Thursday, June 23rd, the National Basketball Association (NBA) will host its 76th annual draft. With only one pick in the upcoming draft at pick No. 18, the Chicago Bulls will be looking for the best value for their pick. While Chicago has a talented roster, they could use help in many areas. Defense and shooting are the most noticeable deficits with their current roster. Having players like Demar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Alex Caruso more than likely running the offense essentially eliminates scouting for many prospects at the guard positions. Considering that information, here are the five players most likely to be drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 2022.
Eighteen-year-old Jalen Duren would be a great fit for Chicago this upcoming season. The 6’11 center out of Memphis is a big body with high potential. Adding Duren would bolster the team’s rebounding and defense without reaching into free agency. Duren’s average of 2.1 blocks per game will prove to be a deterrent for teams looking to score near the basket.
There have been rumors swirling that Chicago could trade for a player like Rudy Gobert or Mitchell Robinson. A trade for either player would include current Bulls center Nikola Vucevic. Pairing Duren with Vucevic allows Chicago to give different looks. Duren would be used for defensive stability and rebounding while Vucevic will be utilized as a part of the offense.
Working with an NBA team will allow Duren to develop his offensive skill set along with other intangibles. Any team that drafts Duren would like to see him develop a respectable three-point shot to stretch defenses. While there are only a couple of downsides to drafting Duren, they are worth mentioning. Chicago will have to be patient with Duren’s offensive abilities; while they are limited now, he can become dominant under the basket.
Duren’s basketball IQ has been in question especially when it comes to foul trouble. If Duren was available at the eighteenth pick, Chicago would need to take the opportunity to add depth to their center position.
Staying with a similar skill set, Mark Williams is the third-rated center in the draft by many analysts. The 7’2 big man out of Duke is one of the better rebounders in this draft class. Williams’s rebounding ability can partly be attributed to his 7’77” wingspan.
Adding Williams would also improve Chicago’s defensive integrity; his impressive 2.8 blocks per game earned an ACC Defensive Player of the Year award. Even though Williams’s offensive output is not as impressive as his defensive prowess, he does come with a 73% free throw average.
Drafting William’s would fortify the center position, allowing Chicago to spend money in other areas during free agency. Having filled their need on defense and rebounding, Chicago would likely retain Vucevic for another season.
While there are not many concerns about Williams, his limited minutes during games bring his conditioning to question. A quick film study would also reveal that Williams has not mastered the pick and roll. Currently projected as a middle first-round pick, there is a chance that Williams will be available at the eighteenth pick.
The last potential pick on this list at the center position, Jaylin Williams is an underrated player out of Arkansas. Williams’s greatest strengths come in the form of basketball IQ and intangibles. Opposing teams have to be aware of Williams’s ability to draw offensive fouls. During the 2021-22 season, Williams took 54 charges. Despite being the shortest center on this list, Williams still averaged 9.8 rebounds per game; a stat that ranks top 20 in all D-1 basketball.
A strength of Williams is being an outstanding teammate and passer; read this article to learn more about Williams’s unselfishness on the court (Jaylin Williams). Although Williams’s three-point shot is not great, it has proven enough to draw defenses to the perimeter; some development on his shot could see him become one of the better shooting centers in the NBA.
Williams’s biggest area for improvement is strength. Chicago should expect to see Williams in the weight room preparing to face the NBA’s largest athletes. If both Jalen Duren and Mark Williams have been taken, do not be surprised to see Jaylin Williams’s name called at pick eighteen. It’s also worth noting that Chicago has taken two Razorback big men in recent drafts in Bobby Portis (2015) and Daniel Gafford (2019).
An unknown player by many, Dominick Barlow has taken an alternative route to the NBA. Barlow has spent one year in the Overtime Elite Academy. Barlow averaged just under 15 points per game with a 33% three-point average during his one season with Overtime Elite.
Barlow’s addition to the roster would provide much-needed assistance to Chicago’s longball arsenal; an area the Chicago ranked dead last in this past season. Shooting is not the facet of Barlow’s game as he has the ability to slash and get to the rim. Drafting Barlow would likely mean that Chicago plans to trade for one of the aforementioned centers.
Chicago has already shown some interest in Barlow as they recently held a pre-draft workout for him. The way Barlow’s draft stock has risen recently, Chicago may be tempted to take him with their first-round pick. It is also possible that they may trade down in hopes that they could get some extra value while adding Barlow to their roster.
Another forward, Tari Eason is a two-way player that can contribute to Chicago in a variety of ways. The Louisiana State standout uses his athleticism and 6’8 frame to play above the rim. This season showcased Eason’s ability to score as he averaged 16.9 points per game. Many of those points came from the free-throw line as Eason shot a solid 80% from the free-throw line.
Disruptive as a defender, Eason was consistently in passing lanes and transition after steals. Eason’s 1.9 steals per game will continue to be a problem for opposing players at the next level. Eason is a complete player and would work well with the roster Chicago currently has. If Eason is drafted, Chicago’s free-agency interest would revolve around finding another shooter.
To be a regular part of Chicago’s lineup, Eason will be expected to work on his turnover ratio which was 2 per game this season. Eason’s three-point shot will also need to be more consistent before becoming a prominent player in the NBA. Eason provides great value for the 18th pick and Chicago should be expected to take him if still undrafted.
Before the Draft
Going into the draft, it is clear that the Chicago Bulls have options. Whether it is one of the high-talent centers, scoring forwards, or another player that has gone unmentioned, Chicago will be looking to maximize their only pick in the 2022 draft. The attributes of the player they draft will determine their course of action during free agency.
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