Simonovic’s inconsistency throughout the summer slate did little to erase the doubt that existed last season when he failed to crack Billy Donovan’s rotation.

More Seasoning Required

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When the Bulls selected the Montenegrin baller with the 44th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, there was a thought that he could end up being one of the steals of the class. His size at nearly seven feet and 215 pounds, his mobility, passing chops and some solid shooting mechanics offered hope that the Bulls had stumbled onto something.

So far, though, he hasn’t cut the mustard against NBA-caliber athletes, which is why the Bulls barely went to him last season, even when the team’s roster was crippled to the point of canceling games during a league-wide COVID-19 outbreak in December.

It was more of the same in Vegas. When he went up against a legitimate big man in the Knicks’ Jericho Sims on July 10, for example, Simonovic was limited to just one point on 0-of-5 shooting while committing a whopping seven fouls.

Also: his outside shot has yet to develop. He was only a 27% shooter from three-point range in the G League last season. And in his five games with the Bulls this summer, he was just 1 of 11 from behind the arc.

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Still Hope for the Big Man

Despite his struggles during the 2021-22 season and on into summer play, there are people in the league who still see something in Simonovic.

“There is a lot to like about him,” a Western Conference assistant told Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney amid summer league. “He can score, he has improved as a passer, good rebounder. He looked better, he added a lot of weight, that was a big concern about him but he looked comfortable even when he was bulked up.”

There’s no guarantee, though, that any of that will translate to greater (or even basic) efficacy at the highest level.

“I don’t know if it can translate to the NBA, though. You can see he struggles against top-level competition,” the assistant said. “He has to at least hold his own and he hasn’t done that. If he can make some threes, he can carve out a nice niche in the NBA. He is going to have some trouble getting minutes with the big guys they have.”


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