Summer league is like a basketball house of mirrors. As roles get distorted, many players cease to resemble what we envisioned them to be. That's how Otto Porter can look like a D-League player while Jeff Taylor looks like the second coming of Scottie Pippen. It's a confusing place.
Every once in a while, however, you'll see a player that remains unchanged by the setting and his surroundings. This year, that player was Reggie Bullock.
There's an old basketball mantra that goes like this: If you can shoot, you can play.
Reggie Bullock can shoot.
The Los Angeles Clippers tabbed the UNC product with the 25th pick for that very reason, and his debut display didn't disappoint. Bullock's release is high and tight, his motion is efficient, and he always seems to be squared up to the rim. It's a shooter's shot, and it's surprising when it doesn't splash through the net.
Analyzing a pure shooter like Bullock can become dangerously results-oriented, so it's important to look at how Bullock creates those opportunities to unleash that pretty jumper.
That's where Bullock truly stood out in Las Vegas, as no one I saw manipulated their defender with more regularity and with more ease. Bullock was brilliant using off-ball screens, curling tightly to the open space on the floor, remaining balanced with his feet under him at all times. Every decision off the screen seemed to be the right one. It wasn’t uncommon to see Bullock shoot more than he dribbled over the course of a game.
That ability to use screens should quickly endear the rookie to his coaching staff. Doc Rivers loved using a single-double baseline screen in Boston for Ray Allen to run around, and now J.J. Redick will play that role with the starters, with Bullock providing some offensive continuity for the second unit.
There’s a lot of guesswork typically involved in projecting a draft pick’s fit and role in July, but that doesn’t apply to Bullock. That speaks to a larger point of having an incredibly well-built roster, but also to the importance of knowing one’s capabilities on the court. Bullock can’t dribble whatsoever, and so he rarely does. He can’t fly down the court, euro-step, and finish creatively at the rim, so he doesn’t try to. There’s nothing forced about his game.
While Bullock is certainly limited as a scorer and creator, those weaknesses in skill are outweighed by his strong sense of self. It can take years for some prospects to accept their limitations, but Bullock seems to understand what he is as a player already. He’s a role player -- a specialist who knows how to stay in his lane.
Teams that are serious about winning championships need those players. You don’t need to look much further than San Antonio for an example, where Danny Green, another sweet-shooting wing with size from North Carolina, nearly tipped the scales in the Finals.
Every prospect wants to become great, but very few are willing to adapt their definition of greatness to achieve it. Bullock may project to be “just” a 3 and D guy, but he has all the physical and mental tools to excel in that role going forward.