The stat line Sim Bhullar put up in Reno on Sunday night was as big as Bhullar himself: 26 points, 17 rebounds, 11 blocks for the 7-foot-5, 360-pound center.
But the number that mattered most for his hopes of reaching the NBA — and becoming the first player of Indian descent ever to do so — was the 43 minutes he played.
Production has never been a question for Bhullar. When he’s on the court, he’s productive, and he’s been equally as productive with the Reno Bighorns as he was at New Mexico State the last two seasons.
But Sunday’s monster triple-double was the result of the big man’s improving conditioning, as he’s averaging 28.9 minutes in eight February games after averaging 20.2 over his first 16 games. And there’s no better place for him to get in shape than with pro basketball’s fastest team under “The System” David Arseneault Jr. has brought from Grinnell College to Reno.
The Bighorns have actually slowed down their hyper-speed pace to accomodate Bhullar as he becomes more heavily featured in their attack.
|Sim Bhullar Statistics By Month|
“One of the reasons that Coach [David Arseneault Sr.] started running The System was to wear down the other team’s big men,” Ross Preston, Arseneault Jr.’s former Grinnell teammate and author of The Road to 138, a book about The System, said before the season. “Now the tables have turned and we have one of those guys.”
What seems like an unnatural fit has proven to be beneficial to both sides: Bhullar is leading the league in field goal percentage (69.9%) and blocks (3.6) while posting 14.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 5.6 blocks per 36 minutes; the Bighorns are outscoring opponents by 8.9 points per 100 possessions with him on the court — the highest net rating on the team.
The gradual increase in playing time has been part of the Kings’ plan for Bhullar after he participated in Sacramento’s training camp. He sat out the first three weeks of the season while working with Reno’s training staff.
“[The Kings] pretty much just said, ‘Get your body right, get in shape and you’ll be good for the future,'” he said at the NBA D-League Showcase last month. “They told me I’ve got a bright future — good hands, good footwork. Hopefully I can get my body right and be in the NBA soon.”
Bhullar has been utilized as the last line of defense in Reno’s full-court press and as a trailer when the Bighorns push the ball the other way. And when the game slows down, he’s feasted as a scorer out of the post and changed how opponents operate as a massive road block at the rim.
“If someone’s really good at one skill, we can use that in The System,” Preston said. “Being 7-foot-5 is a skill on its own.”
Here’s NBADLeague.com’s resident scout Ryan Blake on Bhullar’s NBA chances earlier this month:
NBADLeague.com spoke with Sim about his season in Reno at last month’s Showcase: