NBA DRAFT

Bulls draft targets: Making the case for 3 top wing prospects

/ by Rob Schaefer
Presented By BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois
NBA DRAFT

* Between now and the 2020 NBA Draft’s currently-scheduled date of Nov. 18, NBC Sports Chicago will be making the case for the Bulls to select some of the consensus top prospects with their No. 4 overall pick. We’ve broken down LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, Deni Avdija, the case for trading down and Killian Hayes. Next up, the wings.

With the No. 4 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Bulls will select…

The best talent available. So said new executive president of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovas on draft lottery night.

Without a peek at the team’s draft board, it’s hard to know exactly how that philosophy will manifest. There’s buzz of the Bulls targeting a head playmaker -- either in the draft or free agency -- this offseason to augment a core about which new management has preached optimism. With hot-button names such as LaMelo Ball, Killian Hayes and Tyrese Haliburton floating around the Bulls’ range in most mock drafts, it’s easy to envision the team targeting a lead guard with their top-five pick.

 

But what if Karnišovas’ preferred prospect is of a different, wingier ilk? The Bulls, after all, have been understaffed on the wing for seemingly the entirety of their rebuild due to injuries to Chandler Hutchison and Otto Porter Jr. and a general lack of depth. Positionally fluid forwards that can shoot, playmake and defend are en vogue across the league, and the Bulls find themselves lacking any that are sure bets to move the needle long-term.

Here’s a look at three players who are widely considered the top wing prospects in this draft class not named Anthony Edwards or Deni Avdija (each of whom we’ve already profiled). All seem viable to be selected from the middle of the top 10 through the late lottery.

If Karnišovas and Co. are looking to combine top-end talent with the team’s greatest positional need, these are guys that could fit the bill:

Isaac Okoro, G/F, Auburn

A wrecking ball defensive prospect that’s drawn Jimmy Butler comparisons for his high IQ, hustle and competitiveness? Many Bulls fans would sign up for that in a heartbeat.

Now, the Butler comparison might be a bit strong -- he's a legitimate offensive engine -- but Okoro will have utility at both ends of the floor from Day 1 in the NBA. Defensively, he’s stalwart on the ball -- the best perimeter defender in the class in the eyes of some -- and a supreme shot blocker for his size. On the offensive side, his explosiveness makes him a terror as a cutter, driver and one-man fast break. He's a rare athlete.

But know this about Okoro: He’s not all power. He also finishes with finesse using his left or right and is an underrated playmaker once in the teeth of the defense.

The key to star potential will be his capacity to space the floor. Okoro converted just 28.6 percent of his 3-point tries on muted volume (70 attempts, 2.5 per game) and 67.2 percent of his free throws (134 attempts, 4.8 per game) as a freshman. Not irredeemable figures, and when the jumpers go down, they look smooth. But it’s an area that needs improvement.

Where Okoro helps the Bulls most

  • Transition: The Bulls bumped their PACE to near the league-average line and their transition frequency (15.8%) to 10th in the association in Jim Boylen’s final year as head coach. But efficiency lagged: Their 1.08 points per transition possession ranked 24th in the NBA, and their offensive rating second-to-last. Okoro is an instant remedy to their fast break game; because of the attributes enumerated above, he generated 1.194 points per transition possession at Auburn, a 79th percentile mark, per Synergy.
  • Rim finishing: Okoro took a staggering 61.1 percent of his shots at the rim at Auburn and finished 67.8 percent of them, per Hoop-Math. The Bulls led the league in restricted area attempts per game (33, roughly 37% of their total attempts) in 2019-20 as they sought to modernize their offense, but finished 29th in restricted area field goal percentage (60.2%). 
  • Perimeter defense: The Bulls could be down one or both of their best perimeter defenders if Kris Dunn and/or Shaq Harrison find new homes in free agency. Okoro could be a defensive building block along with Wendell Carter Jr. (as could either of the next two).

Devin Vassell, G/F, Florida State

Standing reportedly 6-foot-7 with a 6-10 wingspan, Vassell is a bit longer than Okoro (6-6, 6-8.5) and a more proven outside shooter. After jolting his production across the board in his sophomore season under Leonard Hamilton, he’s risen from relative unknown to potential lottery selection.

He’s also a preternatural team defender, by the tape and numbers. Playing 28.8 minutes per game and leading a top-ranked team in a top-ranked conference in scoring while logging ludicrous (for a wing) 2.8% steal and 4.1% block rates is no small feat. Vassell defends multiple positions on the ball too, with fluid feet that keep him perpetually in position and deft hands that have a knack for finding deflections. Fundamentally sound yet opportunistic. 

 

Without the top-end athleticism of Okoro, he might not be the highest ceiling name of the bunch. But his superior shooting (41.5% from 3, 3.5 attempts per game) may grant him the steadiest floor. He also displayed some aptitude pulling off the dribble at Florida State, which will benefit him at the next level.

Where Vassell helps the Bulls most

  • Outside shooting: Yeah, we’ve all seen the video. Vassell still canned 41.5 percent of his 3s and 73.8 percent of his free throws in his sophomore season -- the former the same as his freshman year but on double the volume, the latter a six-point improvement year over year. The Bulls were 11th in the NBA in 3-point attempts per game (35.1) in 2019-20, but 22nd in percentage (34.8%). "3-and-D" has become a cliche term, but that's what this team needs and what Vassell brings -- without needing the ball to be effective.
  • Versatility: Vassell is going to be a sublime multi-positional and team defender for years to come. His ability to toggle between the 3 and 4, stymie wings, fill gaps and space the floor could open a world of possibilities for a Bulls team that’s lacked malleability in recent years. His IQ and on-court communication would be a boost too.
  • Team defense: As mentioned, Vassell’s defensive instincts are genius level -- whether it be poking balls free, harassing passing lanes or spiking blocks recovering from behind or the weak side. That type of imprint can simultaneously cause chaos for opponents and spark offensive opportunities; like Okoro, Vassell is a splendid transition player (1.411 ppp, 94th percentile).

Patrick Williams, F, Florida State

One day, historians will look back on the year 2020 and ponder… How did anyone score on the 2019-20 Florida State Seminoles?

Williams, who won ACC Sixth Man of the Year honors in 2019-20, has seen his stock skyrocket in this year’s unconventional predraft process. Just Monday, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony noted that Williams is “getting looks as high as the No. 4 pick,” with his range, according to Givony, being Nos. 4-9.

And though he didn’t produce at the level of Okoro and Vassell at the collegiate level -- averaging 22.5 minutes, 9.2 points and four rebounds off the bench his freshman year -- it’s easy to see why. Williams’ physical tools (he’s reported to be 6-foot-8 with a 7-0 wingspan), relentless motor and hunk-of-clay offensive promise are tantalizing in an uncertain draft. He’s also the youngest American-born player in the class, having just turned 19 on Aug. 26.

As Will Perdue once sagely said: “[Potential] is a very dangerous word. That word potential gets coaches and general managers fired.” Well, Williams has potential in droves. Whether it actualizes remains to be seen, and could very well be situation-dependent.

Where Williams helps the Bulls most

  • Versatility: Like Vassell, Williams should have utility in a litany of different lineups at the next level. He probably projects as a full-time 4, but, against bigger teams, has the athleticism to man the 3 in spurts, and in small ball configurations, possesses the size and strength to maybe even run some 5 down the line. The scope of his defensive impact will hinge on how well he can keep up on the perimeter (defending in space isn't currently a strong suit) and how much he cuts down on costly gambles hunting steals and blocks.
  • Shot creation: This is more projection-based. Williams shot just 32 percent from 3-point range (50 attempts) as a freshman and was hit and miss spotting up (like Okoro, floor-spacing is a swing skill). But he flashed the ability to pull up from the midrange and attack and playmake off the dribble, especially handling in the pick-and-roll. He should have offensive utility cutting and attacking closeouts, with room to grow into more diverse on-ball responsibilities over time.
  • Offensive Glass: Here’s an area Williams can come in and contribute immediately. His 6.9 percent offensive rebound rate (2.3 per 40) as a freshman was stellar, as was his 81.2 percent rim shooting on putback attempts. And while we’re on the interior: His potential as a rim protector (5.6 percent block rate!) will undoubtedly catch teams’ eye too. In a physical sense, he's ready for the NBA transition and is ever-active and alert as a defender and rebounder.
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