The Bulls projected starting lineup for next season features four lottery picks 25 years-old or younger, including Coby White (20), Zach LaVine (25), Lauri Markkanen (23), and Wendell Carter Jr. (21).
All things considered, that’s very good news. Having an overflow of young talent is only a problem when none of those young players turn into a bonafide star. *taps earpiece* What’s that? We have that exact concern with these very Bulls right now? Are you sure? Crap.
Of course, there’s plenty of time remaining for the Bulls to find a superhero among this group. Zach LaVine is right on the brink of becoming an All-Star talent, Coby White showed extremely promising signs at the end of the regular season, Wendell Carter Jr. made the Rising Stars roster at All-Star Weekend, and Lauri Markkanen still has an undeniable intriguing skillset. And don’t forget, they have another lottery pick coming up in the 2020 NBA Draft.
The Bulls can work with that.
Admittedly though, these guys are all in the same situation – with the omission of Zach LaVine (who, for the sake of continued conversation and the source material I’m about to share, will now be removed from the conversation).
Markkanen, Carter Jr., and White are all covered in question marks. Sure, I think we can agree these three will at least be serviceable players with a relatively lengthy career, but what’s their ceiling? And how do they compare to the rest of the young talent in the NBA?
The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie ranked the Top-50 Rookie Scale Prospects in the league, and these three young Bulls didn’t receive the most favorable ranking. To be exact, White was the highest-rated Bulls player at No. 29, with Carter Jr. coming in at No. 30 and Markkanen at No. 33. All three of these players landed in Vecenie’s 5th tier, which he entitled “high-upside prospect, but there are flaws here.”
I can’t say I necessarily disagree with the tier evaluation/classification, but I’m a bit frustrated to see some of the names in front of the Bulls young talent.
For a better idea of what I’m talking about, take a look at the tier in its entirety:
21. Lonzo Ball
22. Collin Sexton
23. Buddy Hield
24. Marvin Bagley
25. Devonte Graham
26. R.J. Barrett
27. OG Anunoby
28. Cam Reddish
29. Coby White
30. Wendell Carter Jr.
31. Mitchell Robinson
32. Brandon Clarke
33. Lauri Markkanen
34. Dejounte Murray
35. Michael Porter Jr.
Again, I think this grouping of players is pretty fair, but I’m not prepared to say guys like Barrett, Reddish, Graham, or Bagley have proven to be better prospects than White, Carter Jr, and Markkanen (yet). Also, are we sure White deserves to be over Carter Jr. and Markkanen already?
Vecenie says he takes into account the potential career arc of each player, which does help explain some of his choices. However, after what we saw this past season, I still have a bone or two to pick with this order.
For starters, I know White’s year was a bit rocky, but he and Barrett had a practically identical season. Coby White averaged 13.2 points, with 3.5 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game while Barrett finished the season with 14.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. Additionally, White shot 39.4 percent from the field and 35.4 percent from downtown while Barrett shot 40.2 percent from the field and 32.0 percent from behind the arc. Pretty similar, eh?
Barrett may have been the better prospect heading into the season and maybe his ceiling feels higher, but statistically, I think it’s worth pointing out that he and White are neck-and-neck right now.
As for Cam Reddish, I’m prepared to say it’s an absolute crime that he is even just one spot ahead of White, let alone Carter Jr. and Markkanen. Seriously, someone call my lawyer – I want to sue. Reddish stunk up the court for most of the year, and if we’re saying his post-All-Star play was enough to put him past all three of these Bulls players, that’s just kind of absurd. Do you remember White after the All-Star break? He averaged 24.7 freakin’ points!?
The disrespect for Lauri Markkanen is also very real here. I can’t defend him too heavily thanks to his bummer of a season, but to have those three rookies already ahead of him is a rough sight to see.
Anyway, I could probably go off about the placement of these guys for another 1,000 words, so I should stop. Besides, it’s not worth getting too upset because – at the end of the day – I feel like the tier matters more than the exact ranking (and, remember, that part looks about right).
Let me know your thoughts, and we can continue this conversation down in the comments.