Four players the Bulls should target in the NBA Draft


Four players the Bulls should target in the NBA Draft

With the draft two days away, Scott Phillips and Mark Strotman took a look at four players the Bulls could realistically target at No. 22.

For a team that won 50 games and leading their Eastern Conference Semifinals series against the Cavaliers 2-1, Fred Hoiberg and the Bulls front office has work to do on patching up a couple of holes within the Bulls roster. Depth at the center and point guard position, potentially some additional defensive help for Jimmy Butler on the wing or a replacement for Joakim Noah and/or Pau Gasol in the next few years.

Here's a look at who could help shore up some of the Bulls' current deficiencies. For further analysis see what Mark and Scott had to say in the video above.

Justin Anderson, SF, Virginia: The 6-foot-6 junior was on pace to be named the ACC Player of the Year before a wrist injury in February sidelined him for more than a month. But in the 26 games Anderson competed in he proved why he's worthy of a first round selection on Thursday. Playing for the slow-tempo Cavaliers he averaged 12.2 points on 46.6 percent shooting, 4.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists in nearly 28 minutes per game.

The most important numbers that jump out for NBA teams will be that he shot better than 45 percent from beyond the arc - best in the ACC - and was arguably the best defender on the country's second most efficient defense. He's the perfect "3 and D" wing player who can stretch the floor and also give Jimmy Butler help on defense, an area where Tony Snell hasn't consistently contributed through two seasons. The wrist injury and "old" age (21) may allow Anderson to drop to the Bulls, and they'd be wise to consider him if he's there.

[BULLS: Mark Schanowski's NBA mock draft]

Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville: Pick any NBA system and you've got the perfect fit for Harrell. All the knocks on the Louisville bulldozer - he's undersized, doesn't have a consistent jumper - are washed away the second he steps on the court. It's easy to see why his Cardinals won the national championship in 2014 and advanced to the Final Four this past season. A classic high-energy player who has the frame of a linebacker, Harrell was never outworked and combined that with his athleticism to become one of the best forwards in college basketball.

He'll need to become more versatile on the offensive end, but a team drafting Harrell knows it's getting a multiple-effort defender, excellent rebounder and great locker room personality. He's drawn comparisons to Kenneth Faried, and they're not far off. Assuming Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic are the Bulls' future inside, adding a defensive-minded Harrell would give Hoiberg plenty of balance on the interior. He doesn't fill a need per se, but all 30 teams can use a player like him.

Robert Upshaw, C, Washington: During his tenure at Iowa State, Freg Hoiberg became synonymous with bringing in transfers who had failed for one reason or another at their previous school. Fresh starts were the norm in Ames, and it's exactly what Upshaw is looking for at the next level. Kicked off two different programs (Fresno State and Washington) for reported failed drug tests, Upshaw has the talent of a lottery pick and the stock of a borderline first-rounder.

Before he left the Huskies this past season he was leading the nation in blocks per game, proving he's one of the most talented defensive centers in the class. From an on-court perspective he's exactly what the Bulls need. Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah put up solid block numbers but weren't all that great defending the rim, and there's no center behind them to log second unit minutes. The void left by Omer Asik is still glaring on the bench, and Upshaw could fill it. The question is whether or not Hoiberg wants to take on such a big risk in his first season in the NBA. For what it's worth, having veteran presences in Gasol, Noah and Derrick Rose to guide him could go a long way.

[NBA DRAFT: Get ready with more than 60 player profiles]

Tyus Jones, PG, DukeGone are Tom Thibodeau's methodical offensive sets, and they've been replaced with a Fred Hoiberg offense system that thrives on pushing the tempo and finding shots early in the shot clock. That could make Duke freshman point guard Tyus Jones a fit at No. 22. The 2015 NCAA Tournament's MOP thrived in transition all year, showed the ability to knock down 3-pointers and led the Duke offense to a national title while learning to play with lottery selections Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow.

The Bulls went through a carousel of backup point guards under Tom Thibodeau - C.J. Watson, Nate Robinson, Marquis Teague, D.J. Augustin, Aaron Brooks - and it would be nice if they could finally find a foundation for that second unit. Jones has a knack for for running offenses - different from the aforementioned shot-happy Bulls point guards of the past - which should help the group as a whole. Learning under Rose has its perks, and Jones simply finds a way to win everywhere he goes. He'd be tough to pass up in the first round.

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

Anfernee Simons looks more like a ball boy than a 2018 NBA Draft prospect right now. He’s not considered small, what with having a 6-foot-3 frame with a massive 6-foot-9 wingspan, and he weighed in at last week’s NBA Draft Combine at 183 pounds, “heavier” than Lottery-bound guards like Trae Young, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Collin Sexton.

But there’s plenty of potential to unpack from the soon-to-be 19-year-old, baby-faced combo guard. Don’t let the appearance fool you. Simons is one of the most talented players in the class, and a team patient enough to let him develop at his own pace could reap major benefits in due time.

You won’t find much video on Simons, as the IMG Academy star is preparing to be the first prospect to go preps-to-pros without a year in college since Thon Maker did so in 2016.

Simons, a consensus five-star recruit in the 2018 class, originally committed to Louisville in November 2016 and then decommitted the following September shortly after Rick Pitino was fired. Since he had graduated from Edgewater High School in Florida and was playing a post-grad year at IMG Academy, he became eligible for the 2018 NBA Draft because he is a year removed from high school. That’s where he played this past season, declaring for the draft and signing with an agent in late March.

“The opportunity is there. Me and my parents talked about it a lot and I feel like I’m confident in myself that I’ll be able to make this jump,” he said at last week’s Combine. “So I just felt like, do it now and not waste any time.”

Simons has been on the radars of NBA teams, even if he’s not a household name like Ayton, Doncic and Bagley. He’s currently projected outside of the Lottery, in part because teams haven’t seen him compete against collegiate level talent and because his wiry frame almost surely means time in the G-League as a rookie. But again, the skill set is there.

Simons is a point guard with solid range beyond the arc. He may struggle off the ball because of his size, though that long wingspan and a quick release from his chest should allow him to get off shots. He’s a blur in transition and finishes well at the rim – his 41.5-inch vertical was tied for third best at the Combine, and his three-quarters court sprint was eighth fastest.

He’s a mixed bag defensively. Wingspan is the fun buzz word these days, and that will help him at the next level, but his small frame means there’s work to be done. A strength and conditioning coach will salivate at bringing Simons into the weight room and getting his body NBA-ready.

“Just staying durable through 82 games,” Simons answered when asked about his biggest challenge physically at the next level. “Taking care of your body is real pivotal so I feel like learning how to take care of my body now is a good thing.”

Simons maturely answered that the “unknown” of his game will be both a positive and minus during the pre-draft process. While fellow prospects he may face in team workouts don’t know as much about him and, thus, his game, teams also need to find out more about Simons’ game and off-court habits.

“Coming in young, people don’t know who I am and haven’t seen me play much. That’s the good side about coming in early,” he said. “It could be the same thing (negatively). People haven’t seen me like that, so I feel like they don’t know who I am. They probably think I’m too young to play in the league.”

Simons met with the Bulls and has scheduled a pre-draft workout with them. Though the Bulls feel like their rebuild could go quicker than anticipated – especially if they hit on their No. 7 pick – there could be plenty to gain from drafting for upside on a player like Simons.

Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne will both be free agents in 2019, and Denzel Valentine’s long-term future isn’t set in stone in Chicago. That leaves plenty of openings in the backcourt behind Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine. Simons won’t be ready to contribute much in 2018-19, but the Bulls wouldn’t need him to. A handful of outlets projected Simons as a top-5 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The Bulls could snag him a year earlier, let him develop in Hoffman Estates and bring him up in a year when they’re a step closer to contending.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

On this episode of SportsTalk Live, Hub Arkush (670 The Score/Pro Football Weekly), Danny Parkins (670 The Score) and Lauren Comitor (The Athletic) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Manny Machado Mania continues in Chicago. Do the Cubs even need to trade for him to win the World Series this year?

Ricky Renteria has to bench another player for not hustling. Is this becoming a problem on the South Side?

Plus, Lauri Markkanen is named to the All-Rookie team. Could he be the centerpiece of a trade if the Bulls want to acquire a superstar or move up in the draft? 

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: