NBA Draft

Bulls will have impressive wing options in 2019 NBA Draft

wings-on-wings.jpg
USA TODAY

Bulls will have impressive wing options in 2019 NBA Draft

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.

Here's why the Bulls didn't take Michael Porter Jr. last night

mpjdenver.png
USA TODAY

Here's why the Bulls didn't take Michael Porter Jr. last night

There was angst and anger among the Bulls fan base following the team's selection of Wendell Carter in Thursday's NBA Draft. Though the team had been linked to Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr. - and he was far and away the biggest fan favorite - the Bulls passed on the former No. 1 prospect, opting to play it safe and find a complement to Lauri Markkanen on the frontline.

Porter fell farther than just past the Bulls at No. 7. Cleveland opted for Collin Sexton. The Knicks and Sixers went with wings similar to Porter in Kevin Knox and Mikal Bridges.

Porter didn't hear his name called until the very last selection of the Lottery, with the Nuggets grabbing the 6-foot-10 scorer. It's a dice roll for Denver, but one it can afford after it won 47 games and was Game No. 82 away from making the postseason. They're a team on the rise that doesn't need an immediate contribution from a rookie. And that's good, because Porter might not be contributing at all in his rookie season.

Gar Forman and John Paxson were asked about whether Porter was in consideration at No. 7, and if his medicals played any part in the decision to pass.

And while Forman wouldn't address medical situations, he did say the Bulls were in contact with Porter throughout the draft process.

"We spent time with Mike, he’s a great young man," Paxson said. "We’re not gonna talk about medical things. We go through a diligent process every single year.

"This year we probably had more debate and dialogue as a staff. Varying degrees of opinion were really strong. We wish him the best out in Denver."

Paxson didn't say that "debate and dialogue" necessarily included Porter, but multiple reports said the Bulls weren't interested in Porter when it came down to choosing at No. 7.

And it makes sense. The Bulls are in a position where they're beginning to move along in their rebuild. They needed a contributor, and someone who could play right away. Porter wasn't that player, and he wasn't going to be a great fit with Markkanen and Zach LaVIne anyway.

It'll always be fun to think about what could have been, but the injury risk was simply too high for the Bulls to consider using an important 7th pick on a guy who might not play for 16 months.

Admitted promise or not, the Bulls knew they wanted Chandler Hutchison – and they got him

Admitted promise or not, the Bulls knew they wanted Chandler Hutchison – and they got him

Neither John Paxson nor Chandler Hutchison himself would admit to what many called the worst kept secret in the pre-draft process. So whether you believe the Boise State senior had a promise from the Bulls that they would select him with the 22nd pick if still available, what Paxson and Gar Forman made clear was that they wanted Hutchison. And they got him.

“There are storylines and rumors all the time in this business and to keep trying to respond to them is often difficult. We liked Chandler a lot,” John Paxson said at the Advocate Center. We scouted him early, we scouted him often and we had our eye on him. He knew we liked him. Most players know when you like them, if you show up a lot and you’re around.”

There was plenty to like. Hutchison blossomed as an upperclassman at Boise State - after a unique basketball upbringing - averaging 18.7 points and 7.7 rebounds in his final two seasons with the Broncos. His 6-foot-7 NBA-ready frame kept him closer to the basket, leading to the efficient scoring and a blistering 72 percent at the rim, but keeping him a work in project on the perimeter.

He projects as a plus-defender who can defend on the wing and on the block in small-ball lineups and, as a four-year college player, should find minutes in a wing-depleted rotation. Put another way: he’s versatile at a position the Bulls have needed since the day Jimmy Butler walked out the door. Any shooting will be an added bonus.

But was there a promise, Chandler?

“I didn’t have any guarantee on where I was going," he said. "It could have been anywhere. Honestly, my heart was racing from 15 on. It was an exciting moment, though.”

The Bulls drafting Hutchison kept the theme of the night in Chicago trending after they took Wendell Carter 7th overall: complementary pieces to help an improving roster. Where Hutchison excels – physicality, scoring at the rim, defending multiple positions – the players he’ll share the floor with don’t. It’s easier to hide Denzel Valentine, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen defensively with a physical perimeter threat.

Paxson and Forman mentioned Hutchison's “slashing” multiple times, and that physical, quick style will help a Bulls offense that ranked 28th in the NBA on shots 5 feet and in. That inefficiency was one of the major reasons the team finished 28th efficiency and often struggled to find secondary scoring.

That versatility spans more than just defending, too. Hutchison was asked to become a do-it-all for a Broncos team whose second leading scorer averaged 11.8 points, second leading rebounder averaged 6.6 boards and second leading passer averaged 2.6 assists. Hutchinson did it all for the 23-win Broncos. His usage rate was 33.0, 10th highest in the country and a slight tick above Alabama point guard Collin Sexton (32.5%). His passing, shot creating and eventual shooting make him a Swiss army knife on the wing.

“We think he can put it on the floor and create. He got to the lane a lot as a ball handler. His shot is getting better and better, we think he’ll be able to shoot it from NBA range at some point but that’s an area he’ll have to continue to work on,” Paxson said. “The more guys you have that can handle and create and pass, with the way our game is and the way our floor is spaced, we think he can do those things.”

Promises aside – Hutchison is represented by Chicago-based Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports, who has plenty of ties to the Bulls – Hutchison checked all the boxes the Bulls were looking for, especially after they passed on wings like Mikal Bridges and Kevin Knox with the 7th pick.

“He addresses a position of need,” Paxson said. “We had debates all through this draft on wings and the type of player we wanted at that position. He fits.”