NBA 2022: The Chicago Bulls have five targets




NBA 2022: The Chicago Bulls have five targets

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The most critical issue for the Bulls to handle this offseason is Zach LaVine’s future, but securing their first-round pick might be of significant help.

Under relatively young GM Arturas Karnisovas, the Bulls have put together a formidable squad that should make the Eastern Conference playoffs every year. The task now facing Chicago is to take this seasoned group from decent to exceptional.

Obviously, keeping Zach LaVine in unrestricted free agency will be the biggest game-changer for the Bulls this offseason. Giving the talented scorer a max contract is risky, but it’s necessary given the way this squad is constructed. Losing LaVine for nothing would drive the Bulls into a rebuilding project they don’t want to execute.

The depth chart’s stability allows Chicago to select the best player available at No. 18 in the NBA Draft. Instead of searching for an instant contribution, the team should be hunting for a future star. That’s the only way Chicago will be able to break into the NBA’s upper echelon any time soon.

In the NBA Draft, who could the Chicago Bulls be interested in?

5. Tari Eason

By the time Chicago goes on the clock in Round 1, Eason will most likely be off the board, but he’d provide an intriguing frontcourt prospect to incorporate into their rotation. He’s exactly the type of high-wire, multi-positional defender the organization hoped to get when Patrick Williams was drafted in 2020.

With his fierce motor and propensity to cause turnovers, Eason can aid Chicago early on. With some skill development with his pro franchise, he should be able to become a plus shooter. This might convert him into a high-quality 3-and-D player for a team that currently lacks such a player. For the Bulls, Eason would be a good mix of risk and reward.

The most critical issue for the Bulls to handle this offseason is Zach LaVine’s future, but securing their first-round pick might be of significant help.

Under relatively young GM Arturas Karnisovas, the Bulls have put together a formidable squad that should make the Eastern Conference playoffs every year. The task now facing Chicago is to take this seasoned group from decent to exceptional.

Obviously, keeping Zach LaVine in unrestricted free agency will be the biggest game-changer for the Bulls this offseason. Giving the talented scorer a max contract is risky, but it’s necessary given the way this squad is constructed. Losing LaVine for nothing would drive the Bulls into a rebuilding project they don’t want to execute.

The depth chart’s stability allows Chicago to select the best player available at No. 18 in the NBA Draft. Instead of searching for an instant contribution, the team should be hunting for a future star. That’s the only way Chicago will be able to break into the NBA’s upper echelon any time soon.

NBA Draft sleeper, Bryce McGowens

Feb 25, 2022; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers guard Bryce McGowens (5) shoots over Iowa Hawkeyes forward Filip Rebraca (0) in the first half at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

4. Bryce McGowens

Coby White doesn’t seem to have a long-term future in Chicago, which leaves the Bulls low on bench scoring. If the team got McGowens, they would have a bigger, potentially more flexible scorer for their second unit.

McGowens lacks the same ball-handling speed that helps White power Chicago’s transition offense, but he has a superior feel for pace and strength on offense. Even though he shot poorly in college, he is already a powerful scorer in the mid-range, and his swing looks like it could be extended to the three-point line.

The former Nebraska star may only have sixth-man potential, but he has the scoring ability to finish games alongside LaVine and Lonzo Ball if he can master his jumper. If Chicago wants to go to a small lineup down the stretch, his large physique offers him a chance to hold up as a defender against big wings.

McGowens will never be better than a mediocre creator, but his scoring DNA makes him a terrific potential bargain at No. 18. If he slips into their laps on draft night, Bulls fans should be overjoyed.


Bulls mock draft, Blake Wesley

Mar 20, 2022; San Diego, CA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Blake Wesley (0) controls the ball against Texas Tech Red Raiders guard Clarence Nadolny (3) in the first half during the second round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament at Viejas Arena.

3. Blake Wesley

Wesley has the greatest ceiling of any player with a realistic chance of descending all the way to Chicago at the age of 18. Ironically, the scouting report of the former Notre Dame star will remind many Bulls fans of what scouts said about White before he was drafted.

In terms of size and length, Wesley has a significant advantage over White. It’s easier for him to develop good passing angles off the dribble because of this. Wesley may not have the same high-end quickness as White, but he has the potential to become a far better halfcourt creator.

There are valid worries regarding Wesley’s perimeter shooting, as there are with many other players predicted to be available in the middle of Round 1. At the professional level, it’s a stroke that could need to be dismantled and rebuilt. As a result, before Wesley is ready to play important minutes at the next level, he’ll have to wait.

Wesley’s top-end prospect potential is to be an above-average starting point guard. That’s fantastic value anywhere in the first round’s second half. The Bulls may have to wait for Wesley to develop, but he’d provide them with another high-end rotation option moving forward.


Bulls mock draft, E.J. Liddell

Mar 20, 2022; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes forward E.J. Liddell

2. EJ Liddell

Liddell is a big-bodied winger whose profile skyrocketed after receiving scout feedback last offseason. In Round 1, the appeal to him is that he should be more ready to play right away than many of his classmates.

Defenders will have to guard the former Ohio State star all the way out to the three-point arc because of his competent but unspectacular perimeter shot. If Liddell got better at his jump shot or became more flexible, it could raise his professional ceiling by a lot.

There’s also a lot of hope that he can develop into a good wing defender. Although he possesses the power and physicality to handle big wings, NBA scouts may be concerned about his ability to handle smaller players off the bounce. Liddell’s best position for Chicago could be as a frontcourt defender in small-ball combinations.

Although Liddell lacks the flash that the Bulls should be looking for at No. 18, he should be a valuable player before many of his draft peers are ready to play. If he’s on the board when they go on the clock, it might be very appealing for Chicago.


Bulls mock draft, Malaki Branham

Mar 18, 2022; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes guard Malaki Branham (22) goes to the basket defended by l24 in the first half during the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament at PPG Paints Arena.

1. Malaki Branham

The Bulls’ first-round pick if they want to draft a former Buckeye should be Branham, rather than Liddell. He’s not quite ready to play right away, but his silky jumper gives him a chance to blossom into a superstar if things go well during his professional career.

Branham is three years younger than his Ohio State counterpart, which is worth noting. He still has several years of substantial growth ahead of him at the age of 19. Branham should be selected by the Bulls based on what he can become at the end of his rookie contract rather than what he can provide next year.

The 6-foot-4 winger has the makings of a jump shot that can go well beyond the three-point line. During his collegiate career, he also showed a high level of shooting variety. It’s not difficult to imagine him developing into a high-level 3-point shooter off the dribble.

Branham can be chastised for not providing enough opportunities for his teammates in college, but that will not be his role in the NBA anytime soon. He’s built to score, which is exactly what the Bulls will need off the bench. At 18, landing Branham would be a fantastic result for Chicago.