Bulls will have wide range of possibilities in uncertain NBA draft

Longtime Bulls general manger Jerry Krause used to say you can't judge a draft for at least five years.

He had a point, but let's jump the gun and make a declaration: The 2022 NBA draft class will not match the rookie success of last year's group.

There's plenty of potential in this draft class, but also loads of questions, starting at the very top. When the Bulls select at No. 18 on Thursday, they'll be at the mercy of teams picking before them. It also doesn't seem likely the Bulls will find much interest in trading for their first-rounder.

When critiquing this group, it makes sense to start at the top. The projected first pick by Orlando is 6-10 Auburn forward Jabari Smith, who took 44% of his shots from 3-point range last season.

He made 42%, so he fits the NBA trend of outside-shooting big men. But he didn't show a ton of versatility or put the ball on the floor very often. The ceiling here doesn't seem to be future superstar, which one would expect with the top pick.

Then there's Gonzaga 7-footer Chet Holmgren, who could go second to Oklahoma City. His thin build has most everyone wondering about his durability in the NBA. The same was said about Kristaps Porzingis a few years ago and he's spent considerable time on the injured list.

It was also a little odd how in the NCAA Tournament, Holmgren took a back seat to teammate Drew Timme, who withdrew from the draft and will return to school.

The third player in most mock drafts is Duke's 6-10 Paolo Banchero. He's an impressive athlete who loves attacking the basket, but shot just 33.8% from 3-point range. It wouldn't be a shock if Banchero jumps to No. 1 or 2 on draft night.

After the top three, there's a couple of Big Ten prospects. Purdue's Jaden Ivy might be the best athlete in the draft, but needs to refine his skills. Iowa's Keegan Murray is more well-rounded, but he turns 22 in August, which is older than most top-10 picks these days.

Heading down the list, there's shooting guard Shaedon Sharpe. He's listed as being from Kentucky, but never played in a game there. A Canada native, Sharpe was originally in the high school class of 2022, reclassified, enrolled at Kentucky midyear and could have played last season, but chose not to. Teams are left to study his AAU game film.

Australia native Dyson Daniels averaged 12 points, 5 assists and shot 60% from the foul line for the G-League Ignite. But he's projected to go in the top 10 because he's 6-7 and probably the closest thing to a point guard in the lottery.

France's Ousmane Dieng averaged just 8.9 points in the Australian league, but he's the type of long, fluid wing player that dominated the NBA playoffs. A.J. Griffin, son of former Bulls player and coach Adrian Griffin, averaged 10.4 points on a loaded Duke team.

The point is, there isn't a lot of certainty that can be projected onto the Class of '22. Picking late, the Bulls will have a wide-range of possibilities, since it's always possible a player will unexpectedly land in their lap.

Maybe the best fit is 6-8 forward Tari Eason from LSU. He could give the Bulls a burst of athleticism and defense, as well as add some much-needed height to the front line. He's a Seattle native who played at Cincinnati as a freshman, then took a huge jump after transferring.

Another major need for the Bulls is 3-point shooting. Santa Clara 6-6 shooting guard Jalen Williams is the betting favorite to be chosen by the Bulls. There are a couple of 40% long-range shooters who could conceivably drop to No. 18 in Ohio State's Malaki Branham and Kansas' Ochai Agbaji.

From the Bulls' perspective, they might be happy to see Agbaji available at 18, because he's a four-year college player who capped his career by leading Kansas to the tournament title and was named Most Outstanding Player. So he figures to be more ready to step in and contribute right away than a lot of guys in this draft.

Another guard that could be on the Bulls' radar is Duke junior Wendell Moore Jr. He shot 41.3% from 3-point range last year and defended well, but shot it poorly during his first two years.

The Bulls could also consider basket protection. It's a long shot, but Memphis' 6-11 Jalen Duren and Duke's 7-2 Mark Williams could conceivably drop to the Bulls. If not, they might consider Auburn shot-blocking specialist Walker Kessler, or Ohio State's 6-7 E.J. Liddell, who will try to bring a mix of Grant Williams and Draymond Green to the NBA.

The first big transaction of the week happened Wednesday when the Pistons traded leading scorer Jerami Grant to Portland for a 2025 first-rounder.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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LSU forward Tari Eason (13) shoots over Arkansas guard Stanley Umude (0) during the first half of an NCAA men's college basketball Southeastern Conference tournament game in March.Eason could give the Bulls a burst of athleticism and defense Associated Press
Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) shoots around Villanova forward Eric Dixon during the second half during an April game. From the Bulls' perspective, they might be happy to see Agbaji available at 18, because he's a four-year college player who capped his career by leading Kansas to the tournament title and was named Most Outstanding Player. Associated Press
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