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Bulls NBA Draft Prospects: 3 Players We Love, 3 Players We Hate

With the 2021 NBA Draft approaching, we outlined a few draft prospects we like and dislike as fits for the Bulls.

Chicago Bulls 2021 NBA Draft Prospects
Original Photo: ChicagoBulls/Twitter

The 2021 NBA Draft will be upon us soon. The Chicago Bulls’ lone selection this year will be pick No. 38 in the second round. While the Bulls would surely love to have their lottery pick and select eighth overall, there will be plenty of solid options for Chicago to add in the second round. There are a variety of prospects from projects dripping with potential to high-floor players who can come in to contribute right away but won’t develop much more than that.

With so many possibilities on the table at pick No. 38, we thought we would narrow it down to some key players we like at the spot and others we feel the Bulls should avoid. On Tap Sports Net writers Chip Jones and Rob Wegley each break down three prospects to love and three prospects to hate.

3 Prospects Rob Loves

1. Day’Ron Sharpe, C, North Carolina

19-year-old Day’Ron Sharpe came out of South Central High School in North Carolina as a five-star recruit and a projected first-round pick. During his lone season at UNC, however, playing time was difficult to come by due to the Tar Heels being frontcourt heavy in terms of talent. Sharpe only saw the floor for 19.2 minutes per game as a freshman, but he certainly made the most of their minutes. For the season, Sharpe averaged 9.5 points per game, 7.6 rebounds per game, and 1.4 assists per game in his limited time on the court.

Sharpe is arguably the best rebounder in this draft. He was statistically the best offensive rebounder in the NCAA this past season with an 18.2 offensive rebounding rate, and that would be a welcome addition to the Bulls. His motor is constantly running, and he brings high energy seemingly every possession on both sides of the floor. Beyond his rebounding ability, Sharpe’s passing is one of the best elements of his game. Get him the ball in the high post, and Sharpe can lead teammates to the basket with perfectly placed passes. He hits cutting teammates well, and his assist numbers don’t tell the whole story about how good his feel for the game is as a passer.

On the other end of the court, Sharpe has the potential to be a solid defender in the post. He rotates and uses his body well, which will allow him put up decent defensive numbers.

Sharpe is a big body even as he has slimmed down to 259 pounds, but, at 6-foot-11, he “only” sports a 7-foot wingspan and there are legitimate concerns that more athletic and longer bigs can simply finish over him despite his solid positioning.

His shooting is going to need to improve as well. He made just 56.6% of his shots around the rim in the half-court setting and only made 50.5% of his free throws. If you want to listen to Sharpe’s trainer, Don MacLean, Sharpe’s jumpshot has gotten a lot better as he has been training for the draft. Take that as you will, but if it is true, that makes Sharpe even more of a diamond in the rough if the Bulls select him with the 38th pick.

2) Miles McBride, PG, West Virginia

Selecting McBride will likely require a trade up by the Bulls into the late-first round. Still, that is something that Artūras Karnišovas is rumored to be interested in doing, so including a solid Bulls fit like McBride makes sense here. As a 6-foot-3 guard, McBride’s 6-foot-9 wingspan makes him an intriguing option, especially considering the Bulls need help with perimeter defense. McBride is one of the best on-ball defenders in this draft, and the pressure he puts on opposing players is relentless. As a sophomore at West Virginia, McBride averaged 1.9 steals per game and caused turnovers consistently. Potentially the best part of McBride’s defense is his ability to fight through and around screens, as this was one of the most frustrating aspects of the Bulls’ defense during the 2020-21 season.

McBride can play as a lead guard or off the ball offensively. He shot 41.4% from three as a sophomore on 3.8 attempts per game and 48.2% of his catch-and-shoot threes on 56 attempts. He also averaged 4.8 assists per game on a 2.67 assist-to-turnover ratio. His playmaking developing as turnovers remained minimal showed excellent growth between McBride’s freshman and sophomore seasons and indicates he has real potential as a lead guard in the NBA.

Of course, McBride has some holes in his game that he needs to develop. As of right now, McBride is not a stellar finisher around the rim. Finishing strong at the hoop is something that will be more difficult for McBride when he is facing off against taller, longer, and more athletic defenders. He settles for pull-up jumpers often instead of driving to the hoop as a result of his limited ability around the rim. McBride also has no discernable floater as part of his arsenal. He shot 25% on floaters during his collegiate career, and he only attempted 16 of them in total.

3) Joel Ayayi, PG, Gonzaga

Ayayi is a redshirt junior, but he is young for his class — 21 years old as of March 5th — and will still come into the NBA with three collegiate seasons under his belt. The combo guard can score both at the rim and around the perimeter. During the 2020-21 season, Ayayi scored on an astounding 107 of 138 (77.5%) of his attempts at the rim. For reference, Zion Williamson converted on 81.4% of his shots at the rim in college — hat tip to Chip for that stat comparison. Furthermore, Ayayi shot 38.9% from deep on three attempts per game and did well shooting off the bounce and in catch-and-shoot situations. He hit 40.5% of his jumpers in catch-and-shoot opportunities and 41.5% of his shots off the bounce.

Ayayi also shows some upside as a defender guarding 1-3. He exhibits high energy defensively and stays in front of his opponents in one-on-one situations. Furthermore, though Ayayi only sports a 6-foot-7 wingspan, he uses his length well to contest shots and frustrate ballhandlers.

The trouble for Ayayi defensively is when he faces screens. As of now, Ayayi really struggles to fight through or around screens. He doesn’t take good angles and teams will be able to exploit that often in the NBA by having Ayayi face screen after screen. Offensively, he will need to develop his game as a three-level scorer. As of now, Ayayi finishes well at the basket and around the perimeter, but creating his own shot will be a major area of development.

3 Prospects Chip Loves

1) Jaden Springer, G, Tennessee

Jaden Springer is the most undervalued player in the 2021 NBA Draft class. The fact that Springer could last into the 20’s should motivate the Bulls to trade up. At only 18 years old, Springer is the second-youngest player eligible to be drafted this year. However, he doesn’t lack talent or athleticism compared to his peers.

Springer has an ideal frame for a guard, standing 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-8 wingspan. A lot of lanky young guards are available every draft class. Yet, despite being one of the youngest players in the class, Springer’s body is already NBA-ready, weighing 202 pounds.

Springer thrives in a lot of areas where the Bulls are weak. Outside of Zach LaVine, Bulls’ guards struggled to get to the rim in 2020-21. Springer loves getting to the basket. He shot 55-for-81 (66.7%) at the rim this season. The Bulls ranked 30th in free throw attempts per game this year. The Bulls made 13 free throws per 100 possessions, meanwhile Springer made 7.3 by himself. Springer only attempted two three-pointers per game, but he made them at a 43.5% rate.

Defensively, Springer is phenomenal as well. He’s quick, agile, and has great footwork which allows him to cover a lot of ground quickly. His ability to navigate screens is at a high level for someone of his age. This makes him a perimeter defender that could improve the Bulls defense too. He is able to read plays before they happen. As a result, he came up with 2.7 steals per 100 possessions.

Arturas Karnisovas should do whatever it takes to bring Jaden Springer to the Bulls.

2) Aaron Henry, G/F, Michigan State

Aaron Henry is a 21-year-old wing from Michigan State University. He stands 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan and weighs 210 pounds. Henry was named to the 2021 Big Ten All-Defensive First Team this season. Good defense is certainly why Henry is going to get drafted. However, it’s his underrated offensive upside that could make him a steal for the Bulls at pick No. 38.

People think Henry can’t shoot. He shot a pretty poor 24 for 81 (29.6%) from three-point range this year. However, I think it just took him some time to get acclimated to an increased offensive workload. In Michigan State’s final 14 games of the season, Henry shot 15 for 38 (39.5%) on his three’s. This improved shooting is even more believable when looking at his mid-range shooting numbers. Henry shot an impressive 82 for 178 (46.1%) on mid-range jumpers this season.

Henry also offers good passing ability and court vision. His 25.2% assist rate is higher than most point guard prospects. Henry’s combination of athleticism, shooting, and passing give him an interesting offensive upside for a 3-and-D wing.

Henry is a powerful athlete who certainly leans more on strength than finesse. However, he has an incredible ability to stick with his man defensively. It almost seems as if there is a magnet keeping Henry right next to anyone he guards. Per 100 possessions, Henry averaged 2.4 steals and 2.3 blocks this season. He would easily be a plus defender at the NBA level.

If the Bulls decide to go the 3-and-D wing route with the 38th pick, Aaron Henry should be at the top of their list.

3) Isaiah Todd, F, G-League Ignite

Isaiah Todd was one of four players who opted to forgo college and play for the G-League Ignite team. Todd, who stands 6-foot-10, averaged 12.3 points and 4.9 rebounds in 24 minutes a game for the Ignite. The 19-year-old is a good athlete who showed a nice shooting touch by converting on 36% of his three-point attempts and 82.4% of his free throw attempts this season.

Todd loves operating in the mid-range. This one-legged Dirk fade in this clip is his go-to move. Todd shot 26-58 (44.8%) in the mid-range in the G-League this season. That’s 3% above the NBA average, which is massively impressive for a 19-year-old playing in a professional league. Todd’s ability to create his own shots makes him an exceptionally dynamic player. Defenders struggled guarding Todd as a screener. He uses his three-level scoring ability and elite burst to cause defenders problems.

Todd’s lackluster interior defense is what has him viewed as a second round pick. Team Ignite frequently chose to use the 6-foot-10 Todd as a power forward. This deployment had him defending much stronger players on the interior. However, on occasions where Todd was allowed to defend on the perimeter, he was able to use his quickness and solid footwork to frustrate opposing players. Todd used his 7-foot-1 wingspan to hold opposing three-point shooters to a 87-271 (32.1%) mark.

Todd is projected to be an early to mid-second-round draft pick. His combination of size, athleticism, shot-making ability, and perimeter defense should keep him on the Bulls’ radar come draft night.

3 Prospects Rob Hates

1) JT Thor

Thor is a prospect generating a lot of attention in the early-second round range, and he is reportedly on the Bulls’ radar as draft night approaches. It is easy to understand NBA interest in Thor. The 18-year-old freshman out of Auburn is one of the youngest players in the draft, and he was a player I included on the forward edition of draft prospects to watch for the Bulls. His length (7-foot-3.25 wingspan) and quickness make him a legitimate defender who can hold his own 1-5. To that end, Thor averaged 1.4 blocks per game and 0.8 steals per game in his sole season at Auburn in just 23 minutes per game.

Yet, Thor is a very raw prospect who needs to build his strength desperately. Currently, Thor is only 203 pounds, and he struggles when trying to play through contact which will make finishing at the rim in the half-court tough for him in the NBA. The entirety of his offense needs a lot of time to develop, too. Thor struggles to read and react when passing on the move, and — as a result — averaged roughly twice as many turnovers than assists per game.

He also does not offer much of anything as a shooter. For the 2020-21 season, Thor shot 29.7% from deep on 2.7 attempts per game. There are a lot of moving parts to his shot, and it is difficult to project him as ever becoming an impactful shooter from the perimeter. Another thing to consider is the points per 100 possessions, if you want to buy into that as a way to measure a player’s impact. When Thor was on the floor, Auburn was six points per 100 possessions worse than their opponents. When Thor was off the court, Auburn was 11 points better.

Ultimately, Thor is a lottery ticket. If a team can develop Thor offensively and build his consistency on both ends of the floor, he can become a solid NBA contributor. However, there is also a strong chance that Thor is a guy who got scouts to fall in love with his physical gifts and the potential that comes with them, even though he never lives up to that potential.

2) Isaiah Todd

Isaiah Todd has hype as an athletic former top prospect, but that hype may be overblown. Granted, Todd performed reasonably well in the G-League, especially on the offensive end of things. He put up 12.3 PPG and shot 36.2% from deep while flashing potential as a shooter and a scorer.

Still, the questions surrounding Todd’s game are legitimate and should not be overlooked. While Todd shot 36.2% from three, he only made 37.7% of his catch-and-shoot opportunities. That should continue to improve as Todd works at his shooting form, but the shot selection is where the real worries lie. He took a lot of early, contested jumpers during his sole season in the G-League and tried to create his own shot several times, often ending up with him being in over his head. Granted, as Chip points out, Todd can create his own shot and has a lot of success shooting in the mid-range. The issue is how well he knows his role and how he fits into the flow of the game.

Then, for a 6-foot-10 forward with a 7-foot-1.25 wingspan, Todd struggles to finish at the rim. He made just 46.7% of his shot attempts at the basket in the half-court setting. In this category, Todd ranked dead last among players 6-foot-9 or taller in the G-League with at least 30 attempts. He was 85th out of 99 players overall. As Todd adds weight to his frame, this deficiency should improve, but it is an area of concern right now. Add in Todd’s tendency to get tunnel vision and miss wide open teammates in favor of contested looks plus porous defense, and the Bulls will be better served going in another direction if they want to capitalize on their window with Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic.

3) Charles Bassey

Bassey has been projected to the Bulls in several mock drafts. I even included him in our center prospects to watch for the Bulls in the upcoming draft. However, just because Bassey is a potential option for the Bulls doesn’t mean he should be the selection. There are several legitimate reasons to stay away from the 6-foot-10 junior big man out of Western Kentucky.

First and foremost, it is important to acknowledge that Bassey put up very impressive numbers at Western Kentucky. As a junior, he averaged 17.6 points per game, 11.6 rebounds per game, and 3.1 blocks per game. As an athletic big with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, it is easy to get lost in his potential to become an NBA contributor. Still, Bassey is a defensive liability when needing to switch, and he struggles to understand and play in different defensive formations. At Western Kentucky, he could use his athleticism and length to mask this deficiency and still swat shots away, but NBA players are going to be better at exploiting the holes in Bassey’s game. He will still come through with monstrous weakside blocks, but there is a steep learning curve for him to actually be a plus defender. 

Offensively, Bassey has shown some promise as a shooter. He shot 76.8% from the free-throw line over the course of his collegiate career and actually has decent mechanics. However, he’ll need to be wide open to get a good shot off due to how long it takes him to shoot. If he can develop his three-point shot and shore up his timing, watch out, but there is no clear indication that will happen. He’s also purely a catch-and-shoot or catch-and-finish guy at the NBA level.

Bassey also has a slow first step and not much of a handle, so he isn’t going to create anything for himself. Furthermore, a 3.1 turnover-to-assist ratio is difficult to handle for any team, so Bassey’s passing will need a lot of work as well. Lastly, Bassey struggles to play through contact, which isn’t good for a center who isn’t going to shake any defenders off with his quickness or post moves.

3 Prospects Chip Hates

1) Daishen Nix, G, G-League Ignite

Daishen Nix was a teammate of Isaiah Todd’s on the G-League Ignite team. Nix is a 6-foot-4 guard who averaged 8.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists in 27 minutes a game for Ignite. I’m not a big fan of drafting for fit, especially in the second round. However, the Bulls’ needs at point guard has some suggesting Nix as a possible target at pick No. 38.

Nix shot 18% from three-point range on 2.3 attempts per game and 38% from the field overall. Nix’s top overall skill is his passing ability. People consider him a safe passer who avoids turnovers. Nix isn’t particularly quick and certainly has a stockier build weighing in at 225 pounds. He attempts to use his strength to attack the basket, but it didn’t really work in the G-League.

Defensively, Nix struggles due to his lack of quickness and agility. I often use clips of game tape to help convey my points. Let’s spice things up instead this time. Read through these three paragraphs from a different player’s scouting report. These reports are from a player Nix reminds me of.

This scouting report could apply to Daishen Nix. A guard with a heavier build, passing as their best skill, and an inability to create space in the half-court.

Those screenshots are from Denzel Valentine’s scouting report. I rest my case.

2) Joshua Primo, G, Alabama

It seems like every year we hear talks about the value of position-less players. They offer their teams unique versatility that makes them hard to beat. While it’s true that the flexibility those players provide is important, a player not having a defined position doesn’t make them good.

Josh Primo is a confusing prospect. He is the youngest player in the draft, and has some first-round buzz. The idea with Primo is that he’s young, we think he can kind of shoot, and he has versatile size. Primo is 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan and weighs 190 pounds. Sometimes players with athletic ability and good size can just figure it out as they go. But in Primo’s case, he gives off the impression that the game comes slowly to him.

Primo went 43 for 113 (38.1%) from three-point range this season. That’s a decent figure, but one that leaves him around average among his fellow classmates. Primo is fine as a ball handler, but he struggled to get to the rim frequently in college. While he shot 40 for 66 (60.6%) at the rim, those results were less impressive considering he only attempted about two shots at the rim per game.

Primo rarely drew any fouls, averaging only 3.1 free throw attempts per 100 possessions. He took only 19 total mid-range attempts this season and converted on just four of them. His 19.3% turnover rate compared to his 6.5% assist rate is cause for concern as well. I don’t really see how a turnover-prone player who doesn’t take a lot of shots or create many assists will have offensive value at the NBA level.

3) Greg Brown III, F, Texas

This year’s draft class is extremely deep. With only eight players under contract for the Bulls next season, there will be several rotation spots up for grabs. Because of this, I think drafting Greg Brown would be unwise. Brown might be the best athlete in the class. However, he is very far from being ready to log real minutes in the NBA.

While Brown is a phenomenal athlete and shows no lack of effort, his decision-making and skills are bad. Brown has maybe the most impressively bad assist-to-turnover rate I’ve ever seen. Per 100 possessions, Brown is averaging 1.1 assists compared to 6.5 turnovers. Chicago sports don’t need more guys who pass to the opposing team more than their own.

Brown isn’t really much of a shooter either, going 30 for 91 (33%) from the three-point line in college. His shooting form is rather inconsistent. Brown will bizarrely shoot with six slightly different forms every game. His athleticism doesn’t match his finishing at the rim either. Brown made only 53 of his 93 attempts (57%) at the rim. For a 6-foot-9 forward who can jump out of the gym, that figure is pretty underwhelming. Brown also somehow missed a third of his dunk attempts this season.

Defensively, Brown doesn’t fare much better. His lack of technique allows less athletic players to easily push him off his spots, just as Cade Cunningham does in the clip above. Brown’s main redeeming qualities are his high-effort rebounding and shot blocking.

The Bulls will have plenty of options available to them that can play real minutes from the get-go. As a result, taking on a project like Brown makes little sense.

In Conclusion

The 2021 NBA Draft is just around the corner. Several prospects will hear their names called before the Bulls have an opportunity to select their newest player. Even so, there’s a lot of talent that should be available at 38 to get excited about. Stick with us here at On Tap Sports Net and Bulls On Tap for all your Bulls draft coverage and analysis.


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