The Sacramento Kings made waves a year ago when they became the first NBA franchise to have an Indian owner with Vivek Ranadivé. With that, it is not surprising that the team would be the first to extend an invitation to an Indian player for training camp. The signs were obvious that it would be the Sacramento Kings who inked Sim Bhullar, a Canadian center of Indian descent, with no guaranteed roster spot. Bhullar will be one of many competing to have a place on the Sacramento squad for the upcoming NBA season.
At the outset, Bhullar is impressive to many based on appearance alone. The Indian stands at 7’5″ and 360 pounds. Without question, the big man will be immediately compared to past Chinese All-Star Yao Ming. Ming was another large Asian basketball player, who automatically got attention due to his size. While Yao Ming was a force in the NBA when he played, he ultimately could never stay healthy to play a full NBA season. As a result, he retired early after only nine seasons in the summer of 2011.
Like Yao Ming, the biggest question surrounding Bhullar is his ability to play the rough and tumble NBA schedule. It will likely be tough for him to play a total of 82-plus games in a season. During his college career, he has yet to move on the court like he will need to in the NBA. At 360 pounds, it is difficult to constantly move up and down the court without falling behind. This is in addition to the fact that he has been unable to play large minutes in games thus far. During his two seasons for New Mexico State, the Indian averaged a modest 25 mpg. If he is to become the elite center like he wants to be, he is going to have to increase that number to at least 35 mpg.
More importantly, Bhullar needs to overcome what other big men of his stature have been unable to, which is to stay healthy. Typically big men with this unfortunate skinny body type, such as Yao Ming and Shawn Bradley, are revealed to be brittle players. Moreover, their feet have had to handle the stress of supporting an eight feet tall body. The difficult play of the NBA was too much for their legs to handle. The difference with Bhullar is that he has the strength to support such height. He is bulky and may be able to compensate for his height. Even so, Bhullar may have to attempt to slim down to around 330 pounds.
Between his size and sluggish play at this point in his career, Bhullar will have to be a project if he is taken on by the Kings. As a project, it could take many years for him to adapt to NBA play. This makes it more likely that Bhullar will be picked up by the Reno Bighorns, Sacramento’s D-League affiliate. While it may take time to adapt, Bhullar has all the potential in the world. During his second and last season at New Mexico State, he averaged 10.4 ppg, 3.4 bpg, 7.8 rpg, while hitting a nice 65 percent from the field. While he would be the largest player in the NBA if he were to sign, and a dangerous presence as a rim protector, he also is a finesse player. Bhullar can shoot the two-ball quite well, which would make him a matchup nightmare on the other side of the court.
Bhullar is unlikely to be able to play many minutes in the NBA given the current state of his game. His size and sluggish nature are a concern for many fans. The Sacramento Kings may have seen the signs of a powerhouse center in Sim Bhullar. He will be the first potential NBA player of Indian descent, despite his contract not being guaranteed for the upcoming season. Bhullar has significant work ahead of him. If he truly wants to pave the way for, not only seven and a half-foot centers but Indian players, he will have to go through extensive conditioning. If he does, he has the potential to be a very special player.
Commentary By Simon Mounsey