The NBA Draft is Less Than a Month Away – Here’s Who’s Being Connected to the Chicago Bulls
The NBA Draft is officially less than one month away, which means it’s time to start keeping close tabs on the ever-changing mock drafts.
Our first dive in of the season has plenty of different names – at plenty of different positions – headed to the Bulls at No. 18.
Jeremy Sochan (Baylor) – ESPN, Yahoo Sports
ESPN Rank: 15
The fact that two mock drafts currently have Sochan headed to Chicago isn’t at all surprising. As a big man who put together a very solid combine, he could easily be the defensive-minded frontcourt presence this Bulls’ team desperately needs.
Here’s a little bit more of what I wrote about the big man in a post from earlier this week:
Out of all the players listed in this post, I would label Sochan as the most likely to be off the board before Arturas Karnisovas has to pick up the phone. Not only did he seem to impress a very large audience at the combine, but he checks some of the boxes of a typical draft day riser: Youth, great size, two-way potential, and a relentless ‘give-a-sh*t’ attitude.
Considering the Bulls desperately need more frontcourt defense, interest in Sochan makes plenty of sense. The guy could likely step into an NBA game right now and hold his own. No, he isn’t the most explosive shot-blocker or rim-protector, but he can guard basically every position on the floor and could truly be the anchor for a switch-heavy attack. I was truly impressed with his ability to stay in front of small guards and put real pressure on the basketball without fouling.
Most questions for Sochan reside on the offensive end of the ball. While he isn’t afraid to flash his jumper, it has yet to look very efficient, and his 58.9 percent mark at the free-throw line isn’t the most encouraging. However, he does possess a pretty strong feel for the game and passing ability that should fit right in on a Billy-Donovan offense that craves ball movement.
Just turning 19 years old on May 20th, there is still tremendous room for Sochan to grow into a more than solid two-way player at the next level. And the fact he is already so advanced on the defensive end should allow him to eat valuable minutes while expanding his offensive game. With that said, I’d be all for an investment in Sochan with the No. 18 pick, but I’m not sure the Bulls will get that chance.
Tari Eason (LSU) – The Athletic
ESPN Rank: 18
While we’re on the topic of players I doubt will be on the board when the Bulls pick, let’s talk about Tari Eason.
Sam Vecenie’s mock draft is the only one featured in this post that has Eason available at No. 18. He’s easily one of the best power forward prospects in this draft class, and a lot of the interest around him (like Sochan) stems from his potential elite defensive impact. He averaged 3.2 steals and 1.9 blocks per 40 minutes while with LSU this season. As Vecenie writes: “there are few prospects in this draft with more potential to guard a variety of players on the ball.”
Unlike Sochan, Eason does still offer a more immediately intriguing set of skills on the offensive end. The dude is an athletic freak who hunts the rim and averaged 16.9 points per game for the Tigers this season. He got to the free-throw line for an impressive 5.7 attempts per contest, and his downhill burst in transition would fit right in alongside Lonzo Ball. Exactly how much offense Eason could carry down the road is a fair question, but he provides a diverse enough set of skills that it shouldn’t be a problem to find the right role for him.
Malaki Branham (Ohio State) – The Ringer
ESPN Rank: 13
Malaki Branham wasn’t expected to be a one-and-down talent, but there is no question he’s ready for the next level. A versatile two-way wing, he provides legitimately intriguing 3-and-D potential. The Ohio State prospect shot 41.6 percent from deep last season as he averaged 13.7 points per game. On the other end, his strength and 6’10” wingspan helped him look like an on-ball pest at times.
I certainly wouldn’t consider Branham the most athletically jaw-dropping athlete or the most high-upside prospect, but he does offer a lot of what a team wants out of a reliable role player. He can knock down open catch-and-shoot looks, handle the ball, do a little of his own scoring off the dribble, and hold his own on the defensive end.
The question for the Bulls is whether or not they want to add to the backcourt with this pick. While the draft is all about selecting the best player available, we do have to take into consideration whether or not Branham provides enough of what this team doesn’t have. I think he does, but I’m sure it’s a discussion the front office is having.
Jean Montero (Overtime Elite) – CBS Sports
ESPN Rank: 53
I’ll be honest, I know pretty darn little about Jean Montero.
An overseas prospect who joined the Overtime Elite sports league, he seems to be all over the map in terms of how analysts view his draft stock. For example, while CBS’ latest mock has Montero going as high as No. 18 to the Bulls, Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman doesn’t have him coming off the board until the mid-second round.
A brief watch of the film is all it takes to see why Montero is loved by some. Not only does he seem to possess quite the impressive touch around the rim, but he’s an explosive and quick athlete who can easily create his own shot.
The fact he stands just 6’2,” however, is certainly concerning. It’s hard to tell whether or not he can make up for his lack of size with strong enough defensive instincts. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony does write that his intensity level on this end of the floor seems to fluctuate, but he has put together some impressive moments when fully locked in.
Check out the highlights for yourself:
Ochai Agbaji (Kansas) – Bleacher Report
ESPN Rank: 16
I’ll always welcome a national champion.
When it comes to NBA-ready talent, Agbaji is easily one of the top names in this draft class. Agbaji was a four-year starter for one of the best programs in college basketball, and his final year with the Jayhawks turned out to be by far his best. He averaged 18.8 points per game on an impressive 53.4 percent mark from the field and 40.7 percent clip from downtown. Even more impressive, Agbaji shot that efficiently while comfortably leading Kansas in shot attempts per game (13.9).
We all know the Chicago Bulls need shooting, and there is little doubt that Agbaji projects to supply plenty of that at the next level. But the Bulls also need much better wing defense, and Agbaji should be able to check that box too.
While he may not have the most elite measurements or explosive athleticism, he’s a smart player with a well-built body who should be a more than reliable defender. We saw what drafting an experienced talent could do last season with Ayo Dosunmu, and I strongly believe the Bulls could get a similar outcome from Agbaji (in terms of instant value).