Chicago Bulls guard Antonio Blakeney’s road to the NBA has not gone the way he envisioned it would. However, the Bulls reserve may have earned his place up the depth chart through his impressive play, not his draft status.
When Antonio Blakeney declared for the 2017 NBA draft, there was a thought that he would at least be taken in the second round. Instead, Blakeney went undrafted but was quickly signed by the Chicago Bulls’ summer league team. With the Bulls, Blakeney showcased his innate ability to score and create his own shot, qualities the Bulls need in order to put together their core group.
After staring for the Bulls in summer league play, Chicago signed Antonio Blakeney to a two-way contract (courtesy of the Daily Herald) shortly after the tournament concluded. Antonio Blakeney’s contract allows him to be with the Chicago Bulls for 45 days. The remainder of that time Blakeney must spend with the Bulls’ G-League affiliate, the Windy City Bulls.
That is unless the Bulls sign him to a one-year deal for the NBA league minimum. Antonio Blakeney could earn his full NBA contract with strong performances. One of those strong games came against the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday night.
Antonio Blakeney was given meaningful minutes versus the Thunder. He would finish the game with 16 points, shooting 5-for-12 from the field. Blakeney has impressed Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg so much that he has officially been elevated into the Bulls’ rotation, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Antonio Blakeney has gone from an undrafted rookie out of LSU, to earning a two-way NBA contract. At the rate he is going, Blakeney will earn a guaranteed deal with the Bulls, along with a chance to be part of the Bulls’ rebuild.
Playing aggressively is what Antonio Blakeney did to stand out in one meaningful game for the Bulls. He showed a feel for the pace of the NBA game. Blakeney even handled point guard duties for the Bulls during some of his 26 minutes of court time. Coach Hoiberg made Blakeney the first guard to come off the bench on Wednesday. It was a clear sign of the confidence the Bulls’ coaching staff has in him.
Now the question becomes: can the 6-foot-4 guard stick with the Chicago Bulls?
Blakeney was well on his way to prove that he would be one of the best players in the G-League. He scored 35 and 44 points in his first two games with the Windy City Bulls. However, it took Bulls forward Justin Holiday to miss Wednesday’s game (courtesy of CBS Sports) to be with his expecting wife for Blakeney to get considerable playing time.
That playing time will continue as long as Antonio Blakeney can prove worthy of his increased role with the Chicago Bulls. A decision on his future with the team must take place soon, however.
The clock on the two-way contract the Bulls handed Antonio Blakeney has begun. If those 45 days run out, it is conceivable that another NBA team can come in to lure him away. The obvious solution would be for the Bulls to sign Blakeney for the rest of the season. There is a hitch, unfortunately.
The Chicago Bulls roster stands at 15 meaning a player would have to go.
The Bulls could waive guard Kay Felder, but his ability to create instant offense might make the Bulls reluctant to part ways with him. Felder was claimed on waivers by the Bulls after the Atlanta Hawks cut him before he appeared in one game. Another thing that the Bulls can do is engineer a trade.
Nikola Mirotic wants a trade if he is forced to practice and play with fellow Bulls forward Bobby Portis, according to the Washington Post. That stems from an altercation between Mirotic and Portis. The end result was Mirotic suffering from two facial fractures after being punched.
Trading Nikola Mirotic potentially opens up a roster for the Bulls if they can add another salary to the deal. However, a trade of Mirotic cannot be completed until January 15. In the meantime, the Chicago Bulls can have Antonio Blakeney alternate between the NBA roster and the Windy City Bulls.
The Bulls can take advantage of the rule where the 45 day period only counts when Blakeney is with the Chicago Bulls. One advantage the Bulls have is the proximity between the NBA team and the G-League affiliate being less than 40 miles.
Antonio Blakeney will likely travel with the Chicago Bulls when they go on a West Coast road trip. The Bulls do not have to be concerned about how long they have Blakeney with the team until mid-December. That is likely when the Bulls will make the decision regarding their roster. Blakeney can force things if he improves on his 16-point outing or is at least playing consistently well.
[Featured Image by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]