The 2021 NBA Draft is quickly approaching with the July 29th date just under two weeks away. The Chicago Bulls have a variety of needs to address with their sole pick: 38th overall. They could use help off the bench at both guard spots, which we addressed in our five second round guard options piece two weeks ago. With the potential loss of Daniel Theis, backup center is a need, although the Bulls may feel comfortable with 2020 2nd-round pick Marko Simonović signing for the upcoming season.
There is also the need for forwards at both the 3 and 4. Thad Young’s status on the Bulls is up in the air depending on the cap situation. Lauri Markkanen is a restricted free agent and the Bulls seem ready to move on. Also, Billy Donovan appeared to want nothing to do with Al-Farouq Aminu last season. Here are some potential forward options available at 38 for the Bulls in no particular order.
Option One: Greg Brown, PF, Texas, Freshman
Measurements: HT: 6’8.5″, WT: 206, WING: 7’0.25″
Key Stats: 9.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 33.0% 3-point
If you are looking for an uber-athletic forward who can jump out of the gym, Brown is your guy. The big man sports a 39″ vertical jump. If you want to know what a 39″ vertical looks like with a 6’9 frame, here you go:
Athleticism is Brown’s biggest strength. Obviously, he utilizes it as a leaper to finish strong at the rim. Beyond that, he is a fluid athlete in the open court with a better handle than you’d expect for his size. His quick twitch and verticality should translate right away to the NBA. Also, this athleticism translates well to defense where Brown should be able to guard 3-5. Moreover, over time his scoring should develop due to his athleticism and signs of shooting ability. If he can develop and maintain a consistent jump shot, especially from deep, his handle and quickness could make for constant mismatches against bigs on other teams.
Of course, if Brown’s jump shot and shot selection were polished right now, he would be a first-round prospect who shot better than 42% from the field. Brown’s release is a little funky. Currently, he shoots the ball from right next to his face. It runs the risk of inconsistency especially as his jumpers will be better contested more often in the NBA. Sticking to the offensive side of things, Brown currently struggles with tunnel vision looking for his own shot. He could often be found taking shots despite being double-teamed and driving into trouble when teammates stood wide open on the perimeter.
Option Two: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, PF, Villanova, Sophomore
Measurements: HT: 6’9″, WT: 242, WING: 6’9.75″
Key Stats: 15.7 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.2 APG, 28.0% 3-point
Robinson-Earl is a very different kind of player than Brown is. While Brown is all about explosiveness and verticality, Robinson-Earl focuses on the fundamentals while staying much more grounded.
While Robinson-Earl shot under 50% from the field, his ability around the basket is elite. Robinson-Earl made 57.4% of his two-point attempts, and he hovered around 68% at the rim on non-post ups. His footwork is excellent for his age, and has even shown a decent handle in the open floor. Robinson-Earl’s offensive versatility is reminiscent of Thad Young, who may or may not be on the roster next year. His shooting form is also pretty fundamentally sound. On the year, Robinson-Earl shot 41.7% on spot-up catch-and-shoot jumpers. More than likely, he will develop at least an average three-point shot to the point where teams will need to respect him on the perimeter.
Robinson-Earl actually has decent quickness for a 6-foot-9, 242-pound big man. He had the fifth-best shuttle run for power forwards at the NBA Combine, and he has shown the ability to switch and hold his own against guards on the perimeter. Still, the lack of verticality and overall athleticism spotlights the biggest weakness. Robinson-Earl will likely never be an impactful rim protector due to the lack of explosiveness and his wingspan only being three-quarters of an inch more than his height. Also, he will be likely be limited offensively to opportunities others create for him. Even with Robinson-Earl’s solid handle, the athleticism of NBA players will lock him up, and finishing over defenders will get much harder.
Option Three: Kessler Edwards, SF/PF, Pepperdine, Junior
Measurements: HT: 6’8″, WT: 203, WING: 6’11.25″
Key Stats: 17.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 37.8% 3-point
If Kessler Edwards falls to the Bulls at pick 38, I would throw a party. All that to say, this is an ambitious inclusion, but it is possible as Edwards sits as a projected late first-round/early second-round pick.
Edwards is a high-energy guy both on offense and defense. He is Patrick Williams-esque in the fact that he has the tweener build. He probably projects better as a four than a three, but he will need to fill out his frame to hang with NBA bigs. Edwards has the athleticism to guard threes and fours and he averaged 1.0 steals per game and 1.3 blocks per game over the course of his collegiate career. His defensive talents should translate to the NBA. He also has a solid shooting percentage from three despite funky shooting form. With his high release, Edwards likely will be able to stretch the floor as a four throughout his career.
Edwards will not be a player who creates his own offense. He doesn’t quite have the handle, and he is currently more limited to straight line drives to the basket. His pull-up game is a big need, so he will rely on catch-and-shoot opportunities and cuts to the hoop. He also will be mostly limited to guarding forwards, at least to start his career, because he does not have the quickness to keep up with guards nor the capability to shut down centers, especially bigger ones.
Option Four: Santi Aldama, PF, Loyola (MD), Sophomore
Measurements: HT: 6’11″, WT: 215, WING: 6’11″
Key Stats: 21.2 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 36.8% 3-point
Aldama played his college ball in the Patriot League, so, while the numbers are certainly impressive, Aldama is considered purely as a second-round prospect. Still, the potential for Aldama is enticing.
Aldama is a solid shooter from the perimeter, especially for a near-seven footer. After a disappointing freshman season, Aldama shot 36.8% from deep on 5.1 attempts per game and 51.3% from the field on 15.5 attempts per game. He is also pretty polished around the basket and has an arsenal of crafty moves available to him. He is comfortable fighting for boards underneath the basket as well and will snag his fair share of boards thanks to good positioning and effort.
Defensively, Aldama will be limited. He averaged 1.7 blocks per game both seasons at Loyola, but that isn’t a number to expect in the NBA. His verticality is limited, and he doesn’t have the strength currently to shut down bigs in the post. On that same note, Aldama relies on craftiness in the post partially because he isn’t going to back anyone down. It will be easier for bigger NBA defenders to seal Aldama off before he can get under the basket. As a result, he will be more of a perimeter player who relies on cuts to get to the hoop.
Option Five: JT Thor, PF, Auburn, Freshman
Measurements: HT: 6’9.25″, WT: 203, WING: 7’2.25″
Key Stats: 9.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 29.7% 3-point
JT Thor is currently rising up draft boards partially due to his massive wingspan measured and PF-leading three-quarter sprint at the 2021 NBA Draft Combine. As such, Thor can possibly sneak into the first round. If he is available at 38, the Bulls could be tempted.
Defense is where Thor will make the biggest impact on the game. Using his length and quickness, Thor can step out to the perimeter and be very effective switching onto guards off of screens. It is very difficult for opposing players to get clean shots off over Thor due to the 7’3.25″ wingspan and his effort to close out on perimeter shots. It isn’t unreasonable to project Thor as a player who can guard 1-5 in at least some capacity. Also, his name is Thor. The Bulls could have Thor on their team. That’s pretty much all I need to be interested.
Thor is a project offensively. He was not a strong three-point shooter during his lone collegiate season, and he only shot 44% from the field in general. In pre-draft workouts and the NBA Combine, Thor’s jumper has looked solid, but that is different than proving it in games. Beyond that, Thor’s offensive presence is somewhat reminiscent of what Bulls fans saw with Patrick Williams this past season. He will disappear for large stretches at a time or even for an entire game. With the lack of consistency and lower shooting percentages, it is hard to know if Thor can develop into a consistent offensive option.
Forward is a position the Bulls will be looking closely at during the NBA Draft. While they may need to trade into the back of the first round for some of these players, there is a solid chance many of these guys could be available at 38. Stick with us at On Tap Sports Net for all your Bulls draft coverage and analysis.