Collin Sexton

Bulls high on Trae Young, Collin Sexton, unafraid to take point guard in draft

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Bulls high on Trae Young, Collin Sexton, unafraid to take point guard in draft

The phrase “positionless basketball” seems to apply to every spot but point guard, leaving many to believe Trae Young and Collin Sexton are unlikely choices for the Bulls.

But they have no such trepidation with taking either player, sources tell NBCSportsChicago.com. The Bulls appear enamored with Young and are high on Sexton and aren’t worried about how it would affect Kris Dunn’s development in the near future.

Young was a dynamo in his lone season at Oklahoma, drawing comparisons to Stephen Curry for his shooting range and even Steve Nash for his playmaking ability. He launched triples as if they were going out of style and was must-see-TV for the better part of the college season, before struggling in the last two months.

Young averaged 27.4 points and 8.7 assists for Oklahoma, shooting 36 percent from 3 while taking over 10 triples per game.

Oklahoma’s struggles were largely pinned on Young, but the Bulls believe he’ll be better in a pro setting where all of the defensive attention doesn’t fall on him, that he’s best-suited with good players around him where his court vision and creativeness will be on full display.

Young’s shooting is an element the Bulls don’t have at point guard with Kris Dunn, who cemented himself as a bonafide option early in the season and never looked back. Dunn was making strides before he was shut down, shooting 38 percent in March but shot 32 percent for the season.

The scouting report on Dunn is to give him the long jumper as opposed to crowding him on the perimeter, where he can use his quickness to explode to the basket and compromise defenses.

Having Young on the floor with Dunn, or even Sexton, would give the Bulls multiple ballhandlers and shot creators while also giving Dunn the opportunity to play off the ball more.

Taking that burden from Dunn was something the Bulls were going to have to negotiate next season, as Zach LaVine has the ability to create shots on his own. If the Bulls take a guard and expect him to contribute immediately, LaVine would have to slide down and play small forward in some instances.

Sexton isn’t the shooter Young is—nobody in this draft is—but he’s plenty explosive and the Bulls appear to like that about him. Sexton is bigger than Young, at 6-foot-3, long and wiry, although it looks like he can add bulk to his 190-pound frame.

Sexton can get to the rim as quick as anyone in college basketball and had little trouble finishing once he got there. At Alabama he was more of a scorer than distributor but still possessed the ability to create for his teammates.

With Dunn and LaVine on the roster, he would be able to develop at his own pace while bringing his open-court explosiveness in Fred Hoiberg’s pace-structured offense.

The Bulls have long said they would take the best player in the draft and their lack of fear in evaluating the likes of Young and Sexton could be proof of that.

'Young Bull' Collin Sexton might be the next piece for the young Bulls

'Young Bull' Collin Sexton might be the next piece for the young Bulls

The Bulls’ youth movement is underway and in full swing. Only the Suns and Sixers had a younger Opening Night roster, and by season’s end their four leading scorers were 24 years or younger. Bobby Portis and his 199 career games is the elder statesman of that bunch, and they’ll become more youthful with two first-round picks in the 2018 NBA Draft (and Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez trade candidates with expiring contracts).

Tuesday’s lottery drawing went against the Bulls, bumping down from No. 6 to 7 as the Kings moved to No. 2, they’ll still have options after the first six names go off the board. John Paxson appears set on taking the best player available when they go on the clock June 21st, and while he doesn’t exactly fit a positional need, Alabama point guard Collin Sexton could top the Bulls’ big board and give them what they “need” more than anything: talented basketball players.

A top 10 recruit in the country, Sexton committed to Alabama in November 2016, in part because of the guidance he’d receive from head coach Avery Johnson, who played 16 seasons in the NBA and led the Mavericks to an NBA Finals appearance in 2006, winning 440 games in seven seasons with Dallas and later the Nets.

That tutelage paid off, both from a collegiate perspective and for his NBA prospects. Sexton led the Crimson Tide to their first 20-win season since 2013, their first Associated Press Top 25 appearance since 2012 and their first NCAA Tournament victory since 2006. Though he was known in recruiting and SEC basketball circles, Sexton joined the national conversation in late November when he scored 40 points in a loss to Minnesota in which the Crimson Tide finished the game with three players.

Sexton’s next national headlines came in March, when he went on an absolute tear in the postseason. With his team squarely on the bubble, Sexton went the length of the floor in 4.4 seconds and hit a floater at the buzzer to beat Texas A&M – the floater accounted for two of his 27 points. The following day he dropped 31 on SEC regular season champ and rival Auburn in another upset win. Sexton blew past Virginia Tech in Round 1 of the NCAA Tournament, scoring 25 points on 14 shots while handing out six assists. He even managed 17 points on 50 percent shooting against juggernaut Villanova in a second round exit.

In five postseason games – Texas A&M, Auburn, Kentucky, Virginia Tech and Villanova – Sexton averaged 24.2 points on 53 percent shooting, 4.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists. A blur in transition, physical at the rim and a hound defensively, the 19-year-old saved his best basketball for last and showed NBA scouts that his game is made for the next level. He said Thursday at the NBA Draft Combine that he has his coach, Johnson, to thank for that.

“He was a big part of my success because he put me in the right positions this past year,” Sexton said. “He put me in a lot of pick and rolls and stuff and put the ball in my hand and allowed me to play through adversity.

“He made me want to work that much harder because in practice he’d be on me tough. If I throw a left-hand pass, a one-hand pass, he’s on me. So he really helped me out a whole lot.”

Sexton wasn’t asked to do much perimeter shooting in his lone year at Alabama. Whereas fellow top point guards in the class like Trae Young (3.7 makes per game) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (40 percent on 57 attempts; 11 of 22 in his last 10 games) used the long ball, Sexton shot just 33.6 percent on 131 attempts. His efficiency went up during that run in March, but he’s still ball-dependent and needs to work playing off the ball.

He’s been working on his perimeter shooting and mentioned Chris Paul as someone he models his game after. Paul, of course, is sharing the floor with James Harden in Houston and has subsequently had to improve his game off the ball.

“The NBA’s evolving. You’ve got to be able to play both positions,” Sexton said of backcourt versatility. “You can’t have the ball in your hands all the time.”

Still, he averaged 19.2 points, got to the free throw line 7.6 times per game and made 44 3-pointers. He won’t struggle to score at the next level, though at just 19 years old there’s still some fine-tuning needed. He measured just 6-foot-1.5 in shoes at Thursday’s combine, but his aggressiveness, quick feet and athleticism made him one of the league’s better defenders. He’s ready to play from Day 1.

And he would on a Bulls team that likes what they have in Kris Dunn but isn’t against upgrading in that aforementioned critical area: talent. Sexton brings a surplus of it to the table, both in his playmaking ability and transition game. Plus, in an era of positionless basketball the only reason to have two ball handlers on the floor at once is because you couldn’t find a third.

And if Sexton’s attributes and skill set weren’t enough to make him the perfect fit in Chicago, he has an apt nickname: Young Bull. Sure, it’s related to his bully-style basketball at the rim and the way he pressures on defense, but during a time when the Bulls want to get younger for the future, drafting a young Bull makes too much sense as the Bulls stock up on talent to push them forward.

Vincent Goodwill's post-Lottery mock draft: How will the first 14 picks play out?

Vincent Goodwill's post-Lottery mock draft: How will the first 14 picks play out?

1. Phoenix Suns — Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona: Best player in the draft, even if at a weird position.

2. Sacramento Kings — Luka Doncic, G/F, Slovenia: International man of mystery has been playing pro ball overseas for years. Perhaps he translates to position-less basketball.

3. Atlanta Hawks — Marvin Bagley, PF, Duke: Obvious pick, but here’s where the fun begins.

4. Memphis Grizzlies — Jaren Jackson, F, Michigan State: Some scouts believe long-term, he’ll be the best player in the draft. Big time upside, versatility.

5. Dallas Mavericks — Michael Porter, F, Missouri: If — and it’s a big if — the medicals check out, the Mavericks can take a chance on the talented wing. If.

6. Orlando Magic — Trae Young, G, Oklahoma: Who knows if Collin Sexton is a better player, but Young brings star power to a franchise in need of it.

7. Chicago Bulls — Mo Bamba, PF/C, Texas: Some scouts see Bamba with better defensive instincts than Ayton. Tempted to reach for a wing, though.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers — Wendell Carter, F/C, Duke: Talented inside scorer overshadowed by more heralded teammate. Sound familiar to this particular franchise?

9. New York Knicks — Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State: Tough and talented swingman who can score from variety of places, attributes Knicks need.

10. Philadelphia 76ers — Mikal Bridges, F, Villanova: Swingman in their own backyard too much to pass up for up-and-coming 76ers.

11. Charlotte Hornets — Collin Sexton, G, Alabama: Quick, aggressive and still growing into future position. Hornets need a jolt and possible replacement if Kemba Walker departs via trade.

12. Los Angeles Clippers — Robert Williams, F, Texas A&M: Intriguing athletic big man with plenty of upside. But expect the Clippers to dangle this pick and the next one.

13. Los Angeles Clippers — Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky: Versatile forward with ability to hit a shot and get a shot. Not as common as it seems.

14. Denver Nuggets — Lonnie Walker, G, Miami: Can he play right away on a team with playoff aspirations? Could be a project of sorts given his age, but plenty of gifts that could develop.