When you are 7’5, professional basketball teams tend to take notice and the giant Canadian big man Sim Bhullar is going to get a lot of chances to make it to the NBA. This year those chances started with a new commitment to his sport playing as close to home as possible with the Mississauga Raptors 905 NBA Development League team.
Being that big has meant Bhullar never really had to worry about his conditioning in college, but just being unimaginably huge isn’t enough to cut it at the next level and this year he finally started to take things seriously. His ability to stay on the court in a faster paced game didn’t happen overnight, but in the five games since the D-League All-Star break Bhullar has been averaging 33.6 minutes, 17.4 points on 70.2 percent shooting, 13 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.4 blocks.
“I am playing so much better than I was earlier in the year,” Bhullar said. “Taking the time off and becoming a better player, doing the right things off the court and I think that’s really affecting my game and I am playing a lot better now.”
Bhullar came into the Mississauga 905 training camp focused on getting into better shape. His new team set down rules and expectations and Bhullar didn’t even travel with the club early in the season so he could concentrate on his training.
“This organization means business,” Raptors 905 head coach Jesse Mermuys said. “We brought him here and we had conditions in place with his agent, with Canada Basketball and we are not going to be lax on that. We are committed to the process and I’m sure it was tough, but we are not really going to let up until he gets to where he needs to be.”
“I kind of have to get the college mindset out,” Bhullar explained prior to the start of the season. “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.”
The process has been paying off. Bhullar only played in nine games in his first two months with the 905, averaging about 13 minutes, 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds as he just wasn’t in any condition to play. Mermuys had to restrict Bhullar to shifts that were no longer than about 3 minutes as his center was gasping for air after just a few trips up and down the court. It wasn’t your typical approach to player development, but it’s never been about his skills that coaches have worried about.
“It gives me time to refresh myself and I know Coach is going to put me right back into the game,” Bhullar said at the time. “So, it’s just go in there and work your hardest and get on the bench and get some water and get some rest and get right ready to go right back in there.”
Mermuys started ramping up Bhullar’s number of games and minutes in January as the center played in 10 games, started 5 and averaged about 19 minutes, those minutes increasing as the month rolled along to over 24 minutes per game in the last 5 games of the month.
Bhullar’s opportunity to play an even bigger role came towards the end of January when NBA D-League top-ranked ranked prospect Ronald Roberts Jr. was sidelined with a right knee strain.
Roberts was averaging 18.1 points and 12.1 rebounds for Mermuys and the 905 coach suddenly needed someone to pick up the slack and Bhullar was tagged with the job. Since the All-Star break, Bhullar has done just that.