NBA Draft

NBA draft prospects for Bulls fans to binge while live sports are on hold

obi_toppin.jpg
USA Today

NBA draft prospects for Bulls fans to binge while live sports are on hold

The fate of the current NBA season still hangs in the balance, but we know the fate of the remainder of the NCAA slate: Cancelled. 

That gives NBA talent evaluators (especially for non-playoff teams) full license to begin the work of assessing the current pool of prospects and aligning their priorities for the offseason.

What should Bulls fans be looking for in this upcoming draft? It's hard to say with much certainty, especially in what is considered by many a weak overall class. Much will be decided with the impending front office shakeup reportedly set to take hold at some point in the coming months. And there are also plenty of logistical issues still to be solved around the draft itself — chiefly, when it will occur and what the pre-draft process will look like in a post-coronavirus sports world.

But for now all we can do is sit, wait and binge. Here are a couple guys worth checking out while live sports are on hold that could fall in or around the Bulls' grasp with their current (patented) No. 7 overall lottery odds:

Cream of the crop

LaMelo Ball, G, Illawara Hawks

Ball’s playmaking, passing and ability to push pace has the chance to be transcendent. The good news: He’s just 18, and averaged a solid 17-7-7.5 in a pro league — the NBL in Australia — and showed some tremendous flashes in his 12 games down under:

The bad: That line came on 37% shooting and he’ll need to beef up considerably to hold up defensively at the next level. The glimmer that’s there is enough that the Bulls would have to take a hard look at him if they end up in a spot (top three or four at the worst) to draft him, even with Coby White in tow. Especially so given how much the team as currently constructed and schemed relies on transition opportunities for offense.

Obi Toppin, F, Dayton

There’s a lot to like about Toppin, especially on the offensive end:

All of that culminated in averages of 20 points and 7.5 rebounds on absurd 63.3/39/70.2 splits for a high-powered Dayton team. Toppin has every offensive trick in the book, is a freak athlete and is ripe to break out into a personal dunk contest every game. Just on Tuesday, he won AP player of the year.

Toppin's stock has skyrocketed over the course of this year, and no doubt would have continued to do so if the NCAA tournament had gone on as planned. As such, the Bulls might have to ascend into the top five (or higher) to have a shot at him. But if they do, he’d inject some excitement and supreme offensive talent into this group. Defensive questions aside, there’s a tantalizing nature to him as a prospect that doesn’t exist for many others in this draft.

A little bit down the board

Isaac Okoro, F, Auburn

Our Mark Schanowski just mocked Okoro to the Bulls, so he’s definitely someone to check out. Projected by most in that 5-10 sweet spot the Bulls will likely find themselves in, Okoro is a tremendous defensive prospect with underrated passing chops, too:

 

Shooting is the issue here, which will scare off a swath of Bulls fans fatigued by clanked jumpshots after this season. Twenty-nine percent from 3-point range coupled with suspect percentages everywhere but the rim (where Okoro lived in college) doesn't inspire much confidence. But the tools are there, especially on the defensive end, and if this injury-riddled Bulls season has taught us anything, it's that you can never have too much depth on the wing.

Tyrese Maxey, G, Kentucky

Maxey has been near the top of most expert’s boards all year, and with good reason. If the Bulls do decide to go the lead guard route in this draft, he’s the type they could take a swing on: A bulldog defender, whose 42.7 percent field goal shooting belies impressive downhill driving and creativing finishing ability:

He finished his freshman season with a pretty spotty record as a facilitator and under 30 percent from long range (though an 83.3 percent clip from the charity stripe could indicate progression is possible). Moreover, the assertiveness and athleticism with which he plays is a heck of a lot of fun to watch.

Devin Vassell, F, Florida State

Vassell has vaulted into the lottery strata with a solid sophomore season, averaging 12.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 28.8 minutes per game (he was at 10.7 as a freshman) for a Seminole team that ended the year No. 4 in the country. He capitalized on that momentum by declaring earlier this week.

The specter of something special is there; Vassell is a long 6-5 (6-10 wingspan) that plays savvy, active-handed defense and possesses a nice stroke: He canned 41.5 percent of his 3-pointers on 3.5 attempts per game this season and has a smooth, high release that could very easily translate to the next level. Picturing him as an overqualified role player in the Bulls’ aggressive defensive schemes while drilling open long-range looks on the other end is alluring:

 

Questions about his athleticism limit his ceiling as an initiator on the offensive end. But he entered this year an unknown and is now firmly in the lottery discussion. If the Bulls fall towards the bottom of the top 10 — or even decide to trade down, which wouldn't be a terrible idea in a soft class — he’s an archetype that could seriously help this team.

International crop

Deni Avdija, F, Maccabi Tel Aviv

Though his stats don’t yet jump off the screen, Advija profiles as one who can do it all from the forward spot — pass, shoot, run and otherwise facilitate efficient offense.

Without much proven yet, he seems a risky proposition at the high position he seems to be floating towards. But his type and skillset are both of need for the Bulls, and they could find themselves with a shot to take him depending on where his stock (and the Bulls’ ping pong balls) land. 

Killian Hayes, G, Ulm

Hayes doesn’t have the raw athleticism of a guy like Maxey at the lead guard spot, but all accounts of his passing are glowing. 

A guy with his feel for the game could make sense as a Ball LITE, if the Bulls want to go that route. He’s not an especially Bullsy pick, but is worth keeping an eye on along with other guys projected to fall into their selecting range.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

2020 NBA Mock Draft 5.0: Evaluation of 2020 NBA draft prospects put on hold

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USA Today

2020 NBA Mock Draft 5.0: Evaluation of 2020 NBA draft prospects put on hold

With the NBA season not expected to resume until mid-June, if at all, the status of the annual draft is up in the air. Front office executives were hoping to use the conference and NCAA tournaments to solidify their evaluations on some of the top prospects, but now they’ll have to wait until a re-scheduled combine to get a chance to see players in a competitive setting again.

The annual draft combine is usually held in Chicago in mid-May, but it’s likely the league will push that back into July, with the draft held shortly after the end of the playoffs.

Given the fact there is so much uncertainty in ranking players at the top of the lottery, individual team workouts and interviews will take on more importance than ever before. Don’t be surprised to see a number of teams with high first round draft picks look to pursue trades for veteran help.

Golden State has the worst record right now, and it’s no secret the Warriors are interested in pairing a top five pick with a player like Andrew Wiggins to add another star to their core of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

That’s a strategy that also could benefit the Bulls this summer. Without any clear franchise changing players available in this year’s draft, adding another young prospect isn’t what the front office should be looking to do.

Let’s say Philadelphia decides to break up their star duo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Why not make an offer for Embiid that includes the high lottery pick, either Lauri Markkanen or Wendell Carter Jr. and throw in Otto Porter Jr. to make the money work? If the Sixers make Simmons available, would an offer of Zach LaVine and the 1st rounder get it done?

One thing we know for sure about the NBA, star players will get restless this summer after their teams are eliminated in the playoffs, and some will try to force trades to better situations. If the Bucks fall short of the Finals, and Giannis Antetokounmpo turns down a max contract extension, you can bet his name will be involved in trade rumors with teams throughout the league.

Would Milwaukee consider an offer of Markkanen, LaVine and their 1st round pick? Probably not, but the Bulls need to pursue any and all options to bring a true superstar to Chicago.

So many unknowns as we look ahead to the 2020 draft, but with the college season over, NBA talent evaluators already have a pretty good idea of how their draft boards will line up. Here’s a look at how the first round could fall.

2020 NBA Mock Draft 5.0

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

NBA Mock Draft 4.0: Top of the 2020 NBA Draft still a mystery

james_wiseman.jpg
USA TODAY

NBA Mock Draft 4.0: Top of the 2020 NBA Draft still a mystery

One thing we know for sure about the 2020 NBA Draft: no team executives will be losing sleep on the eve of the lottery hoping to land the first or second pick like a year ago when the top prizes where generational power forward Zion Williamson and point guard extraordinaire Ja Morant.

Matter of fact, teams might prefer not to land one of the top three picks so they can pay less guaranteed money to a player who may not have a huge impact,

As we get closer to the start of conference tournaments around the country, no player has really distinguished himself as the clear cut No. 1 choice. Georgia’s Anthony Edwards gets credit for being available to play all season, but his poor shooting percentages from the field and the 3-point line for a bad college team hardly scream top overall pick.

Injuries and eligibility questions have kept a few of the top prospects off the court, so NBA executives will put more emphasis than ever on the information they gather during the draft combine and individual workouts.

Here’s a snapshot at where things stand in late February with our fourth mock draft.