With the Toronto Raptors calling up Lucas Nogueira, 7’5 Canadian center Sim Bhullar is expected to finally get his chance to play big minutes for the 905 when the Idaho Stampede visit the Hersey Center in Mississauga tonight.
While Bhullar had been stuck behind Nogueira, the bigger impact on his playing time has been a decision by him and the team to keep this very big man at home to control his diet and work on his conditioning.
“Over the summer I had a nutritionist and we talked about it and decided that it would be best if I stayed home and that way I could continue my diet and the things I have been doing over the summer,” Bhullar told Pro Bball Report. “Ever since I started with my nutritionist I lost like 15 lbs in a month and that’s a huge thing for me. If I can get another month like that, I can lose another 15, so it’s beneficial for myself and the Raptors agree with it too.”
Bhullar hasn’t played a game on the road with the 905 – yet – and in the team’s sole home tilt, he only played 14.2 minutes and he looked gassed being on the floor even that long. At one point with the 905 shooting free throws during the home opener, Bhullar wasn’t allowed to rebound. He was sent back down the floor to wait in the paint on defense.
However, he did show off why he is such an intriguing prospect. Bhullar went 4-4 from the field, collected 3 rebounds and blocked 2 shots. He’s a giant among basketball players and while he’s on the court, he is virtually unstoppable and almost impossible to shoot over.
Finding things this easy led to some really bad habits in college that Bhullar has struggled to shake off. If he could run the court for even a few minutes at a stretch, he’d be in the NBA now.
“I kind of have to get the college mindset out,” Bhullar explained. “I stopped eating junk food and stuff like that. I kind of grew up a little bit and now I am on a good diet and got rid of the bad habits and it’s been good so far.”
There are some obvious signs of improvement in Bhullar’s body since he left college after two years to play 39 D-League games with Reno last season. He looked a little better again playing with Team Canada at the Pan Am Games this past summer as well, but his conditioning still wasn’t up to par. His claim of dropping 15 lbs with the 905 looks believable, he is a little thinner than in the summer. Although, I’d guess Bhullar would be better off dropping 15 lbs a month well past Christmas if he really wants to get into NBA playing shape.
Fortunately, the benefits of getting into shape are becoming obvious and Bhullar can feel the impact of dropping a few pounds already.
“It’s so much easier to run around, move around and be in the games longer,” Bhullar said. “Even jumping is so much easier. Being able to jump an extra inch higher is big in this game. Especially just looking the part helps you out. Other NBA teams are watching.”
Jumping even an inch higher is big for Bhullar, it appears like his feet are still on the ground when he dunks now – not really, but it looks like it.
The D-League might even be better for Bhullar’s development than the NBA at this point in his career. The fast paced guard dominated game forces Bhullar to run and exposes his less than ideal conditioning. He can’t hide behind a deliberately slower pace here and it should push him to work on his body. So far those other NBA teams have been watching him grab his shorts after just a couple trips up and down the court.
“The D-League is amazing,” Bhullar said. “Especially the level of basketball here. It matches any league in the world. All the talented guys are here and they know they need to take it to the next step. The D-League is the way to go if you want to be in the NBA.”
905 head coach Jesse Mermuys singled out Bhullar as one of the players the team was looking to develop this season and the reason is obvious – 7’5 with soft hands obvious. If Bhullar could get in NBA game shape, he could be a backup or at least a solid third-string center already.
This giant of a local Toronto player will get a chance to play in Mississauga tonight and it seems like the only thing keeping him out of an NBA uniform is himself. Definitely a D-League player worth watching.
The Raptors took Wright 20th overall in the draft because he looked more NBA ready than the alternatives and they needed a third string point guard. That assessment could still prove to be correct, but Wright needs to play and the Raptors 905 will give him that opportunity.