5 NBA Draft Prospects Chicago Bulls Should Keep Their Eye on This Season
After Chicago traded Luol Deng, many believed it would drop into the lottery. The Bulls have proven otherwise, though, and with some resilient performances, they have moved toward the top four teams in the Eastern Conference.
There are still some major roster needs that have to be addressed. Chicago lacks a ball-handler and a scorer outside of Derrick Rose, and it could also use another big man, especially if Carlos Boozer gets amnestied.
The Bulls’ three-point shooting is also still a problem. Despite making various moves to improve in that area, they remain a bottom-five team in every three-point category.
This upcoming draft has a handful of great scorers who could translate well into the NBA, and with the possibility of multiple first-round picks, Chicago could stand to be a big winner this summer.
Note: All stats courtesy of sports-reference.com and accurate as of Jan. 23, 2014.
T.J. Warren, NC State
2013-14 Season Averages: 50.5% FG, 22.2 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.4 SPG
A forward out of NC State, T.J. Warren has proven to be a consistent scorer and someone who plays with a high motor.
Warren has scored 20 or more points in 14 of 18 games this season, including a streak of 10 consecutive games where he reached that mark.
The 20-year-old has a solid all-around game, although his three-point shooting numbers have taken a significant dip during his sophomore season, dropping from 52 percent to 21 percent.
Regardless, Warren’s a solid shot from mid-range, shooting 57 percent inside the arc. He also excels when attacking the basket, using his length to finish around defenders.
Chicago needs a player who can create off the dribble, and Warren can do so. He could struggle a bit in the pros since he’s not the most explosive athlete, but he makes up for it with good ball-handling skills, which allow him to create separation.
Doug McDermott, Creighton
2013-14 Season Averages: 24.8 PPG, 44% 3PT, 7.1 RPG
If the Bulls want to address their three-point shooting, Doug McDermott is the way to go.
A senior out of Creighton, McDermott has one of the better outside touches in the nation, making 44 percent from downtown, and he is coming off two seasons where he shot nearly 50 percent from behind the arc.
McDermott was an All-American the last two years, averaging 23 points and nearly eight rebounds during his sophomore and junior seasons. He’s stepped up his scoring a bit this year too, scoring nearly 25 points per game.
Chicago could benefit from grabbing another three-point specialist in the draft to bolster its perimeter shooting. The Mike Dunleavy and Tony Snell additions haven’t aided much in that department, as the Bulls are still near the bottom of the league in three-point shooting, making only six per game and converting at a 34 percent rate.
McDermott also gives the Bulls some size out on the perimeter, which will allow them to keep trying multiple lineups, whether big or small.
Adreian Payne, Michigan State
2013-14 Season Averages: 16.2 PPG, 43.9 % 3PT, 7.7 RPG, 1.0 BPG
Adreian Payne out of Michigan State could be a likely pick for the Bulls.
Now in his fourth year at MSU, Payne has improved in nearly every aspect of his game, with the one stand-out addition being his ability to stretch the floor and shoot the three.
Chicago could use a stretch 4 once Derrick Rose returns and is at full strength. With Boozer and Joakim Noah, the Bulls’ floor spacing hasn’t always been great, but Payne could give Rose more space to work with inside as well as become an option to kick out to if the defense shifts toward Rose.
Payne would also give the Bulls a good defensive option. As a senior, Payne has a defensive rating of 90, per basketball-reference.com, and has shown he can be a decent rim protector, averaging a block per game.
The Bulls would get a lot from Payne; he’s a two-way player who can score in a variety of ways and can contribute defensively and on the glass.
Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
2013-14 Season Averages: 61% FG, 8.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 3.2 BPG
Since the Bulls let Omer Asik go in 2012, they haven’t had great frontcourt depth. Noah is the only true center receiving regular minutes for Chicago, so drafting a big might not be a bad idea.
Willie Cauley-Stein from Kentucky is the defensive presence the Bulls could use coming off the bench.
In nine of his 14 games, Cauley-Stein has registered three or more blocks, including two games where he swatted nine in each contest.
If Chicago uses its amnesty provision on Boozer, it would send Taj Gibson to the starting lineup, leaving a void in the second unit. Cauley-Stein would give the Bulls a high-energy, athletic defender and rim protector.
While his offensive game isn’t nearly as developed as Gibson’s, his work on the boards and in transition should be enough for him to make an impact on offense.
Zach LaVine, UCLA
2013-14 Season Averages: 12.6 PPG, 45.1% 3PT, 2.2 APG
The last freshman the Bulls drafted was recently traded, but Zach LaVine’s skill set shouldn’t be overlooked just because he’s young.
Not only can he shoot the ball at a high rate from anywhere on the court, but he’s one of the better pure athletes coming out of college. He can create off the dribble, finish at the rim and run an offense as he can play both backcourt positions.
LaVine might be the least likely pick for Chicago, though, as he could be a top-10 pick, and the Bulls figure to be right outside of the lottery.
Still, there’s a chance he falls into the middle of the first round, and if he’s available when the Bulls are on the clock, they should pull the trigger, as LaVine has tremendous upside.
Pairing him next to Rose would give Chicago the 2-guard they’ve been looking for, and it would allow Jimmy Butler to slide up to the 3, where he’s a more natural fit.