The Chicago Bulls could move in several directions in this week’s NBA draft, making it impossible to decipher exactly what they’re doing.
But no matter what happens, the Bulls aim to come up with at least one player to make them better. If they had to pat the 18th choice, there are choices. Players expected to make the Chicago selection offer an intriguing combination of size and stroke blocking or game control and potential.
Here are five potential matches for Bulls No. 18, followed by excerpts from the expert analysis The Athletic mustandiguru Sam Vecenie.
EJ Liddell | on 6 feet 7 21 years old Ohio
Liddell became the star of Buckeyes this season and is a familiar name to Belleville, a native who won the high school state championship and Mr. Illinois. In the NBA, he has to adapt to an additional role. But if the Bulls are looking for someone to bet right away, Liddell’s name could be number 18.
Liddell compares himself to similarly undersized but effective attackers such as Draymond Green, PJ Tucker and Grant Williams. Like them, he is proud of his tenacity, energy and willingness to do the dirty work and everything he needs to win. Liddell also showed leadership qualities in Ohio, being a selfless, vocal, and emotional team captain.
In Chicago, Liddell would meet the need for a front square. It would offer depth and protective versatility. Liddell can defend multiple positions by cutting off smaller players from the perimeter and putting big men in the low post. His height, athleticism and blocking of shots help offset the shorter growth compared to his position, and this season he performed 2.6 blocks per game in several ways: straight-line defense, assistant side, roaming, improvisation. His shooting is evolving and needs further refinement. But Liddell can bet on a reliable piece from day one.
Vecenie opinion: “Liddell was one of the best players in the country this season and certainly one of the most productive. He averaged 19 points, nearly eight rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.6 innings per game. He did so with real efficiency, scoring 49 per cent and NBA scouts have similar concerns to Liddell last year in terms of his side speed and defensive position, with some scouts thinking he could play five, à la undersized men like Grant Williams because of his ability to block, but others are due to his lack of size. In addition, despite the 3-point jump, the teams are a little worried about how much his shot will be taken on a flat trajectory.
Jalen Williams | wing 6-6 | 21 years old Santa Clara
Williams is another late bloom who may have untapped potential. Given their watchful list, Bulls has no urgent need for the skills of Williams. But in a league dominated by wings, Chicago can never have enough dangers, and it’s never a bad idea if one of them develops.
Williams has been honored as a full-fledged player. He can shoot / score in all three levels, offers game control as the main ball handler, is a creative passer and can defend multiple positions. It has 7 feet 2 wingspan and is built in the form of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
The question before Williams focuses on the level of competition he faced in college. How much can he raise his playing level against the best in the world?
Vecenie opinion: “He has all the tools you’re looking for to play in the NBA. He can handle the ball at a high level with a real shake from the bounce. He hits 3, can drive straight through the traffic, and gets in touch with his lower center of gravity. Growing up as a smaller scorer He made an average of four assists per game for Santa Clara this season, losing just 2.1, and boys of that size and skill tend to stay in the NBA.
Jalen Duren | forward / middle 6-10 | 18 years old Memphis
Is he available at the age of 18? If Bulls has a prospect to trade on, it could be Duren.
Duren is as impressive as physically and athletically. And he won’t be 19 until mid-November. A team much higher than the Bulls could jump into Duren’s potential. However, if he slips – or if the Bulls try to move up – Duren may be a good fit, a potential permanent replacement for starting center Nikola Vučević.
Duren can run on the floor, block shocks, stop and throw shocks, and cause chaos when acting from the middle. His departure could become a major threat, compared to Miami star Bam Adebay. Bulls need a long-term response at the center. If they left Duren somehow, Chicago’s future could look much brighter.
Vecenie opinion: “Ultimately, I see him as DeAndre Jordan’s starter set. Can Duren get as good as Jordan in his best position? That’s the key to getting him in the top 10 in the league.
Mark Williams | center 7-0 | 20 years old duke
Inside size and wheel protection are the Bulls’ two biggest needs. Should Bulls spend drift capital on such specific features and will Williams be available No. 18? These are the two major issues surrounding this potential choice.
However, Williams is one of the best shockblocks available. With a 7-foot, 7-inch wingspan and a 9-foot, 8-inch grip, it can make more shocks than repel. He’s a one-man barricade who scares shooters whenever he’s around. But he’s not just a blocker. Williams is a smart player who keeps moving, whether he runs hard on the floor for a transition or reads and reacts aggressively as a threat to score goals. He is also a strong graduate.
Protecting and launching in space are areas of concern for Williams’ long-term potential. But it offers a lot to consider a worthy target for the Bulls when available.
Vecenie opinion: “Williams is one of the best defenders of the draft, a 7-foot shot that blocked three strokes per game this season and improved as the year progressed. He also scored an average of 11 points per game and hit 72 percent off the field as a monster runner – a skill that should be good. He runs well on the floor and is even the length of an elite by NBA standards.
Tari Eason | on 6-8 | 20 years old LSU
Eason is perhaps the most common name associated with the Bulls’ 18th choice. Vecenie lets the Bulls choose Eason.
After moving from Cincinnati, Eason became a defensive threat last year as a sophomore at LSU. His mix of height, athleticism, energy, intelligence and timing makes him an exciting prospect. He controls almost every cell of what a modern NBA striker must be. Perhaps his greatest strength is his ability to defend multiple positions, giving him an advantage and turning him into a nightmare when he is forced to turn on the perimeter. The Bulls need more defenders and Eason would slip in nicely.
But shooting is his biggest concern. Will Eason continue to make progress with its form and efficiency? It can be the difference between becoming a defensive ace and a two-way stud.
Vecenie opinion: “His jumper looks a bit dirty because he has catapult-like mechanics that can take a while to debug. He’s not a great game manager for others either. I make mistakes at times, but I bet the teams are willing to bet that he’ll figure it out.
(Photo by EJ Liddell: Joseph Maiorana / USA Today)
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