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updated: 11/15/2017 6:09 AM

5 prospects the Chicago Bulls could take in 2018 NBA Draft

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  • Left to right: Michael Porter Jr., Marvin Bagley, Luka Doncic, DeAndre Ayton, and Mohamed Bamba are some of the exciting college basketball players expected to be among the top picks in the 2018 NBA Draft.

      Left to right: Michael Porter Jr., Marvin Bagley, Luka Doncic, DeAndre Ayton, and Mohamed Bamba are some of the exciting college basketball players expected to be among the top picks in the 2018 NBA Draft.
    Illustration by Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer with AP Photos


Sure, it was nice of four college basketball powers to set up a doubleheader at the United Center on Tuesday, giving the rebuilding Bulls a close look at several prospects expected to land near the top of the 2018 NBA Draft.

Then again, these games were on the schedule long before the Bulls decided to trade three-time all-star Jimmy Butler to Minnesota and launch the first all-out rebuild since the post-championship era began in 1999.

So it's worth looking at the list of players the Bulls will be watching during the college basketball season. Things could certainly change between now and June. Nobody had Markelle Fultz going No. 1 overall until a few weeks of games had been played last year. But in recent years, the NBA draft has closely resembled the previous year's high school rankings. So this list may not be far off, either.

There appears to be a consensus top five this season, with a mix of talent vying for the top spots. So let's start with that group. Naturally, all of the college players projected at the top of next year's draft are freshmen:

Michael Porter, 6-10, Missouri

He has a true small forward's game at 6-10, just as likely to hit a 3-pointer as an alley-oop dunk. He handles the ball well, but probably doesn't have point-guard potential like Philadelphia's Ben Simmons. Porter is probably more like a taller Gordon Hayward, so he could probably handle either forward spot. Porter originally committed to Washington, but switched to Missouri after a coaching change. His father is an assistant to Mizzou's Cuonzo Martin.

Marvin Bagley, 6-11, PF, Duke

Before facing Michigan State on Tuesday at the UC, Bagley averaged 24.5 points and 10 rebounds in his first two games. And the fast start came after he reclassified from the high school class of 2018 to '17 this summer. It's tough to tell what kind of NBA player Bagley will be. He'll probably spend most of his time playing near the basket. A left-handed shooter, he's bouncy and athletic, but can also drift out to the 3-point line once in a while. Maybe Philadelphia's Joel Embiid is a decent comparison, though Bagley is a few inches shorter.

DeAndre Ayton, 7-0, C, Arizona

He's closer to a true center, but has a variety of skills and can step away from the basket. He's already strong and athletic, and may dominate near the basket against college competition. Ayton knocked down some midrange jumpers in his first college game, so he might be described as a DeAndre Jordan-type crossed with a stretch four.

Luka Doncic, 6-7, SF,

This guy was the talk of this summer's EuroBasket, where he and Goran Dragic led Slovenia to the championship. He seems to be the only true wing player at the top of next year's draft, someone who can handle the ball and survive at shooting guard. Doncic is a nice athlete who does just about everything well. Last year for Real Madrid, he averaged 13.3 points and shot 37 percent from 3-point range.

Mohamed Bamba, 7-0, C, Texas

This is a 7-footer who probably doesn't belong under the basket, although he figures to be a talented shot-blocker with his 7-foot-9 wingspan. The New York City native doesn't have the physical maturity of Ayton and will have a tough time playing in the post if he turns pro after his freshman season. But Bamba has a nice shooting stroke and could provide a mix of inside and outside scoring.

Others to watch: 6-11 Jaren Jackson and 6-7 Miles Bridges, Michigan State; 6-10 Wendell Carter, Duke; 6-9 Kevin Knox, Kentucky; 6-9 Robert Williams, Texas A&M; 6-4 Lonnie Walker, Miami; 6-2 Collin Sexton, Alabama.

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