Analyzing the Chicago Bulls’ Draft Picks

Which rookie is ready to become a part of the greatest culture in professional basketball?

With the 2013 NBA Draft officially in the books, each lottery team can now get ready for, and attempt to win, the Andrew Wiggins Sweepstakes by praying for nothing but another season of shittiness and playoff spectating from the couch. Some teams and their fans, though, are fortunate enough to have a NBA season to look forward to, the Bulls being one of those teams. Four of the Bulls’ last eight draft picks (Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler) have given us all we could’ve asked for and more. One of their picks (James Johnson) ate himself out of Chicago, two were traded on draft night (Sonny Weems and Norris Cole; Nikola Mirotic was acquired on draft night), and one is set to enter his second season as a backup point guard who has yet to scratch the surface of his potential (Marquis Teague). Can the 2013 draft class go down as another one of Gar Forman’s milestones? Let’s assess.

Tony Snell, Small Forward, University of New Mexico; 6’7.25″, 198 lbs.

I don’t completely hate this pick, but I don’t love it either. Tony Snell comes to Chicago with a number of concerning question marks. His work ethic is mediocre at best, and he tends to disappear in games far too often. Many times throughout his college career, he would look disengaged on the court and seemed to lack an attacking mentality by settling for contested jumpers and forcing bad shots. That lack of an attacking mentality makes him a very poor rebounder for his position (averaged 3.4 rebounds per-forty minutes as a junior), so he’ll need to show that he has the ability to play with aggressiveness and focus if he wants to earn any playing time as a rookie.

In addition, Snell struggled mightily, for the most part, against some of the best defenses in the country each season. His inability to create off the dribble limits his upside, as he’s more of an off-the-ball shooter than anything else, having spent most of his time in college being run off screens or spotting up (which he is very effective at, actually). The good news, however, is that he obviously won’t be asked to do much on the offensive end (early on in his career, at least) besides come off the bench as a floor spacer and hit open three-pointers, which he can certainly do, having made 38% of his three point attempts in three seasons at New Mexico.

Despite all the intangible flaws, the Bulls didn’t draft Snell to be a leader or a playmaker. They drafted him to fill a gaping hole behind the arc and for his high potential as a wing defender. A 6’11.5″ wingspan for a man of his size is pretty unbelievable and has helped make him the solid on-the-ball defender that he is and should continue to be. He has very good defensive awareness, and his aforementioned length continuously disrupted opponents in college, allowing them score only 18.8% of the time against him when isolated. Here is DraftExpress’ scouting report on Snell’s defensive capabilities:

Defensively, Snell’s physical tools make him an intriguing piece, as he has the size, length, and lateral quickness to be a versatile defender capable of defending both wing positions. If he makes a commitment to focusing on the defensive end, it would go a long ways towards helping him solidify a role at the NBA level. He’ll need to continue to get stronger and play tougher, but he certainly has the potential to excel on this end of the floor.

While there may have been better options than Snell, this isn’t all that surprising of a pick. He was pegged as a dark horse candidate for the Bulls at 20, and picking him solidifies the fact that the Bulls are making a conscious effort to fill the three-point shooting hole that they so desperately need to fill. Snell’s defensive potential is a major plus for Thibodeau and his system, but if he doesn’t come in to camp ready to work his ass off and display a passion for playing this beautiful game of basketball, then he won’t even sniff the hardwood as a rookie. I trust Thibs and the veterans will get the most out of him, which should fare well for both Snell and the Bulls over time.

Erik Murphy, Power Forward, University of Florida; 6’10”, 240 lbs.

I’ve always been a fan of Murphy’s game. The dude can shoot the freakin’ lights out from three – he’s wetter than an adolescent’s bed sheets during puberty – by knocking down two trays per game and leading the entire SEC in three-point shooting as a senior at 45.3% (also shot 51.6% from the field overall). He’s the epitome of a stretch-four and has drawn numerous comparisons to San Antonio Spur Matt Bonner, another Florida alum. He has an extremely quick release and has proven to be very proficient shooting off the pick-and-pop. Murphy is a fun player to watch, and if you don’t close out on him in a hurry, he can single-handedly change the momentum of games with his hot hand.

As much as I like Murphy, I’m not totally sure how he fits into the Bulls’ system. I don’t anticipate he’ll play much at all, if he even makes the roster, during his rookie season, so the question remains how can he contribute to this team going forward? He’s a one-dimensional player with minimal athleticism, and he’s a liability as both a rebounder and a defender. Do the Bulls envision him playing the five in a small-ball lineup with Taj? Do they even see a future for Murphy in Chicago once Nikola Mirotic comes over from Spain in 2014? Am I completely over-thinking this like I always do? Yes. Yes I am.

Nevertheless, Murphy has a high basketball IQ and rarely ever takes bad shots, so if he does ever end up playing in a Bulls uniform, he’s plenty capable of giving them a couple valuable minutes here and there off the bench when the offense is reeling or the front court needs a spell.

As with most mid-to-late round draft picks, it will likely take a few years before we can truly determine whether this draft was a success or not. Both Snell and Murphy bring positive attributes to the table and can help quench the Bulls’ enormous hunger for three-point shooting, but it’s too difficult to say right now what kind of impact they’ll have as rookies. Don’t expect much early on, as Coach Thibs forces his first-year players to work countless hours and earn his respect before sending them onto the court. But over time, the answer to how Snell and Murphy can legitimately help this team will become more clear.

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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 28, 2013, in Bulls and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I think you answered your question for yourself when you compared Murphy to Bonner. That’s exactly how the Bulls I think will plan to use him. He’s a stretch 4, if he’s reliable from 3 as he was in college, he can be used to just spread the floor and open up space. Bonner has minimal athleticism, but he can be useful.

    I think he makes the team and will get some burn since he’s only big capable of hitting long range shots (not something we’ve ever had in the past either.)

    • I totally agree. He’s a stretch 4 and should fulfill that role at the next level. The question I was trying to get at was how is he going to be able to contribute early on to a system that stresses defense, defense, defense? He’s not a good defender, so what can he do to earn Thibodeau’s trust and playing time during his rookie season? I think he can make an impact, just a matter of when.

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