The Bulls hold the 20th and 49th overall selections in the 2013 NBA Draft, which ordinarily wouldn’t sound like much, but with a crop of prospects that has been panned as not possessing superstar talent, the organization’s position could be better than one might expect.
The consensus at the recent NBA Pre-Draft Combine, held in Chicago, was that several lower-profile draft prospects raised their stock in both workout sessions and interviews with teams.
While too much shouldn’t be read into that—teams can interview players unlikely to be available when they draft, interviews can be conducted when players visit with teams for workouts and both workouts and athletic testing doesn’t necessarily erase what scouts and executives have seen on tape and in person—for the Bulls, it’s a positive, as many league observers believe mid-to-late first-round prospects could have the same value as potential lottery picks.
As the Bulls dive into their draft preparation, two needs—additional big-man depth and outside-shooting help—are likely to be their focuses, though it would be unsurprising to see the organization employ the best-available philosophy, as was the case when drafting Marquis Teague a season ago.
With All-Star center Joakim Noah again experiencing a season with injury concerns, finding a quality long-term understudy is a priority.
There’s a chance that Chicago native Nazr Mohammed, who will be a free agent, returns to his hometown, or another veteran center takes his place, but nearly a year after Omer Asik departed for a bigger role in Houston, finding an athletic shot-blocker that fits the defensive-minded Bulls’ scheme is of some importance.
The likes of Kansas’ Jeff Withey, Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng, Pittsburgh’s Steven Adams, Duke’s Mason Plumlee and overseas prospect Rudy Gibert all fit the bill.
Withey, the second-leading shot-blocker in college basketball last season is the most accomplished defensive force of the group; the championship-winning Dieng comes close and adds underrated offensive ability, such as a mid-range jumper and high-post passing skills; Adams, a raw New Zealand native with only one year of college experience, possesses excellent physical tools; and Plumlee, who came into his own his senior year, also has tremendous athletic gifts.
If the Bulls were to wait until the second round, centers such as slender and offensively polished Bucknell product Mike Muscala, Colorado State bruiser Colton Iverson and perimeter-shooting Kenny Kadji of Miami could be options.
Although they aren’t projected to last until No. 20, two players who shouldn’t be overlooked in the event they slip in the draft, even if they don’t exactly fit the Bulls’ needs are Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk, whose strength is his outside game, and Frenchman Rudy Gobert, a likely draft-and-stash candidate, whose remarkable wingspan makes it easy to ignore his lack of offensive prowess and bulk.
If the Bulls instead looked to add shooting with their initial pick, two offspring with NBA pedigrees, D-League prospect and former Georgia Tech swingman Glen Rice Jr. and fast-rising Tim Hardaway Jr. of Michigan, as well as Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and California’s Allen Crabbe are a few wing prospects who could be ready to contribute as rookies.
Rice, who had off-the-court issues in college before becoming a standout on the NBA’s minor-league champion, might not be quite the shooter his father was (who is?), but displayed a well-rounded game and pro-ready athleticism; Hardaway’s stock dropped despite his team’s successful college season, but picked up with his combine performance; the long and athletic Caldwell-Pope excelled for a bad team, but went largely under the radar of casual fans; and although Crabbe is unfortunately known for being the player that former Golden State coach Mike Montgomery assaulted during a game, his sweet shooting stroke, solid size for his position and underrated athleticism are starting to eliminate doubts about his competitive fire.
Other second-round prospects that could intrigue the Bulls include “three-and-D” wing Reggie Bullock of North Carolina, sharpshooting Syracuse small forward James Southerland (like 2012 lottery pick Dion Waiters, he was the team’s sixth man, but played a major role for the Final Four team), athletic Carrick Felix of Arizona State (two of his assistant coaches, former Sacramento and Golden State head coach Eric Musselman and Larry Greer, brother of Bulls assistant Andy Greer, a longtime league scout and ex-Portland assistant coach, have NBA backgrounds), clutch Florida State guard Michael Snaer, New Mexico swingman Tony Snell, former Proviso West star Robert Covington of Tennessee State has excellent range for his size and Ricardo Ledo, who sat out the season at Providence, his hometown school after not gaining college eligibility out of high school, but has serious scoring ability.
Aside from the aforementioned Covington, who battled through a knee injury during his senior season, and Hardaway—whose father, a product of Chicago’s South Side, had a long and stellar NBA career, most notably with the Warriors and Heat—there are also a handful of draft prospects with local connections.
Rugged and athletic Illinois State power forward Jackie Carmichael has his share of admirers, Illinois guard Brandon Paul’s scoring ability gives him a chance to be selected, Notre Dame big man Jack Cooley’s physical nature and shooting touch might make up for his limitations and Marquette’s Vander Blue, Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler’s former college teammate, has the explosiveness pro scouts like in lead guards, though he must prove he can effectively run an offense.