Bulls

The statistical need that top NBA Draft prospects would fill for the Bulls

The statistical need that top NBA Draft prospects would fill for the Bulls

The Bulls had an injury-plagued 22-win campaign that resulted in them earning the No. 7 pick in next month's NBA Draft.

Here's a look at the areas the Bulls struggled in and where each of the top 8 prospects in the NBA Draft would be able to make them better in the future.

1. Zion Williamson, PF, Duke

The Bulls stat: 22 wins

Where he helps: Let’s keep this one simple. Williamson would turn the Bulls into an instant playoff contender and have a direct impact on winning on a nightly basis. He’s a freak of nature and a can’t-miss prospect. Now wipe those tears away and let’s move on.

2. Ja Morant, PG, Murray State

The Bulls stat: 280.0 passes per game

Where he helps: Playing slow doesn’t always mean the ball has to stop moving. Jim Boylen wanted the Bulls to play more in half-court sets – which can be successful – but the ball stopped moving far too often. Under Boylen, the Bulls were 26th in the NBA in passes per game. The teams below them were elite isolation teams (Houston, 1st; Spurs, 5th, Lakers, 9th) or lived and died by it (Oklahoma City). The Bulls were 24th in isolation efficiency despite being 7th in frequency. They need to get the ball moving.

Morant would do just that. His 10.0 assists per game were excellent but it’s his ability to keep the ball moving, whether on the perimeter, in transition or in dribble-drive situations that will make him so valuable to an NBA offense. Now, the Bulls don’t have a chance to draft him so let’s move on.

3. R.J. Barrett, SF, Duke

The Bulls stat: 58.0% FG inside 5 feet

Where he helps: The Bulls were surprisingly good at getting to the rim last season, ranking 10th in field goal attempts inside 5 feet per game (33.2). However, the narrative changed once they got there. The Bulls shot just 58.0% from inside 5 feet, third worst in the NBA behind Charlotte and New York. Consider, too, that both those statistics include Robin Lopez, who shot 66.3% on 3.9 attempts inside 5 feet per game. Finishing at the rim is a good barometer for success: Nine of the top-13 finishers at the rim were playoff teams, with Golden State and Milwaukee leading the way.

Barrett had 173 non-transition attempts at the rim during his freshman season. Though he’s not the most efficient player in the country, he was able to finish 64.4% of shots at the rim (that number includes transition attempts). He’s a good enough athlete with quick enough feet and body control around the rim that he’d be a boon for a Bulls team that too often came up empty at the rim.

4. Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt

The Bulls stat: 10.1 points, 0.9 3-pointers on 30.5% shooting

Where he helps: The above number is the average from Bulls starting point guards over the last three seasons. In a league that’s seeing its point guards become lead scorers, the Bulls have swung and missed on everyone they’ve brought in post-Derrick Rose (Rondo, Grant, Carter-Williams, Canaan, Dunn, Payne, Arcidiacono, Blakeney, Lemon).

Garland isn’t the perfect prospect but he’s got a shot to fill it up at the next level. He’s an excellent outside shooter who can score in the mid-range, too. He’s got some size restrictions which could make it difficult for him to score at the rim, but the Bulls need a shooter at the point guard position, someone to keep defenses honest. Garland would provide just that.

5. DeAndre Hunter, SF, Virginia

The Bulls stat: 60.6 contested shots per game

Where he helps: This one isn’t pace-dependent so it’s hard to know what percentage of shots the Bulls contested, but as it stands they were 25th in the category last season after Jim Boylen took over. The Bulls were 27th in contested 2-point shots per game (36.2), a mark of lack of communication, length and recovery ability. Plenty of factors go in to why the Bulls were so bad defensively last season, but it begins with the fact that they rarely made life difficult on opposing offenses. Teams took advantage of switches and mismatches and exposed them often.

Hunter would provide the Bulls everything they were lacking on that end of the floor. He’s the best perimeter defender in the class, has excellent length and should be able to guard 2, 3 and 4 at the next level. At the very least, he’s a high-effort player with a non-stop motor who makes the Bulls defense better instantly.

6. Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech

The Bulls stat: 12.3 deflections per game

Where he helps: Of the top 13 teams in deflections per game, eight went to the postseason. Included in that list were the Raptors, Thunder, Rockets, Warriors, Celtics, Nuggets and Jazz. (The Suns and Wizards were in that group, too, for full disclosure). In that same span, the Bulls were 23rd in deflections per game, with Kris Dunn, Otto Porter and Shaq Harrison leading the way in that category.

There’s no collegiate stat for it, but Culver plays passing lanes well and has the length to make the Bulls better in this category. Steals aren’t necessarily an indicator of a good defender, but the Bulls were 20th in that category (7.4 per game). Culver was a pest, racking up 1.5 steals per game for Texas Tech’s NCAA-best defense. He’s a smart defender with length. The Bulls need plenty of that.  

7. Cam Reddish, SF, Duke

The Bulls stat: 41.6% eFG on pull-up shots

Where he helps: We're not sure if there's a real correlation between pull-up jumpers and winning, but consider: The six most efficient pull-up jump-shooting teams this season were Golden State, Houston, Portland, LA Clippers, Milwaukee and Brooklyn. The six lease efficient? Minnesota, Memphis, Miami, Oklahoma City, New Orleans and the Bulls. The best of the best were great on pull-ups. Some of the league's worst were at the bottom of this list, including the Bulls at 25th.

His potential suggests Reddish could become a solid shooter and scorer at the next level. But we didn't see it at Duke so we can't really project it. Instead, Reddish scored 0.903 points per possession on 62 off-the-dribble jumpers. It's not a massive sample size (1.6 per game) but was good enough to rank in the 71st percentile nationally. We're looking for real numbers here to support Reddish improving the Bulls. The reality is he's a boom-or-bust pick with high upside and a low floor. But the pull-up numbers were a good look in an otherwise ugly season.

8. Coby White, PG, North Carolina

The Bulls stat: 14.3 transition possessions per game

Where he helps: The Bulls don't need to be the Atlanta Hawks, who led the league with a ridiculous 104.62 pace this past season. But at some point they've got to get their transition game going. Transition possessions accounted for just 13.0% of their offense, 24th in the NBA, and they were 23rd in pace after Jim Boylen took over. That's where White comes in. He led a North Carolina offense that was the fastest of any Power 5 school and he does an excellent job of both pushing the ball and finishing at the rim on those possessions. If the Bulls draft White, he'd essentially force their hand in to pushing the pace more. That's where he excels, and the Bulls have supporting pieces in Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine to do some damage on the break.

Terry Rozier didn’t know Michael Jordan, Bulls 3-peated twice until ‘Last Dance’

Terry Rozier didn’t know Michael Jordan, Bulls 3-peated twice until ‘Last Dance’

It’s as shocking as it is true.

Terry Rozier, 26 years old and an established NBA player employed by the Charlotte Hornets, did not know that Michael Jordan and the Bulls three-peated twice in the 1990s until viewing “The Last Dance.”

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He confessed as much to Jonathan Abrams of Bleacher Report:

"Just actually seeing this documentary, I learned so much," Rozier told Abrams. "I didn't even know that they (the Bulls) won three straight [championships two times]. I'm just being honest... To do things like that in this league, you have to be super special.”

 

Fact check for all of the above: true. And while undeniably humorous to hear Rozier admit this, the larger piece offers a heartwarming testament to Jordan’s influence from the perspective of Rozier, backcourt-mate Devonte’ Graham, Cody Zeller and other members of the team the Bulls’ great now owns. It's an engaging, worthwhile read.

Rozier even said he could have foreseen himself fighting MJ if, in another life, they somehow found themselves on the same team. “The Steve Kerr route,” as he puts it.

The feature also touches on Jordan and Jordan Brand’s $100 million commitment to social justice causes.

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Bulls offseason watch: Key dates for 2020 NBA Draft, Free Agency

Bulls offseason watch: Key dates for 2020 NBA Draft, Free Agency

Tuesday begins the staggered, three-day voyage of 21 NBA teams to Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Fla. for the 2019-20 season restart (the Raptors have already arrived).

For the Bulls, and Bulls fans, that’s not of direct consequence. Excluded from the bubble, supporters and observers will be limited to loose Bulls ties — enter: Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler — and draft lottery dreaming as the NBA’s best battle for the 2019-20 crown in Orlando.

But that doesn’t mean the next five months, which will comprise an unprecedented offseason in the league’s history, don’t hold significance for the Bulls. A likely third consecutive top-10 draft choice is on the way for the team, as are key contractual deadlines for players currently on the roster and a decision on the future of head coach Jim Boylen.

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There remains much unknown about the 2020 NBA offseason — chiefly, from the Bulls’ perspective, the salary cap, luxury tax line and status of the predraft process, the last of which has been halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Also now in play is the matter of a possible eight-team bubble being constructed in Chicago for the squads not joining the league in Orlando, though there are hurdles galore on that front.

What we do have is a framework of a reported schedule to track through the remainder of the summer and ensuing autumn. Here are some key dates for Bulls fans to watch for the time being (all of which are, of course, subject to change given the potentially fluid nature of the league’s calendar amid the pandemic):

NBA Draft

Aug. 17: Early entry deadline for prospects

The last day for underclassmen not automatically eligible to declare for the NBA draft to state their intentions. Moved back from its original date of April 26, as reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Scott Phillips has you covered tracking who’s already declared or testing the waters.

Aug. 25: Draft Lottery

Typically, the early entry deadline and draft lottery would be nearly two months apart, with the combine sandwiched in between. But with the pandemic moving predraft interviews to Zoom, and live, remote workouts currently prohibited, it appears the league will squeeze both into an eight-day span, also per Wojnarowski.

The Bulls have selected No. 7 three years in a row, using those picks to draft core pieces in Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Coby White. And even as the world erupts into chaos around them, they slot seventh in the lottery ranks once again this season. 

But with the NBA smoothing its lottery odds before the 2019 draft, the Bulls will have a modicum higher of a chance of leaping. They enter the lottery with a 7.5% chance of nabbing the No. 1 pick, 32% shot at vaulting into the top four and 19.7% odds of staying locked at No. 7. They also own mathematical chances at No. 8 (34.1%), No. 9 (12.9%), No. 10 (1.3%) and even 11 (0.03%).

Last nugget of note: This year’s lottery intentionally falls 11 days after the conclusion of the NBA’s eight-game seeding round in Orlando; while the eight teams left out of the bubble are locked into their current slots, the final six teams in the 14-team lottery will be populated by those who fall short of the playoffs. Right now, those six are the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards. If any of them vault into the postseason during the seeding games and play-in round, they’ll flip places with the team they usurp outside of the lottery. Both the lottery order, and the order of selections 15 - 30 will be determined by team record from when the league suspended play on March 11. 

Oct. 6: Early withdrawal deadline for prospects

Any not automatically eligible prospects that declared for the draft on or before Aug. 17 will have the opportunity to rescind that declaration (and maintain NCAA eligibility) on or before Oct. 6, per Wojnarowski.

Oct. 16: 2020 NBA Draft

The draft this year will fall three days after a potential Game 7 of the NBA Finals (Oct. 13), according to Wojnarowski. Broadcast, location and logistical specifics appear to be undetermined as of yet.

RELATED: 2020 NBA Mock Draft 6.0

Option/Offer Deadlines and Extension Eligibilities

From there, a few key decision days for players already on the Bulls’ roster loom. First and certainly not least...

Oct. 17: Otto Porter Jr.’s player option deadline

As reported by ESPN’s Bobby Marks, Otto Porter Jr. will have until Oct. 17 to decide whether or not to exercise his roughly $28.5 million player option for the 2020-21 season. His opting in appears all but a certainty (especially coming off an injury-riddled season in which he appeared in just 14 games, and amid a potentially tumultuous cap environment), and will essentially seal the Bulls’ fate as an over-the-cap team this offseason. 

Heaping that $28.5 million figure onto the Bulls’ books would bring the team’s guaranteed salaries for the 2020-21 season to $106,027,707 (numbers via Spotrac) before addressing restricted free agents or contracts for any draftees. The latest reputable pre-pandemic cap projection, from Wojnarowski, was $115 million, which could now be subject to change.

Oct. 17: Qualifying offer deadline

Also on Oct. 17 is the last day for teams to extend qualifying offers to restricted free agents, per Marks. The Bulls have three: Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine and Shaq Harrison. Full breakdown on the considerations at play for each here.

Oct. 18: Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Porter and Cristiano Felicio become extension eligible

The next day, per Marks, three Bulls starters become extension eligible — Markkanen on a rookie-scale basis, while LaVine and Porter are of the veteran designation.

Markkanen’s case is among the more curious in the league. His third season saw marked regression from his second in usage, opportunity and production, but given his skillset and considerable potential, he still represents a possible building block for the Bulls moving forward. A year ago — assuming expected development — we might have thought we’d be pondering a max for Markkanen at this point. Now, with a new front office regime in place, his market value is anyone’s guess. Maybe Arturas Karnisovas and Markkanen’s representation find an amenable compromise before the start of the 2020-21 season. But perhaps just as likely is Karnisovas wanting to see more from him, and Markkanen taking the opportunity to bet on himself making a leap in a contract year and earning some extra dough, as Jimmy Butler did five years ago.

RELATED: Bulls mailbag: Which free agents fit? Lauri Markkanen extension talks?

LaVine has two years and $39 million remaining on a contract he has become one of the more team-friendly in the league given his production since returning full-time from his ACL tear. Porter and Felicio’s deals enter their final years in 2020-21. Frankly, it’d be surprising to see any of them consummate extensions before Karnisovas and new general manager Marc Eversley get a chance to see the Bulls up close and in action.

Free Agency

Oct. 18: Free Agency opens

According to Wojnarowski, free agency is expected open Oct. 18 at 6 p.m. ET, with the moratorium period running from Oct. 19 - 23, and lifting on Oct. 24.

As mentioned, the Bulls will likely be out of the running for any appreciable cap space when that window opens. But they will have their (as of now) non-taxpayer mid-level exception to work with — possible targets for which you can peruse in K.C. Johnson’s latest mailbag.

And for what it’s worth, that luxury tax line could be worth monitoring. In a tweet Monday, Marks mentioned a previous projection of $139 million for next season’s luxury tax. That projection would have to plunge pretty far for the Bulls to need sweating it out, but in the current climate, who knows what could be on the table? If the Bulls somehow found themselves over that line, the difference in last seasons non-taxpayer and taxpayer MLE was about $3.5 million (~$9.2 million to $5.7 million).

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