NBA Draft 2012: 3 Late First-Round Prospects for the Chicago Bulls
June 28 is the set date for the NBA Draft, and the basketball world is clamoring with anticipation as mock drafts start to pop up all over.
The NBA Draft is usually when the league’s least fortunate teams get the opportunity to choose from the best and brightest prospects from the collegiate and international ranks in hopes that their chosen player will be the first step towards team prosperity.
While the most publicized players are usually taken first, there are quite a few solid contributors and would-be superstars that fly under the radar, revealing themselves only when they set foot on the NBA hardwood.
It is that diamond-in-the-rough type player that the Chicago Bulls are hoping land since they are near the bottom of the draft selection totem pole with the next to last pick of the first round.
The Bulls have struck late draft gold before with power forward Taj Gibson, and their need for an athletic wing coupled with this year’s talent depth puts them in position to repeat that late round success.
Using mock draft postings from NBADraft.net,CBSsports.com and DraftExpress.com, the following is a short list of prospects that can help the Bulls fill their need for another shot-creating athlete, while minimizing the possibility of having to trade up to do so.
Each player to be discussed is consistently projected by the aforementioned sites as being either a late first or early second round choices.
Let’s take a look at the talent.
School/Organization: University of Memphis
Position: Shooting Guard
Height: 6’ 6”
Weight: 175 lbs
Let’s get this out of the way: Barton can flat-out score. His offensive game is versatile with a solid mid-range jumper, great off-the-dribble moves, and the ability to finish in the paint.
He progressed tremendously from his freshman to sophomore year, increasing his production across the board, especially points per game (12.3 ppg to 18.0 ppg).
Outside of his scoring production, his field goal percentage stands out. He hit 50.9% of his shots while pulling down eight rebounds per game. That’s no small feat considering the position he plays.
What makes Barton even more appealing is his length. His long arms enabled him to average 1.4 steals during his sophomore campaign. The thought of him in Thibodeau’s defensive scheme foreshadows a lockdown defender in the making.
Barton’s size is his biggest downfall. While his height is definitely NBA ready, his scrawny frame makes one wonder if he could handle the physicality at the professional level.
Barton may find himself being posted up by bulkier players or being thrown out of his offensive rhythm by more physical defenders.
Progress might be hard to come by for Barton if he finds it hard to adjust to the NBA grind. Until he can take the drubbing, his first few years could be spent learning the game from the sideline.
The size factor is what may turn Chicago against Barton, especially considering the intensity that is encapsulated in their defensive philosophy. However, his offensive propensities could be enough to overlook his lack of muscle seeing as how it is an offensive punch the Bulls need.
School/Organization: Vanderbilt University
Position: Small Forward
Height: 6’ 7”
Weight: 225 lbs
Taylor’s college career exemplifies player progression. His point production and scoring methods improved each of his four years at Vandy.
Taylor first arrived in Nashville, Tennessee as an athlete who used his sheer physical prowess to overtake defenders and produce for the Commodores.
By his senior year, Taylor added a solid jump shot; his 49.3 field goal percentage (including 42.3 percent from three-point land) during his last year is a testament to how much he improved as a shooter.
Taylor’s size and maturity are his biggest assets. His frame is NBA ready for both the small forward and shooting guard positions, and his four years at Vanderbilt gives him an understanding of the game that most of his younger cohorts have yet to grasp.
The Bulls seem to like the older, more experienced college players when draft time rolls around. Taj Gibson was a junior at USC when he was picked, and Jimmy Butler was a senior at Marquette.
Finding a glaring weakness in Taylor’s skill set is tough task considering his constant improvement over the course of his college career, but he has had confidence issues that have hurt his performance.
According to a player profile written by Chris Dortch for NBA.com, Taylor would often let a single in-game mistake snowball into a poor performance that would sometimes develop into a performance slump that stretched multiple games.
Looking at Taylor’s total output on a game-by-game basis last season suggests that he’s gotten over his performance issues, but it remains to be seen if he can keep them at bay on the professional level.
There’s no question that Taylor is a first round selection. The question is how long will he remain on the board.
If he is still around when pick 29 arrives, it may be hard for the Bulls to pass him up.
School/Organization: Poitiers (French League)
Position: Shooting Guard
Height: 6’ 7”
Weight: 200 lbs
Fournier is one of the bigger sleepers in this draft, mainly because he is European player.
His age might lead some to believe that he is in the same category as the underclassmen of the draft, but he has been playing professionally in France for the past two years.
From his first to his second year, Fournier’s playing time increased from 14.4 to 26 minutes, and he has taken full advantage of the playing time to show just how productive he can be.
While making strides in most major statistical categories, the most notable increase was Fournier’s scoring average increasing from 6.4 to 14 points per game.
Fournier has a skill set that matches exactly what the Bulls need.
He handles the ball very well, can get into and finish in the painted area, and is effective in isolation.
If he is paired in the backcourt with Derrick Rose, Chicago would have two creators on the floor, something that has yet to happen in Rose’s time with the team.
While his offensive set is big plus, Fournier is not without his faults.
In a word, Fournier has a tendency to be inconsistent. He’s not a consistent outside shooter, and defensively he tends to play lax.
The good news is that these are attributes that can and probably will be corrected if he finds himself in a Bulls uniform next season.
It should also be pointed out that the Poitiers team is not very good overall, so Fournier’s productivity may be the product of being the only capable player on an otherwise hapless team.
Still, even though his team does not always perform up to par, Fournier is able to do what he does against the best and worst teams of their respective league and that has to count for something.
Drafting this young man is a big gamble, especially since European success does not always translate into NBA success. But his skill is exactly what the Bulls need when talking about having another bona fide shot creator on the roster.
Fournier’s upside is tremendous and that makes him hard to pass on if he is available.
The Bulls are in a unique situation that most elite teams don’t find themselves in; they truly have to look to the draft to replenish talent.
Draft stock changes much like the corporate stock publicly traded on Wall Street.
Players will rise and fall frequently between now and June 28, so a late round pick today could very be a lottery pick sometime in the near future.
The Chicago Bulls are extremely fortunate this year because there are a lot of players to choose from who have the skill set the team is looking for.
Even if one or two of the aforesaid players are chosen before the Bulls pick, there are more than a few remaining who could be just as serviceable.
The few years have shown that Gar Forman and John Paxson definitely have a plan going into draft night.
Every pick they have made to date fits in well with their long-term vision for this team’s return to championship glory.
With so much to choose from, it will be interesting to see what the next piece of the puzzle will be.