We’re a week from the NBA Draft. It’s a crucial time for teams trying to find that player who fits perfectly into their system or offers enough upside.
Picking at No. 16 overall, a squad like the Chicago Bulls that’s searching for an identity could find it beneficial to forget about fit and go for upside. This is one of the best draft classes we have seen in several years, and the Bulls must take advantage of this if they hope to create a direction and focus for the franchise.
But one area management must address is perimeter shooting. As a team, Chicago shot an awful 29 percent from three in a league where outside shooting has become vital. Therefore, this middling organization must look at prospects who can address their most glaring deficit – but also have breakout potential. Here is an overview of a few guys who might fit the bill for the Bulls.
Kennard is listed as one of the best shooters in this draft, shooting 43.8 percent from three as a sophomore at Duke. He could potentially provide production off the Bulls bench immediately. However, he is not only a three-point threat, as he shot 52.7 percent on 2’s and can finish in the mid-range (and occasionally at the rim). His ability to do a little bit of everything on offense makes him one of the most NBA-ready prospects in the draft. The Bulls could land a steal if Kennard unexpectedly falls to them.
If the Bulls stick to their normal draft process, the obvious pick is Justin Jackson. GarPax has shown their love for players that have long college careers and a reputation for being hard workers, such as Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah, Doug McDermott, and Taj Gibson. These guys were not one-and-done players and neither is Jackson. Justin is also one of the best three-point shooters in the class. The sharpshooter from UNC had a monster year, averaging 18.3 points and 2.6 threes a game. Many mock drafts believe Jackson could fall into Chicago’s lap – if they pass on him, it will be a huge surprise.
When watching Justin Patton from Creighton, his three-point shooting is the last thing that jumps off the board. However, Patton has tremendous potential as a stretch-big in the NBA. Patton, the best post threat in the draft, can consistently hit the mid-range shot, shooting 67.6 percent in his freshman year. Shooting that well from mid-range is a key to success from three, and we have seen many bigs make this transformation a-la Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Brook Lopez. All four consistently knocked down mid-range shots and now stroke it from three on a regular basis – and that is where Patton should be looking. He shot 53.3 percent from three at Creighton, but only hoisted 0.4 attempts per game. Not only can Patton help the Bulls down low, but his potential on the perimeter makes him a possible steal in the draft.
T. J. Leaf
If the Bulls are looking to not only upgrade their three-point shooting but also their frontcourt and rim protection, T. J. Leaf is another good pick. Leaf is coming off a tremendous and very underrated freshman season in Lonzo Ball’s spotlight, averaging 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Leaf can also stroke it from deep, hitting 46.6 percent from three. As noted above, the NBA has evolved to a point where stretch-bigs who space the floor are increasingly prevalent and valuable, and Leaf fits that mold perfectly while providing plenty of athleticism. If the Bulls want to completely change their gameplan and reputation, T.J. Leaf, a stretch-four highlight-reel forward out of UCLA, is the way to go.
If the Bulls want an athletic 3-and-D wing, one of the highest upside prospects is Terrance Ferguson. The Bulls even met with Ferguson at the NBA Draft Combine. Late last year, Ferguson uncommitted from Arizona to play in Australia because as he says, “I knew I couldn’t sit inside a classroom all day long.” Even if his reasoning puzzles front offices, he is still a raw, freakish talent that cannot go unnoticed – not even following a season in Australia where he didn’t play much and averaged 4.6 points per game (on 31.3 percent from three). Despite his struggles, Terrance has the potential to be a two-way player, not just a shooter. Ferguson can succeed at the next level because of his defensive potential and explosiveness off the dribble. Although he is projected to be a mid-to-late first round pick, the Bulls should take a second look at him.
One of the more Draymond Green-like players in this class is 235-pound Semi Ojeleye. After transferring from Duke after his sophomore season, Ojeleye thrived in his new role at SMU. Ojeleye showed his true potential as a junior, averaging 16 more points per game than he did at Duke. He also increased his three-point percentage, shooting 42.4 percent and sinking two threes a game. Ojeleye is one of the better built and more athletic players in this draft. He can finish contested alley-oops and dunks and is not easily stopped on his way to the rim. He has also shown defensive potential, possessing an ability to cover guards and hold his own down-low. Like Green, he doesn’t give up on plays, consistently showing his quick feet by switching on pick-and-rolls and contesting shots. Ojeleye would be higher on this list if his decision-making on offense progressed. However, the Bulls should still seriously look Semi Ojeleye’s way.
This is where the list drops dramatically in production. Lydon, the sophomore standout from Syracuse, has the size and the stroke to succeed in the NBA. Nevertheless, his defense and sub-par decision-making leaves him at the bottom of the Bulls’ big board of shooters. Lydon canned a respectable 39.2 percent from three last year, but the Bulls need to look for upside and it is just not there. Tyler is one of the guys where what we saw in college is likely what we are going to get in the NBA and there is not much room for improvement, which is why the Bulls might not want to pull the trigger on him.
*All stats provided by ESPN and DraftExpress*