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:
Obi Toppin's synergy profile. He ranks in the 99th percentile of points per possession this season. pic.twitter.com/uD6OQ8Ihj9— Ricky O'Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) March 11, 2020
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:
Isaac Okoro's passing ability is legitimately good. I really wish Auburn used him more as a creator, but what he has shown so far is very good for a wing. His passing ability, combined w/his handle and fluidity, makes me think he might have more to unlock if given a bigger role. pic.twitter.com/YS30eKdMve— Spencer (@SKPearlman) February 15, 2020
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:
Tyrese Maxey's burst/first step is nasty — @polarfall brought this up months ago: arm/hands speed is so damn fast. Really shows when he rejecting screens, attacking off the edge. Changes directions, explodes, and shields. pic.twitter.com/iOXBzakQar— Brian Geisinger (@bgeis_bird) March 20, 2020
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:
▪️12.7 PPG— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) March 19, 2020
▪️All-ACC Second Team
Devin Vassell was a major 🔑 to the success of the 𝐀𝐂𝐂 𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐦𝐩𝐢𝐨𝐧, Florida State Seminoles!
Full Video: https://t.co/aNDZz8cpz8#MarchOn #ACCMBB pic.twitter.com/pX9WK6GJ5G
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.
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.
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