Bulls

NBA Draft Tracker: Duke PF Marvin Bagley III

bagley.png
USA TODAY

NBA Draft Tracker: Duke PF Marvin Bagley III

Bulls fans have heard the phrase more than a few times,: “Secure the Bagley.” As in, secure Duke freshman forward Marvin Bagley III. The 18-year-old Bagley might be the top player available in a loaded 2018 draft. At 6-foot-11, 234 pounds, the lanky lefty is already drawing comparisons to former NBA All-Star Chris Bosh because of his smooth scoring ability in the post and from the perimeter.

Bagley’s instant success at the Division I level is even more impressive considering he was originally supposed to be a high school senior before getting reclassified to become eligible at Duke. Going up against one of the most demanding schedules in college basketball, Bagley is averaging more than 22 points and 11 rebounds per game, while shooting 62.6 percent from the field. He’s amazingly quick off his feet for a big man, capable of putting back offensive rebounds with multiple jumps or rejecting shots on the defensive end. And the scary thing is, he’s probably not done growing!

Bagley might not have Bosh’s 3-point shooting range just yet, but he’s making a respectable 34 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. And remember, Bosh was primarily a low post player during his early years in Toronto. NBA scouts are confident Bagley will develop into a consistent outside threat, making his versatile low post game even tougher to defend.

How does Bagley fit for the Bulls? Well, a player as talented as Bagley would be a great fit on all 30 NBA teams. His height and skill set can make him a weapon on the defensive end, protecting the rim as a post defender while using his speed and quickness to switch out on perimeter players. And that same skill set will make him a nightmare cover for opposing power forwards and centers. Yes, the Bulls have depth at the power forward spot, but there’s no reason why Bagley and Lauri Markkanen couldn’t play effectively together. Both are tall enough to defend in the post and both have the shooting range to knock down triples. In today’s position-less NBA, having two versatile athletes in the 7-foot range could be a pretty formidable weapon.

Problem is, unless the Bulls win one of the top picks in the draft lottery, Bagley will be long gone. At the midway point of the college season, Bagley, Deandre Ayton and International guard Luka Doncic are getting the most attention as possible No. 1 overall picks in June. Team needs could play a role in which player eventually goes first, but one of the franchises lucky enough to earn a top-3 pick will be able to tell their fans they have “secured the Bagley.”

Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

lauri.jpg
USA TODAY

Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

Lauri Markkanen doesn't often feel short.

The Bulls forward is 7-feet tall, which even in the land of NBA giants makes him one of the tallest players on the court at all times. So when Markkanen stands next to Yao Ming, it changes perspective quite a bit.

Markkanen posted a photo with him and the 7-foot-6 Chinese Hall of Famer. Markkanen looks like a child.

Makes you wonder if Markkanen pulled some "What's the weather like up there?" jokes just because he otherwise never can.

 

Could Derrick Walton Jr. become the solution at backup PG?

dw.jpg
USA TODAY

Could Derrick Walton Jr. become the solution at backup PG?

Former Miami Heat two-way player Derrick Walton Jr. is reported to be nearing a deal with the Bulls. In an interview with The Athletic, it was stated: "Walton, 23, says he knows where he’ll play next season. An agreement is in place, but his agent, Mark Bartelstein, is requiring him to sit on the news until next week. All Walton can put out publicly is this: 'Long story short, I’m good. I’m going to a great situation. All I can say.' "

And while it is not yet known if the potential contract will be a two-way deal or not, Walton would provide an intriguing lottery ticket for the Bulls. 

The team mostly ignored looking for a backup point guard on the market. There is obviously a belief in the organization that Cameron Payne will have some internal growth, making him the best option. And the trade of Jerian Grant for essentially nothing, shows even more that Payne is there guy. Retaining Ryan Arcidiacono is a nice move considering the hustle that he showed last season at both the G League and NBA level, but it still leaves the Bulls thin in terms of established backup PGs behind Kris Dunn. And that is where Walton comes into play. 

Walton was a four-year player at the University of Michigan, where he played in some big-time games and showed immense leadership potential. But in terms of strictly on the court skills, there is one thing that he does extremely well: space the floor. 

In his four years at Michigan, Walton took a total of 581 3-point attempts, and knocked them down at a 40.1 percent rate. His elite shooting is enough to make him a legitimate rotation player for Fred Hoiberg. And while Payne still may develop into a better player, his outside shooting is his calling card despite never being elite at that skill at the NBA level. And in fact, when you compare he and Walton’s stats from college, the G League and the NBA, it becomes apparent who is the better shooter right now.

3-point percentage at NCAA level: Payne- 35.9 percent, Walton- 40.1 percent
3-point percentage at G League level: Payne- 33.8 percent, Walton- 37.7 percent
3-point percentage at NBA level: Payne- 34 percent, Walton- 41.2 percent

Now obviously, there is a “small sample size alert” for the NBA level, as Walton has only taken 17 3-pointers at the NBA level in his limited time with the Miami Heat. But these numbers show that even dating back to their freshman years of college, Walton has been the more efficient shooter from 3-point range.

Cameron Payne has the edge when it comes to playmaking, and this is based off of the fact that Payne has maintained an assist rate above 30 percent through all of his G League stints, while also having a low turnover rate (9.9 percent). Walton didn’t come close to Payne in terms of G League assist rate, and his 17.9 percent turnover rate at the G League level shows that his decision-making has yet to catch up to his shooting. 

Ultimately, Walton is going to be most effective as an off-ball guard who can make quick decisions, and knockdown the 3-point shot at a high level. Though if Summer League was any indication, his passing out of the pick-and-roll is getting better. And while Payne certainly is a good shooter, his game is much more predicated on having the ball in his hands, and playing in the pick-and-roll. With so many players on the Bulls who can create their own shot, Walton could end up being the cleanest fit with this constantly evolving Bulls roster.