Prospects Bulls Should Target in 2015 Draft
In this year’s draft the Chicago Bulls have only one pick, the 22nd pick of the first round. With at least four roster spots to fill and many players currently on the team getting older, Chicago should look to draft a player that can make a solid contribution coming off the bench from day one and possibly one day take over for some of their aging players.
Much of the big names will be long gone by the time Chicago picks at 22 but there are still quality players to be selected at the end of the round. Here is who Chicago should look to select with the 22nd pick:
1. Delon Wright-PG Utah
As of now the two players signed on the Bulls’ roster for next year to back up Derrick Rose at point guard are Kirk Hinrich and E’Twaun Moore. Hinrich has aged significantly and this season he was more of a liability while on the court than a positive. He can no longer be tasked with major minutes and the Bulls will need someone to pick up the slack. E’Twaun Moore had flashes of pretty good play during the season, but is too much of a question mark to be trusted to run the 2nd team.
If the Bulls elect to address the point guard position in the draft, Delon Wright would be a nice choice at #22. A 2015 Consensus All-American 2nd team choice, Wright is the big point guard the Bulls have always needed. Standing at 6’5 Wright has a size advantage on many point guards, even in the NBA. His size gives him an advantage when looking for the pass; he can look over defenders and find an open passing lane and also getting to the basket which he does very well.
He moves well with the basketball and has a variety of spins, fakes, and euro step moves to help him score around the rim. Wright also plays well in transition and can lead a team on successful fast breaks for easy points. Another advantage to his size is his ability to play defense. His height and wing span gives opposing point guards trouble trying to shoot over him or go around him. Wright averaged 6.8 rebounds per game in 2013-2014 which is tremendous for a point guard. Last season he still averaged an impressive 4.9 rebounds per game, proving he can be an above average rebounder for the point guard position. He also averaged better than two steals per game in both his seasons at Utah as well as at least one block per game each season. He can make an impact from day one on the defensive end and has potential to become a very good point guard in this league.
Wright was a key part of his team, leading the Pac-12 conference in win shares the last two seasons. His biggest weakness is his shooting, which could possibly be fixed by Chicago’s new coach former sharp shooter Fred Hoiberg. Tyus Jones and Jerian Grant would be good picks for a point guard as well, but they will both surely be gone by the time Chicago picks at 22. If Chicago wants to draft someone to run the 2nd team, Delon Wright would be an excellent choice.
2. Justin Anderson- SF Virginia
Chicago’s starting small forward for this past season, Mike Dunleavy, will be entering free agency and leave an open spot for the Bulls to fill. The two remaining 3’s on the roster are Doug McDermott and Tony Snell. McDermott was a great draft selection for the Bulls last year, but he did not see much playing time in his rookie year and seemed to not be acclimated to the NBA yet. Although he could be a very productive player or even a starter in the future, it is too early to pencil him in that role just yet.
Tony Snell looks more ready than McDermott to see an expanded role next year. If he is not named starting small forward, he will most likely continue to back up Jimmy Butler at the 2 guard position. In that case, the Bulls would need another wing player to fill out there roster.
Based on their position in the draft, many of the most highly touted small forwards will likely be out of reach for the Chicago Bulls. One of those small forwards that should still be on the board is Virginia’s Justin Anderson. Despite missing eight games this season due to injury, Anderson was a 2nd team All-ACC selection for 2014-2015. He is 6’6 with a 6’11 wingspan. His long body and excellent athletic abilities give him great potential to be a lock down wing defender. In his three seasons at Virginia, Anderson finished in the top five of the ACC conference in defensive rating each year.
He also displayed a nice improvement in his shooting in his Junior season at Virginia. In the 2014-2015 season, he posted a field goal percentage of 46% while shooting 45% from the 3 point line and 78% from the free throw line. If Anderson continues to shoot this well going into his NBA career he can serve as a three and d type player who can space the floor on offense and lock the perimeter down on defense. He might not have the potential to be a star, but Justin Anderson can be a productive role player in the NBA.
3. Montrezl Harrell- PF Louisville
At the start of the 2015-2016 season Bulls’ power forwards Taj Gibson will be 30 years old and Pau Gasol will be 35. The roster is getting older and one of the best ways to spend the team’s only draft pick would be on a big man to eventually replace older players. Another thing to consider is the lack of cap room the Bulls have for the upcoming season and the possibility Chicago trades a veteran such as Gibson or center Joakim Noah for cap room.
Montrezl Harrell is the type of player former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau would love; an athletic, high energy player who excels on defense and winning the hustle plays. Harrell is somewhat small for the power forward position, measuring in at 6′ 7.5″ with shoes at the NBA combine. He makes up for his lack of height with his athleticism and his high motor. Harrell is quicker than most big men and can run the floor in transition and blow by his man for easy fast break points.
He also piles up points on put backs and alley-oop lobs in transition and half court sets. Not only is he quick but Harrell is a very strong player; weighing in at 253 pounds at the NBA Combine, he has the strength to defend players bigger than him. Along with exceptional defensive potential, Harrell is a solid rebounder despite his size. In 2014-2015, he finished 2nd in the ACC in rebounding at 9.2 rebounds per game. For a player standing at 6’8 max, averaging close to 10 rebounds a game is impressive. He also finished this past season averaging 1.2 blocks per game.
Harrell is a Joakim Noah type player, always giving 110% and simply out hustling his opponent every night. He is the type of player every NBA team needs on their roster to set the tone for others. Although Montrezl Harrell is not the most gifted offensively, he still managed to score 15.7 points per game on 56% shooting in the 2014-2015 season. If Harrell can improve his shot and develop a set of effective post moves he could turn into a dominant two way player, but for now he still looks like a solid defensive-minded role player that can help many teams in the association.
If he were to still be available at pick 22 and Chicago selected him they would have a potentially great replacement for their valuable 6th man power forward Taj Gibson, who may find himself being traded this season due to the Bull’s tight salary cap situation.
4. Christian Wood- PF UNLV
As explained previously, the Bulls have many older big men on their roster and it is time they start to get younger in that area. Next year the only power forward or center on the roster who is under 30 years of age is Nikola Mirotic, who will be 24.
Another power forward the Bulls should look at in the draft is UNLV’s Christian Wood. Wood is another athletic big man. He has great size for a power forward, measuring in at 6’11 with a 7’3 wingspan. He is only 220 pounds but considering he is only 19, Wood has time to bulk up and get his body ready to go against NBA big men.
Wood is another power forward who can run the floor very well, even taking the basketball coast to coast like a wing player or guard. His athleticism makes it easy for him to score on bigger, slower opponents where many times he will do a simple jab step fake when facing his opponent and then blow by his man to the rim.
Wood is also developing his jump shot; making 25 shots beyond the arc last season, and if he continues to improve he could become a valuable stretch four that can space the floor for his teammates. He is a very versatile big man who can score in different ways and although he isn’t the most polished prospect, he is young and has potential to get better in many areas. Wood also shows great potential on the defensive end of the floor.
With his combined length and athleticism he can cover a lot of ground and multiple positions. Last season, Wood averaged 10 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game, while playing 32.7 minutes per contest. He is not the most disciplined defender so the fact that he still averaged those numbers suggests he has skills, and can continue to get better in all areas if he puts in the work. Based on potential alone, Wood could be picked closer to the lottery but since he still has lots to improve on both ends of the floor many people believe he will fall near the end of the first round.
Even though the Bulls have a great stretch four in Nikola Mirotic, the addition of Christian Wood could pay off nicely, he looks to have more defensive potential than Mirotic and also can score, averaging 15.7 points per game last season at UNLV. Seeing that many top prospects will be off the board when the Bulls pick, Wood could be a nice steal at #22.
5. Robert Upshaw- C Washington
The Bulls were very thin at the Center position last season. Joakim Noah struggled mightily and never seemed to recover from off season knee surgery. Noah is now 30 years old and rumors have spread that the Bulls might try to trade him this offseason. Chicago’s back up center last year was 37 year old Nazr Mohammed. Mohammed has declined and does not contribute much to the team, only averaging 5.6 minutes per game last season. Chicago badly needs a back up center who can give Noah more time to rest and contribute positively when on the court.
Robert Upshaw is a huge prospect, measuring in at 7′ and 258 pounds he will usually be the biggest man on the floor. He is limited offensively but his size gives him great potential to be an impact player defensively as a rim protector and shot blocker and also a force on the glass. Upshaw played 24.9 minutes per game for Washington and averaged a respectable 10.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, and an amazing 4.5 blocks per game. If you average his per 40 minute numbers his stat line is an incredible 17.6 points, 13.1 rebounds and an eye popping 7.2 blocks per game.
His 85 total blocks for the 2014-2015 season in only 19 games put him 2nd place in the Pac-12. He is not the most athletic big man but he is capable of holding down the paint for a team. Upshaw is very talented and could become a very valuable player down the line, but many people question his dedication after being dismissed from two college programs. After being dismissed from Washington last season, the team finished the year 2-9, showing how vital he was to his team’s success.
If not for getting into trouble Upshaw very well may be a lottery pick but no team will take a chance on him that early with so many red flags. It is very likely he will be available when Chicago is up to pick at 22 and if they are willing to take the risk, they should snatch him up. Upshaw may never become a truly dominant post scorer but he definitely has the potential to become the defensive anchor for a team if he puts in the effort. The Bulls really need someone to help Joakim lock down the paint. If he stays on the right path and improves his game, Upshaw has the talent to eventually take over as the starting center.