The upside of the Bulls signing Simi Shittu


On Wednesday the Bulls brought in former McDonald's All-American and Vanderbilt forward Simisola Shittu in on a training camp deal. The 6-foot-10 forward joining the Bulls isn't a head-turning move but, as a roster spot lottery-ticket, it could pay off big-time down the line.

Shittu played for the Memphis Grizzlies Summer League team after going undrafted in 2019, averaging 2.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 0.3 assists in 12.9 minutes per game. 

Shittu is unlikely to make the Bulls roster and will be playing out most if not all of this upcoming season on the Bulls G League affiliate in Hoffman Estates, the Windy City Bulls. But the G League presents the perfect environment to see if Shittu's game can translate to the professional game. 

The skills that made Shittu a top 10 recruit in 2018 are still there now.

His calling card as a prospect is his ability to handle the ball and set up plays for others at 6-foot-10. Shittu did not get to do much of this at Vanderbilt while playing with a squad nowhere near 100 percent after the absence of fellow five-star recruit Darius Garland. That being said, Shittu's 16.5% assist rate (5th on the team) showcased his ability the same way his massive 20.9% turnover rate showed off just how far Shittu has to go in his development. 

His Vanderbilt career got off to a rocky start as he was recovering from an ACL injury to start the year. Shittu amassed 21 steals and 16 blocks over 32 games but did not often show the foot speed necessary to be an adequate switch defender.

Shittu has the length to bother shots on defense but will need to play in a zone or guard traditional centers to have a shot at the NBA level.

In the G League Shittu will get to work with new Windy City Bulls head coach Damian Cotter as they nail down what his role will be at the next level. Cotter did great work with the Capital City Go-Go last season working with prospects with similar skill sets (length, raw athleticism, etc.) like Devin Robinson. Shittu will get every opportunity to take the minutes leftover in the rotation from the departures of JaKarr Sampson and Mychal Mulder.

Shittu converted on a solid 61.9% of his shots at the rim last season, with a whopping 59.4% of his FGA coming at the basket.  He was an absolutely dreadful 3-point shooter but understood his limitations, taking less than 1.0 3-pointers per game. 

If he fully buys into the team, Shittu will help Windy City with a high activity level on defense that leads to transition offense. 

In his lone year at Vanderbilt, Shittu posted a 16.5% assist rate, a higher figure than lottery pick power forwards Zion Williamson and Rui Hachimura, albeit in a different role. Regardless, the passing talent is clearly there.

What makes Shittu such an intriguing fit down the line with the (Chicago) Bulls is the fact that his role plays right into the roster's needs. Shittu is a forward who is better suited to a lower usage role, where he can ignite the transition attack as a 'one-man fastbreak' who can grab the defensive rebound and go. 

Bulls head coach Jim Boylen has professed his love in the past for 'grab-and-go' players and players that can get downhill to pressure defenses. Shittu brings this skill in spades. If Cotter and co. makes use of Shittu as more of a traditional center, he will be able to utilize his 7-foot-1 wingspan to hang with heavier big men despite being at a strength disadvantage. 

Despite appearing a shell of himself in the 2018-19 NCAA season, rebounding was the one spot where Shittu came close to meeting expectations.

He averaged 14.6 rebounds per 100 possessions and had a team-leading 21.2% defensive rebound rate. Shittu already projects as the type of player you could bring in to compete with the likes of Luke Kornet, Daniel Gafford and Cristiano Felicio for backup big man minutes, and a season in the G League will provide Shittu with the proper seasoning needed to pickup defensive rotations quicker.

Shittu has the talent level to become an All-NBA G League caliber player and Windy City showcased the ability to develop that type of player last year with Walt Lemon Jr.—who made All-NBA G League Second Team last season. Chris Boucher--last year's G League MVP--at 6-foot-10, 200 lbs, has very similar measurements to Shittu and was able to dominate the G League to the tune of 27.1 points, 11.3 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per game. Shittu will be asked to do for Windy City the same things that Boucher did for the Raptors 905 last season: block shots, be active in the passing lanes and roll hard to the rim as a PnR finisher. 

We are not expecting NBA G League MVP-level production from Shittu in his first year with the Windy City Bulls, but if given the opportunity, the sky is the limit for the former five-star recruit.

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