Just about everyone in Chicago can see that the Bulls are going to need all the help that they can get in the upcoming NBA draft. Hopefully, the front office sees it the same way.
Luckily this draft class is considered pretty deep, meaning that the Bulls can find themselves an instant impact player at draft spot 14.
Even with that, there is a bit of debate: Should the Bulls go small, big or wing?
The case for point guard
The case for the Bulls to take a point guard is fairly simple: Derrick Rose’s health is a perpetual question mark that the Bulls can’t and shouldn’t count of continually.
While last year was the best in terms of health that Rose has had since his ACL tear, playing 66 games, a lot of minds would be put to ease if Chicago had a backup they could groom for the long haul. The D.J. Augustin’s and Aaron Brooks’s of the world are nice, but it’s far past time for the Bulls to get someone that’ll be here for the foreseeable future.
The Bulls have been linked a lot to Providence PG Kris Dunn, though it would take a huge draft day slide and/or a major trade up for the Bulls to land him.
A more realistic option might be local product Demetrius Jackson from Notre Dame, who stands 6’2” and 195 pounds with a 6’5” wingspan.
Jackson has played well off the ball, shooting 41% on catch and shoot, and 38% for his career. He’s also had experience playing next to now Knicks PG Jerian Grant, which can help him play next to Derrick Rose and start immediately.
Vanderbilt point guard Wade Baldwin IV offers similar value, standing 6-foot-3 with a ridiculous wingspan of 6-10 and shot 40.6% from three over his two years in college.
If the Bulls decide to trade down, they still have some options.
Kentucky point guard and homegrown product Tyler Ulis might not be the biggest prospect standing at 5-foot-9, but Wildcats coach John Calipari lauded Ulis as the best floor general he’s ever coached – a list that includes John Wall, Eric Bledsoe and Derrick Rose.
I’ve coached a lot of great leaders and great PGs in all my years of coaching. Tyler Ulis is the best floor general that I’ve ever coached.
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) April 6, 2016
Ulis could shift Rose to the 2 and have the Bulls become a little more diverse as far as ball handlers go. If they really like the trade value, they could trade down to the end of the first and take Oregon State’s Gary Payton II.
The son of the Hall of Famer can ball himself, without a knack for steals to accompany his defensive acumen (duh, right?), solid ball handling and the lack of the need to always have the ball in his hands.
This year at least, the Bulls have a ton of options if they decide to go small, which is the way it appears that they’re leaning. But could the abundance of options lead them to believe that they can find someone, say a Gary Payton II or Yogi Ferrell, in the second round and lead them to pursue other options with the 14th pick? If so, who?
The case to go big
The NBA might be changing and continually evolving, but behind almost every dynasty is a great big man. The San Antonio Spurs regime has always gone as far as Tim Duncan can take them, the Lakers in the 2000’s had a three-peat because of Shaq and of course the Celtics in the early 60’s went as Bill Russell goes.
Needless to say, the Bulls don’t have one of these guys.
Bobby Portis is a nice start but he may need to put on some more weight and will certainly have to develop a more consistent post game. Nikola Mirotic has had his ups and downs, but a season where he doesn’t have to have an emergency appendectomy should do him some good. Taj Gibson is a solid role player but the Bulls may look to move on from him shortly as he’s approaching the wrong side of 30.
Beyond that the cupboard is pretty bare.
Both Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah are free agents this upcoming offseason and their status to return is murky at best. Gasol seems to already have his bags packed and both feet out of the door, which a myriad of condescending quotes about effort, defense, and attention to detail.
Noah is a bit harder to pin down, given how involved he is in the city and how much he seems to genuinely love Chicago. Add in that he’s coming off yet another year of injuries and a one or two-year deal with a player option doesn’t seem too far out of the question.
However reports allege that Noah and Jimmy Butler don’t exactly co-exist well, as Joakim has become increasingly annoyed with how Butler speaks about coach Fred Hoiberg and the team in general.
There was also a report by Joe Cowley, saying that Noah doesn’t trust the front office at all. It’s plausible that one of the most beloved athletes in Chicago could wind up playing elsewhere next season.
To sum it all up, the Bulls could either add insurance against one of their bigs leaving or just go the cheap option (because Bulls, duh) and replace Noah and Gasol with a young big man.
Luckily they’ll have a few options, starting with Michigan State’s Deyonta Davis. Davis is a bit raw, but he’s 6-foot-11 with great athleticism and scouts have said he wasn’t allowed to let out his tricks out of the bag.
Davis is tailor made to be a small-ball center in today’s NBA.
Another option is Domantas Sabonis, son of Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis. Domantas has a solid post game, the ability to hit threes and perhaps his greatest asset, the ability to rebound at a high rate, which is something that the Bulls have struggled with as of late.
There is one more position that the Bulls could address in the draft.
The case for a wing player
Let’s assume that the Bulls are confident they can get Gary Payton II in the second round or work out a trade for Trey Burke or Shabazz Napier.
Then let’s assume that they either re-sign Joakim Noah – don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you – or sign someone like Festus Ezeli, which wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world. Then what?
How about getting Jimmy Butler a little help on the wing? Now, granted, this may be the hardest scenario to accomplish, mainly because of the lack of depth at this particular position. It is clear, however, that Butler can use a running mate.
Justin Holiday is solid, but he’s better getting 10-15 minutes off the bench. Doug McDermott is the epitome of running hot and cold and thusly cannot be trusted with more than a reserve role. Tony Snell has had flashes but has consistently shown that he’s a bust, at least to this point in his career.
While there isn’t a great amount of depth to work with here – at least at the number 14 spot – there are two names that stand out in terms of fitting in with the Bulls.
Jaylen Brown is a top-five talent in the draft but may slip a bit due to other prospects stock rising, as well as the odd concern from other GMs that he may be too smart, in that he wants to know why an action or a play is carried out instead of just blindly following. Brown is a very good athlete, with the ability to get up and down the floor quickly. He’s strong taking it to the basket and projects to be a good defender on the wing, which is music to everyone’s ears.
The one concern is his jump shot, which isn’t strong at all, and the fact that he’d be playing next to two players that don’t shoot particularly well in Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler can’t be great news to Fred Hoiberg.
The other option is Michigan State product Denzel Valentine. Valentine improved every year of his four years at Michigan State, ending up with 19.2 points per game, 7.5 rebounds a game and shooting 44.4% from three. He’s a solid defender on the ball, and offensively can move the ball well and find the open man. Valentine is not likely to be the same scorer he was in college due to he’s not particularly quick or athletic. He is, however, a very smart player with good court vision and that alone makes him a good fit next to Rose and Butler.
In short, the Bulls have a ton of options when it comes to their selection in the upcoming NBA Draft and the chance to add an impact player right away.