The NBA Draft is under a month away, which means NBA Draftmas is back. Each day, The Game Haus will review a team’s past season, their team needs and targets. Today we will take a look at the Chicago Bulls 2018 NBA Draft profile.
This last season was a pleasant surprise for the Chicago Bulls. Early projections had them firmly within the NBA Draft Lottery’s top five slots, setting the Bulls up for a wonderful season of tanking and looking forward to this draft. But things panned out a little differently than the 27-55 record would suggest.
Turns out, the mysterious GarPax duo reached into their bag of tricks one more time. They finally picked a side in the NBA’s “win now” vs “the rebuild” debate by trading away superstar Jimmy Butler for Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine from the Minnesota Timberwolves on 2017 Draft night.
This trade has panned out very well for Chicago. Markkanen has silenced any concerns about not being worth that seventh overall selection last year, averaging 15.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and making the All-Rookie NBA first team. He shot 43.4 percent from the field and 36.2 percent from 3-point land. Most impressive about Markkanen’s rookie campaign was shattering the NBA record for fastest to 100 3-point field goals, a record previously held by Stephen Curry, who did it in 58 games. Markkanen did it in just 41.
LaVine proved he’s still got it. Coming back from knee surgery is a scary thing, especially in Chicago. But LaVine put together a solid season, averaging 16.7 points per game. The final piece of this deal, Kris Dunn, put up solid numbers (13.4 points, six assists, 42.9 percent shooting) while struggling to shoot the three at a 32.1 clip. Expect that to change next year as injuries kept Dunn off the floor.
Picks and Needs
First round: No. 7, No. 22
The Bulls have plenty of young pieces right now (Bobby Portis, Denzel Valentine, Cameron Payne, Justin Holiday). It is a roster full of young potential. With two first-round selections in this year’s NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls are postured to make a big impact on the future of the franchise.
With the success of Lauri Markkanen, the Bulls finally have a direction to build their new team around. Last year, the Bulls were top-10 in both 3-point attempts and makes (sixth and 10th, respectively). Regardless of your opinion of Fred Hoiberg, this is the NBA now, and the Bulls are making progress. Hoiberg was able to run his offense somewhat well last year, and there were real flashes of productivity. With LaVine, Dunn and Markkanen, the Bulls can stretch the floor and create a lot of space for their playmakers to work.
But all that success outside the arc is moot when you are as horrible on the inside as the Bulls were. On a per-game basis, the Bulls allowed the fifth most rebounds, were around the top 15 in two-point field goals allowed and near the bottom of the league when it comes to inside production. It is clear the Bulls need to address their inside presence with one of these two picks.
Another area in which the Bulls could improve massively is in the backcourt. Dunn, LaVine and Holiday were all serviceable last year, though no one really took control of the offense. Dunn led the team in assists with only six per game. With the way wing talent is coveted within the NBA, a very talented distributor could land right into Fred Hoiberg’s lap at No. 22. A passing talent with ability to create could be the missing piece of this offense that seemed to lack clear direction.
Targets and Thoughts
Pick No. 7: Wendell Carter Jr., PF/C, Duke
The Bulls are in the position to draft best available at No. 7. If Wendell Carter Jr. is still on the board at this point, expect Chicago to run to the podium. Many would prefer someone like Mohamed Bamba if the Bulls are going to draft a big, as all anyone is talking about is his absurd length and ability to own the rim on both sides of the floor. But Bamba’s offense is lacking, and the Bulls need a big who can threaten from anywhere on the floor.
When it comes to Michael Porter Jr., there are just too many variables. The back injury is worrisome, and the Bulls are not exactly desperate for another playmaking wing. Wendell Carter Jr. checks all the boxes of a stretch big who can play and guard multiple positions.
Living in the shadow of Marvin Bagley at Duke this year was a blessing in disguise. Carter still put up some very impressive numbers, averaging 13.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game while shooting 56.1 percent from the floor. Don’t call him one-dimensional though, as he shot 41.3 percent from three when he decided to step outside.
Carter also has shown the ability to be a nightmare on the glass, which is something the Bulls need desperately. A team that shoots the three as heavily as Chicago does needs someone to hound the glass on offense. A third of Carter’s 335 rebounds, good for 18th overall in the nation, came on offense.
Carter’s 6-foot-10, 259-pound frame is more than ready for the NBA. At only 19 years old, he can only add to his already impressive size. He was phenomenal for Duke all year, especially once Bagley went down with injury.
Carter was frequently the defensive key for Duke, guarding the opponent’s best wing threat every night. He’s an extremely versatile, athletic player who would fit right in to what Fred Hoiberg wants to do. He can score off the dribble, turn his back to the basket, defend, clean up the glass and more.
What’s not to like? Wendell Carter Jr. is one of those more well-rounded bigs in this draft. Chicago would be foolish not to look his way at No. 7.
Pick No. 22: Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova
Another player in this draft who probably is not valued as highly as he should be, Jalen Brunson was a stud for three years at Villanova. All three years, everyone wondered whether or not he would declare for the draft.
After winning another title this year, Brunson has decided to leave the college ranks on top. He secured the Wooden Award, Naismith and AP Player of the Year, as well as consensus All-American and NCAA All-Tournament Team honors. Brunson is a winner whose basketball IQ is undeniable, giving the Chicago Bulls the floor general they need to facilitate their offense.
Brunson was the embodiment of “speak softly and carry a big stick.” He is not the flashiest guard on the floor, but he is a pure point guard that does it all and does it all very well. Season stats of 18.9, 4.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds points per game turn heads. This year, Brunson shot 52.1 percent from the field and almost 41 percent from three. He is a gifted finisher who attacks the rim aggressively, but is able to remain unselfish and unafraid to kick the ball back out.
Off the ball, Brunson always seems to find the right angle or soft sport in a team’s defense, making sure to always be an outlet. More kudos to his incredible game sense. Most impressive was his 1.8 turnovers per game. As a team last year, the Bulls averaged 14 turnovers per game. A distributor like Brunson who takes care of the ball would be a real breath of fresh air.
This pick should not even be a question at No. 22. Brunson is projecting around the mid 20s in this draft, which is preposterous for a player of his caliber in a league that so heavily values guard play. The lottery is always packed with one-and-done wings with tremendous upside. How many of those pan out? Brunson is an extremely low-risk pick. With Brunson, you know exactly what you are getting. He has been nothing if not consistent in his three years under Jay Wright at Villanova.
The upside may not be there for him as an individual player, though his impact on a team as a whole will be immense. Due to his unselfish playmaking and attention to detail, Brunson is a proven winner whose leadership could help the Bulls take it to the next level. Another pick in this draft with great value and fit. No need to overthink this one.
Chicago fans are looking pretty close to “dream scenario” for the Bulls in this draft, a roster without too many huge holes and two first-round picks. Drafting best available might just land a couple pretty good players without having to reach for a need.
Wendell Carter Jr. would really improve the Bulls’ lack of inside presence. On both ends of the floor, Carter would be an athletic improvement. His size and agility allows him to defend anyone, translating to a matchup nightmare on the other side of the ball. He can score from anywhere and clean up the glass for his shooters.
Jalen Brunson falling to Bulls would be a godsend. An offense that looked pretty unorganized last year would gain the NCAA’s premier guard. Brunson’s proven leadership could add an intangible that this team is really missing. Getting the best, and only, pure point guard in this draft class at No. 22? Sounds like a slam dunk. Or would that be a layup in this case?
Regardless, this draft holds a lot of potential for a Bulls team that appears to be on the cusp. Your move GarPax.
And check out Eli and Ben’s Podcast “Courtside Ramblings” on SoundCloud or iTunes — TGH Podcast Feed
Featured image from Larry Brown Sports
“From Our Haus to Yours”