R.J. Barrett, 6-foot, 7-inches, Duke, Freshman
If you don’t already know the name R.J. Barrett, you certainly will after this upcoming college basketball season.
Barrett is the godson of NBA Hall of Famer Steve Nash, and he has continuously dominated competition at the high school level and in the FIBA youth circuit, including a 38-point explosion against team USA in the FIBA U19 semi-final. He went on to lead the Canada U19 team to a gold medal. And he has not slowed down since.
Barrett was the top-ranked recruit in his class and won the Naismith High School Boys’ Player of the Year, and his two-way appeal is a big reason why.
Barrett is an extremely physical wing player who explodes to the basket and finishes through contact. His ability to control his body in the air is incredible when you observe what an explosive leaper he is. Even more impressive is the fact that Barrett is a willing and talented passer despite being such a dominant scorer.
Listed at 200 lbs., Barrett definitely has the potential to add more muscle to his frame and conceivably guard all five positions on the floor. His jump shot is far from a finished product, but he has not struggled to hit the 3-point shot at any step of his career so far. And again, his ability to finish awkward and heavily contested shots at the rim will likely make his jumper a non-issue for the foreseeable future.
He also loves to grab the rebound and run the fastbreak himself, something that will make him a tremendous fit with all 30 NBA teams.
The Bulls would definitely have to finish as one of the three worst teams in the league to have a real shot at Barrett, or else a “Godfather offer” would have to be put on the table by the Bulls front office.
Cameron Reddish, , 6-foot, 7-inches, Duke, Freshman
Duke will likely continue their recent trend of multiple top 10 NBA draft picks, and Reddish will certainly factor into that trend living on.
Reddish is roughly the same size as Barrett, but has a much different skillset. Whereas Barrett is in the mold of LeBron James, a do-it-all player whose athleticism and cerebral nature dictate his play, Reddish is more of a Devin Booker-type. He is a talented finisher, but his most popular trait is his sweet shooting stroke. Reddish is able to nail jumpers with ease whether it is off the dribble or coming off of screens. He also uses his escape dribble incredibly well to set up his jump shot, and this will eventually develop further as he mixes in more drives all the way to basket with that move.
He projects as more of a shooting guard at the NBA level because of his comfort level on the perimeter. But he will need to work on his post-game at Duke, since he will likely have a size advantage over most 2-guards, even at the NBA level. Reddish possesses a solid fadeaway from the post, and he should have no trouble refining that part of his game since he already has remarkable footwork.
He has shown decent passing vision in spurts, but his handling of the rock often meant he was looking to score. The fact that he has shown the ability to make a pocket pass out of the pick-and-roll is encouraging though. Because when Reddish’s jumper is falling he is capable of going off for 40+ points, but elite defenses will key in on him, meaning he needs to show the ability to give the ball up when there is no clear scoring opportunity.
Just like his future Duke running mate Barrett, Reddish can add muscle to his frame to better help him guard positions one through five. But, also like Barrett, Reddish’s defense will be much more about if he wants to guard rather than if he can.
The Bulls could realistically have a shot at Reddish if—similar to the Bulls most recent Duke draftee Wendell Carter Jr.— he is overshadowed in Durham by his uber-talented teammates.
Nassir Little, 6-foot, 7-inches, North Carolina, Freshman
Like the two players discussed before him in this post, Little was a McDonald’s All-American. He will have a great opportunity to put himself at the top of the list of talented wings available in the 2019 draft, seeing as he will play in some intense Duke-North Carolina rivalry games against fellow freshman Barrett and Reddish.
The thing that sets Little apart is his 7-foot, 1-inch wingspan. He also has an incredibly impressive motor that as of now, is the best part of his game.
He is constantly active and uses his length to snag rebounds aggressively on the offensive and defensive glass. This makes him a constant threat for put back finishes in traffic.
Little has already done extensive work to improve his jump shot, which is quite streaky at this time.
He is capable with the pull-jumper, more so in the midrange. But the comination of that pull-up shot and his finishing ability in the open floor often leaves defenders with an impossible decision. His jump shot will be always be a decent threat since he gets great lift on it, so it won’t be an issue long-term as long as he continues to refine it at UNC.
His incredible athleticism and competitive fire will have many NBA general managers watching him closely as the college basketball season starts. Most of the things Little needs to improve upon are coachable skills, such as ball-handling, shooting and screen setting, while he already possesses all the skills that you can’t teach.
Sekou Doumbouya, 6-foot, 9-inches, Limoges CSP
Doumbouya may not be widely known in the US, but he is a hot commodity already to NBA scouts. At just 17-years old, Doumbouya is likely to have a meteoric rise similar to the most recent international wunderkind: Luka Doncic.
He is currently listed at 210 lbs., already bigger than many of his peers, but he possess just as high-if not greater-of a skill level. He has great playmaking instincts, and is specifically adept at hitting cutters along the baseline.
Similar to Giannis Antetokounmpo, it is hard to nail down what position Doumbouya will play in the NBA since he is already pretty solid at everything.
Of course there is room for improvement, but Doumbouya already has a clean and repeatable shooting motion that should improve over time. Perhaps the hardest part of a the game for a player with his type of athleticism to develop.
He explodes to the rim from all over the court and definitely does not mind contact. Doumbouya’s massive frame and willingness to bang inside could make him a free throw magnet at the NBA level.
Doumbouya's long arms allow him to play the passing lanes well on defense, but he is perhaps better at guarding his man one-on-one. This is where his surprising lateral quickness allows him to check a wide range of players. But his agility is part of his appeal, so his playing weight will be crucial moving forward.
His frame is so big at his age that he could actually bulk up too much, something to keep an eye on as he adjust to tougher competition this upcoming season.
He is sure to shoot up draft boards if he continues to hold his own, especially since he just signed with French club Limoges CSP of the LNB Pro A League.
The Bulls have one of the best international scouting departments in the league, so chances are Doumbouya is already on their radar.
His ability to play all five positions on the floor make him an ideal fit for a Bulls team that has constantly been overloaded at the one and the five. And along with their record, his play in his first year with Limoges CSP will go a long way towards determining if he will be in play for the No. 1 pick. If he is not in play for the top pick in the draft, he is the type of exceptionally young prospect that I could see the Bulls front office attempt to trade up for.
Zion Williamson, 6-foot, 6-inches, Duke, Freshman
The most shocking commit from Duke’s loaded 2018 recruiting class, Williamson is perhaps the most polarizing NBA prospect since Anthony Davis in 2012. He is a physical specimen at a listed 272 lbs. But tons of questions linger about how his game will translate to the next level.
For starters, despite being a solid ball-handler, he is very reliant on his dominant (left) hand dribble. If he struggles as a ball-handler, then he needs to be a willing screener. In fact, his wide-frame has the potential to make him the best screener in his draft class if he fully commits to the part of the game.
But his otherworldly athleticism will make him a lottery pick no matter what. It doesn’t take long to find five different videos of Williamson dunking the basketball into next week. Even that part of his game comes with questions though.
In high school Williamson generated most of his offense on fastbreak attempts. He was able to get out in the open floor, and pretty much no one at the youth level could do anything to stop someone his size with a full head of steam.
He does not have much of a half-court game at this stage of his career, which is likely amongst the top concerns NBA scouts have. Because we have not seen Williamson able to do much off the dribble beside bully his way to the basket, his ability to rebound the ball will be very important to his overall development, seeing as it could become his main source of points in a slow-tempo, playoff atmosphere game.
Williamson has also flashed the ability to be an interesting defensive weapon. His incredible hops give him the chance to be a great rim-protector. But as of now he is much more adept at prowling the passing lanes, waiting to pick off a pass and initiate a devastating fastbreak.
Like Chicago native Jahlil Okafor, even if Williamson dominates the college level, he will need to work every offseason to refine his game to do something at a high level outside of dominate those who are smaller and less athletic than him.
If the question marks about his fit in the NBA persist in 2019, there is a good chance that Williamson would be available to the Bulls with a late lottery pick.