NBA Draft 2013: Chicago Bulls’ Prospects

David Stern will be on the podium for his final NBA Draft. Absolutely no one is complaining.

Let’s be honest – no one is overly excited for this year’s NBA draft. There just isn’t that one franchise-changing player that basketball talking heads and fans alike are slobbering over. Most people are pegging this draft class as “weak” for that very reason which, to me, is pretty unfair.  There may not be any Derrick Roses or John Walls amongst this crew, but its lack of potential superstars to date is made up for in significant depth and experienced college basketball players.

That depth will be key for a majority of teams possessing picks near the backend of the first round. One of those teams, as you may know, is the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls, as I pointed out a couple of weeks ago, are currently in a terrible cap situation and are likely to enter next season with yet another new bench mob, making Thursday’s draft that much more important. They lack frontcourt depth and a sharpshooting wing (the Belinelli situation is still up in the air) to aid their three-point shooting and overall scoring woes. Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of players projected to be drafted 20 or after who fit either description AND scream “immediate impact,” especially given how Tom Thibodeau never seems to trust his rookies. But, with much of the bench mob set to enter free agency (Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli, Rip Hamilton once his contract gets bought out, Daequan Cook and Nazr Mohammed), maybe Gar Forman can strike gold and find another valuable player to join Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler on his list of hidden gems.

Gorgui Dieng – Center, University of Louisville

  • Draft projection: Mid-to-late first round
  • Probability of being available at 20: High
  • NBADraft.net comparison: Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje (not a joke – this is actually his name)

The comparison to Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje certainly won’t get anyone fired up. Why NBADraft.net chooses to waste everyone’s time by comparing a sure first-round pick to a guy who a) has two last names, both of which are the same, and b) averaged 6.3 minutes per game in three NBA seasons a decade ago is beyond me. But that’s besides the point.

Gorgui Dieng is an extremely unpolished offensive player who happens to have incredible defensive instincts and upside.  At 6’11” and 230 pounds, the Louisville product is coming off a season in which he averaged nearly a double-double (9.8 points, 9.4 rebounds) and 2.5 blocks per game, all while anchoring the paint for the best defense in college basketball and helping lead the Cardinals to their first National Championship in 27 years.

His 7’3.5” wing span gives him exceptional length and makes him arguably the best rim protector in this year’s draft, two characteristics that the Bulls prefer their  backup big men to possess and have a true knack for developing (Taj Gibson, Omer Asik). He’s a very capable weak-side shot blocker with great timing and an ability to not bite on shot fakes. Unlike many players in the NBA (Carlos Boozer, echem), the 23-year-old Dieng simply understands how to play defense and owns a very strong work ethic, having added 50 pounds of muscle since arriving in America from Senegal a few years back and willing his Louisville squad to the promise lands despite breaking his wrist early in the season. Outside of open looks around the basket or face up shots, Dieng needs some serious help to improve his game, but given his positive work ethic and high character, one can only help but think that he’s the exact kind of player the Bulls are looking for to back up Joakim Noah in Thibodeau’s defensive-minded system.

Mason Plumlee – Power Forward/Center, Duke University

  • Draft projection: Mid first round
  • Probability of being available at 20: Medium
  • NBADraft.net comparison: Yi Jianlian

I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t really like Mason Plumlee. A lot of that may have to do with the fact that I don’t really like Duke and everyone constantly compared him to my beloved Cody Zeller over the past couple years, so I will attempt to provide you as objective an assessment as possible.

The 6’11” Plumlee comes into the draft with quite a lot of college experience, having gone up against some of the best big men throughout his college career and having been an integral part of four NCAA tournament teams at Duke, including two Sweet 16 runs and a National Championship run (he didn’t play much on that team, as he was only a Freshman, but he was still a part of the rotation).  He’s a very tough nosed and energetic player who improved every single season during his time at Duke. Like Zeller, Plumlee contains rare athleticism for a man of his size, as well as the ability to get out and run in transition. He’s also an excellent rebounder, having ranked just outside the top ten in the nation (13th) in rebounds per game last season (10.2).

The knock against Plumlee, however, is his predictability in the post. His repertoire of post moves is very limited, and he struggles to adjust against elite defenders because of it. The good news, though, is that he understands how to effectively work the pick-and-roll, and in a pick-and-roll dominated league, he could eventually turn himself into a valuable asset from that standpoint if he can somehow develop a solid mid-range game. I don’t think Plumlee would be a great fit for the Bulls right now (he’s also not a very good defender), but the potential for a bright future is there.

Jeff Withey – Center, Kansas University

  • Draft projection: Late first round to early second round
  • Probability of being available at 20: Higher than my blood sugar after eating a slice of Portillo’s chocolate cake
  • Probability of being available at 49: Very low
  • NBADraft.net comparison: Travis Knight

Withey’s name has popped up a lot in the recent months in Bulls draft discussions, but for whatever reason, his draft stock has somewhat decreased. He doesn’t have much strength or toughness at all, and he’s very ineffective with his back to the basket, but the 7-foot Withey does know a thing or two about defense, which happens to be the key to Tom Thibodeau’s heart.  He earned himself Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors last season (along with Victor Oladipo), ranking third in the nation with 3.9 blocks per game in only 30.9 minutes (4.9 blocks per 40 minutes) and ending his career as one of the most defensively dominant big men over the past decade.  He has phenomenal instincts as both a man-to-man and help-side defender, as his ability to avoid committing fouls by going straight up and absorbing contact (he committed only two fouls per game as a senior) gives him the aptitude to alter nearly every shot his long arms can reach.

Withey is the type of player that actually loves playing defense, which should bode well for his playing time early on in his career for a team lacking any sort of defensive presence (basically half the league) in the paint. Once teams figure out how to take him out of the game (spoiler alert: force him to step outside the paint, which he rarely ever had to do at Kansas), though, that potential playing time could diminish quickly. Hopefully some of these aforementioned flaws will be improved upon come October.

Tim Hardaway Jr. – Shooting Guard, University of Michigan

  • Draft projection: Late first round
  • Probability of being available at 20: High
  • NBADraft.net comparison: Wesley Person/Arron Afflalo

The key word with Tim Hardaway Jr. is upside; everyone knows how good he can be, it’s just a matter of him continuing to improve and becoming a consistent shooter. He worked very hard to improve his three point shooting last offseason, which he did (jumped from 28.3% to 37.4%), but for whatever reason, he just could not seem to stay consistent, as his catch-and-shoot, pull-up jumper and runners around the rim percentages were all over the place throughout his three years at Michigan.

Nevertheless, Hardaway has great size for his position (6’7”) and can come in and effectively stretch the floor for a team like the Bulls, who lack any sort of outside scoring threat at the moment. He’s a hard worker who plays with passion, and being the son of a bigoted homophobe – er, potential NBA Hall of Famer – should only help him put in to perspective what it will take to be successful at the next level. Whether or not Hardaway Jr. will be a good pro remains to be seen, but he could be a solid option for a team looking to add some 2-guard depth.

Reggie Bullock – Shooting Guard/Small Forward, University of North Carolina

  • Draft projection: Mid first round to early second round
  • Probability of being available at 20: Migh (a medium/high hybrid)
  • NBADraft.net comparison: Casey Jacobson

If the Bulls are set on filling their perimeter shooting hole with the 20th pick, then 6’7″ Reggie Bullock should undoubtedly be their choice. The former Tar Heel comes in as arguably the best pure shooter in this year’s draft (shot 43.6% from three last season) with great size and length to play the 2. He has a textbook shooting stroke, quick release, moves well without the ball, and he has proven to be very efficient shooting off screens and spotting up for open looks. It’s hard not to like his game; not only is he effective without the rock in his hands, but he’s also smart when he has it, as evidenced by his miniscule average of 1.2 turnovers per game.

The one issue may be Bullock’s lack of creativity with the ball in his hands because he’s not the greatest ball handler and doesn’t possess that explosive first step that allows players to drive by opponents. Here’s how Draft Express views Bullock:

Considering his strong long-range shooting, low-mistake style of play, and lack of creativity on the offensive end, Bullock seems best suited to play a role similar to the one fellow North Carolina product Danny Green plays for the Spurs.

Danny Green? After his performance throughout the NBA Playoffs and most of the NBA Finals? Sign me up.

Jamaal Franklin – Shooting Guard, San Diego State University

  • Draft projection: Mid-to-late first round
  • Probability of being available at 20: High
  • NBADraft.net comparison: Will Barton/Hassan Adams

I love me some Jamaal Franklin, who remains one of the most underrated players in the draft. The do-it-all shooting guard single-handedly kept San Diego St. in the national conversation the past two seasons after Kawhi Leonard’s departure, leading them to the NCAA tournament both years and throwing down the sickest dunk of the season. ESPN Draft Analyst Chad Ford, who has the Bulls selecting Franklin in his most recent draft board, loves him more than I do, pegging him as “one of the toughest players in the draft and a kid who should contribute immediately — a smaller version of Kawhi Leonard.” Kawhi Leonard? You know, that guy who guarded Lebron James for seven hard fought games in the Finals and has transformed himself into one of the league’s best young stars? Yeah, that’s him. Pretty high praise for the long-sleeved Franklin, and for good reason if you ask me.

At 6’5″, Franklin’s tremendous versatility was on full display over the past couple of years on the west coast, as he led his team in scoring, assists, rebounding and steals per game during his final season. He’s an incredible athlete and fantastic rebounder for his size with the highest of motors, always giving 110% effort on both ends of the floor. His defense, as indicated below by Draft Express, should translate very well at the next level:

Defensively, Franklin showed great versatility with the ability to cover four positions if necessary, thanks to his tremendous toughness and athleticism. He has great potential on this end of the floor as an NBA player if he really makes a commitment and focuses on every possession. His anticipation skills and quick hands make him a pest in the passing lanes and on the ball, and his motor and physical tools stack up very well at his position.

Franklin’s biggest flaw, unfortunately, is his shooting (42.6% overall and 30.2% from three throughout career at SDSU), but as has been the case with Leonard, a little hard work on that aspect of his game can take him a long away. I anticipate Franklin will one day prove to be one of the bigger steals in this draft, but only time will tell.

As you can see, there are a lot of decent options that should be available at 20 (everything after the first round is always a crap shoot) – it all just depends on whether the Bulls decide to go big or not. My guess is that they will end up drafting a center to back up Noah, as they’ve given no indications that they’re going to bring back Nazr Mohammed, and find some mid-level shooters/slashers to fill their back court at minimum salaries, but what do I know? Until then, let’s enjoy Thursday night’s draft and look forward to welcoming two new players to The City of Broad Shoulders.

Other first-round prospects to keep in mind: Allen Crabbe, Rudy Gobert, Ricky Ledo, Tony Snell, Tony Mitchell, Glen Rice Jr.

Second-round prospects to keep in mind: Carrick Felix, Trevor Mbakwe, Colton Iverson, James Ennis, Zeke Marshall, B.J. Young, Brandon Paul

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About Adam Levy

Adam Levy is a diehard sports fan and grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. After graduating with a Master's Degree from Indiana University, he began working at a consulting firm in the loop. In his spare time, he watches sports, re-watches Seinfeld episodes for the 23rd time, plays pickup basketball, competes in sports leagues during the summer, and overvalues all of the players on his fantasy teams. He is extremely passionate about his teams and will likely be found curled up in the fetal position on his bed, crying and cursing after significant losses. If you like his insight, feel free to comment, follow him on Twitter @ChiCityBS, or email him at aplevy1@gmail.com.

Posted on June 24, 2013, in Bulls and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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