Given the Bulls recent stretch of winning 10 of 12 games, and the impending return of their best player Zach LaVine, it might be a good idea to start looking at draft prospects that fall in the back half of the lottery.
Villanova swingman Mikal Bridges is an intriguing prospect at the Bulls' biggest position of need. The 6-foot-6 junior combines 3-point shooting range with impressive quickness to get to the basket. He’s already delivered several highlight reel plays with thunderous dunks after blowing by an initial defender.
Bridges will get maximum exposure during tournament season, playing for one of the top teams in the country. While Chicago area point guard Jalen Brunson handles primary ballhandling responsibilities for Villanova, Bridges excels as a secondary shot creator from the wing. He attacks closeouts with a lightning-quick first step and has the leaping ability to finish at the rim over taller help defenders.
How does Bridges fit for the Bulls? Right now, wing minutes are being divided between Denzel Valentine, David Nwaba and Paul Zipser. Of course, that will change when LaVine returns, with Justin Holiday likely moving to small forward to accommodate LaVine taking over as the starting shooting guard. Holiday, Valentine and Nwaba are all signed for next season, but in looking at the Bulls' needs for the 2018-19 season, small forward and center (assuming a Robin Lopez trade) rank right at the top of the list.
Draft analysts have Bridges projected in the 10 to 14 range, and we all know John Paxson and Gar Forman are hoping to pick higher than that. But if the Bulls finish with somewhere around 25 to 30 wins, they’ll most likely be drafting in the 7 to 10 range, and a talented scoring wing like Bridges could provide an immediate upgrade at the small forward position.
Because of Villanova’s top 5 status, the Wildcats are on national television all the time. So when you get a chance, take a closer look at Bridges, and picture him in a lineup with LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markannen. Bridges might not be a franchise-changing talent like Marvin Bagley, Deandre Ayton or Trae Young, but he could turn out to be next season’s Kyle Kuzma, and that would be an excellent addition for the rebuilding Bulls.