After a tough inaugural season in the NBA G League the Windy City Bulls have undergone a rebuilding project. Much like their parent club, the Chicago Bulls, the WCB have a lot of new faces whom will be playing in the Sears Center this season. Gone are the likes of Alfonzo McKinnie, Wesley Saunders, Alec Brown, and Thomas Walkup. All four of them were a big part of Chicago’s identity in the NBAGL last season and their production will sorely be missed. Especially McKinnie, whose fantastic play last season and in Summer League helped him earn a contract with the Toronto Raptors.
Even the coaching staff has changed as Nate Loenser will be replaced by Charlie Henry, who was an assistant under Fred Hoiberg for two seasons for the parent club. It will be a season of new faces and with the G League draft coming up soon as well, there will be even more changes. Yet one thing you can tell straight off the bat this season, based on the moves Chicago has already made, the Windy City Bulls will have a solid backcourt.
This summer, Chicago signed two very good guards in Antonio Blakeney and Ryan Arcidiacono. Both were on their Summer League squad and played very well, especially the former. Having both been signed to two-way contracts, there will be some moments where they won’t be available for WCB.
For Arcidiacono, that absence might come sooner than later with Kris Dunn dislocating his finger against the Milwaukee Bucks last week. But until then, Windy City will be getting a steady point guard in Arcidiacono and a dangerous scorer in Blakeney. In the duo, they will get a good mix of steadiness and explosiveness. While he lacks some athletic and pure scoring ability, Arcidiacono will have a very calming presence on Windy City’s roster. He will act as the floor general, like he did in college at Villanova, and bring maximum effort each game.
Arcidiacono will help Chicago get into their set offenses and at times will be able to provide some scoring of his own. He’s also very smart when it comes to his shot selection and you won’t see him force anything offensively. Having averaged 45.3% on two pointers over the course of his college career, expect the mid-range game to also be of use for the former ‘Nova point guard. Like I previously mentioned, Arcidiacono won’t be the flashy scoring point guard many NBA teams have today and it might not help him in terms of getting noticed. But stability will be there when he’s on the court for the Windy City Bulls.
While Arcidiacono might be the calming presence for the WCB, the same can’t be said about Blakeney. He will be the one providing most of the scoring for the WCB with his ability to heat up quickly from the field. Blakeney flashed the ability to score in bunches LSU last season, averaging 17.8 points on 45.8% shooting from the field. He showed he can be the man offensively for the Tigers and hopefully, for the Bulls. With great shot creation skills and an explosive first step, Blakeney will try to attack mismatches he gets on the court. A lot of the offenses for the WCB will likely flow through the former LSU guard and it will be a game plan that could help both the team and the player.
Regardless, Blakeney will put up his share of points and some games; it will be enough to will his team to victory. Making him the #1 option offensively also means teams will be scheming to stop him. This may come as putting their top defender on him or doubling Blakeney right when he catches the ball. By gaining this type of attention, this problem will force him to vastly improve his playmaking skills, which wasn’t always there in college (0.9 and 1.7 assists in his two college seasons respectively). If Blakeney wants to show NBA teams he can be an all-around offensive threat he will have to work on not only creating shots for himself, but for his teammates as well.
Chicago also signed former Wisconsin guard Bronson Koening, who was signed to a training camp contract and will likely, be on the WCB this season. Koening is a fantastic depth signing in this regard. This will be Koening’s second team in this NBA offseason, with the Bucks originally signing him to a two-way contract but then waiving him. Whether coming off the bench or starting, Koening will provide some scoring pop for the Bulls , especially from three where he averaged 38.8% while at Wisconsin.
At 6’4, he is a good size for a point guard and will make his opponent work on both ends of the court. Koening has also shown some great confidence and that he’s not afraid to have the ball in his hands in crunch time. It was evident against Xavier in the second round of the NCAA tournament two years ago. He hit the game tying and game winning three’s in back to back possessions and etched his name in Badger history.
With these three guards on the roster, Windy City is sure to have a very balanced group when it comes to their backcourt. Behind the trio, Windy City could find themselves in a position where they could possibly be a top seed in the NBA G League this season.
It’s going to be a long season for the Chicago Bulls with an obvious rebuild project underway. There are going to be some bad times and some really awful times for the next couple of years. This serves as a great opportunity for them to use their G League squad to their fullest advantage. Using the G League to find some diamonds in the rough is a good route to take for the Bulls front office to find some good impact players to compliment their cornerstones in Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine. This should be something similar to what the Brooklyn Nets have done. Signing guys like Blakeney, Arcidiacono, and Koening are good first steps in building a solid foundation for their G-League affiliate.