The inaugural season of the Windy City Bull is almost upon us. And it's safe to assume the average basketball fan is not familiar with the current roster of the Windy City Bulls. Well never fear! Your resident hip-hop-and-hoops-head is here to inform you that the Chicago area’s first NBA D-League team is stocked with talent and is sure to entertain this upcoming season.
While it's not yet known who will coach the team, we can safely assume that the team will implement Fred Hoiberg’s system in order to better groom players for possible call-ups to the NBA.
For those who don’t watch the NBA D-League, they play at a pace reminiscent of 1970's NBA basketball. All teams in the D-League push the ball up the court quickly, resulting in high octane basketball with huge scores with all players contributing on the scoreboard. Just last season, the 2015-16 NBA D-League Champions, Sioux Falls Skyforce had nine players score in double-figures.
If the Windy City Bulls can hit the ground running and establish a positive team culture from the onset, their pro affiliate will be much more prepared for the oncoming roster rebuild. Here's a look at the projected roster:
PG - Kiwi Gardner
SG - Jerel McNeal
SF - Wesley Saunders
PF - Jamal Jones
C - Ralph Sampson III
Casey Prather, Akeem Richmond, Booker Woodfox, Justin Dentmon, Jon Octeus, Xavier Thames, and Ian Chiles
Analyzing the roster, Jamal Jones will likely be a starter if he assimilates well into the rest of the group. The Windy City Bulls could go “super small” and elect to start Casey Prather, a 6-foot-5 athletic swingman from the University of Florida, but Jones should have the inside track at starting at power forward due to his natural size for the position. Jones can get out in the passing lanes well on defense, and on offense, his size and leaping ability make him a great finisher in transition. Though he could still add a bit more bulk to his light frame, the fact that Jones has experience playing the point guard position during his time in high school allows for the rotation to add a quick and dynamic ball-handling forward, something other clubs cannot boast.
The rest of the roster is also very intriguing. Former Creighton and Texas Legends guard Booker Woodfox not only has one of the cooler names in the NBA D-League, the man is also a knockdown 3-point shooter, connecting on 39 percent of his three's last season with the Texas Legends.
Kiwi Gardner, the projected starting point guard, is an explosive 5-foot-7 guard. His slick ball-handling and shooting ability makes him valuable, though he has a tendency to be streaky from deep. Size clearly will also be a major disadvantage. Guard Jerel McNeal is a veteran who starred at Marquette back in the day, but has been fighting for an NBA spot for a while now. He had a brief breakthrough during the 2014-15 NBA season where he played six games with the Phoenix Suns. Of late, McNeal has applied his craft in Greece, averaging 14 points a game whilst knocking down 37 percent from 3-point line.
The most interesting pick in the expansion draft was the Bulls' first, Wesley Saunders, a former Ivy League Player of the Year at Harvard. To date, Saunders hasn't produced much in the NBA D-League, though he is the youngest player on the Windy City Bulls. Despite sporting a wonky shooting mechanic, his offensive versatility will make him very useful to the Windy City Bulls. Saunders operates well as a facilitator, especially in the pick-and-roll. Along with McNeal, Gardner and Woodfox, the Bulls could conceivably put together various and diverse backcourt combinations because of Saunders' ability to get others the ball in their favorite spots.
Great potential exists for the Windy City Bulls, but there will inevitably be some growing pains. This is to be expected for any expansion team, but the fact that the Bulls were able to land three players below the age of 25 who could play in the NBA is an encouraging sign. When you have young players with potential and you put them on a team with hard workers, such as Chicago-native Jerel McNeal, you set yourself up for success. The expansion draft marks a new era for the Chicago Bulls organization -- and of course the Windy City Bulls. The collection of talent on this roster certainly points towards a bright future.
If you've followed the Chicago Bulls since free agency, you're aware that the main roster flaw that currently exists is their three best players are guards with limited shooting range. But if you look up and down the roster of the Bulls new D-League team, you will notice two things right away: there are a pair of seven-footers with legitimate rim-protection skills and a groups of guards who can really shoot the ball well.
It would be a huge help to Hoiberg if the Windy City Bulls can create NBA D-League-to-pro pipeline system that would actually help shore up the Chicago Bulls weaknesses. And this year’s Windy City Bulls roster looks like a promising start.