Can the Chicago Bulls Find Their Future Center in the 2024 NBA Draft?

The big man is coming back in style, and the Chicago Bulls better keep that in mind this summer.

Whether it be Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokonmpo, Victor Wembanyama, or Minnesota’s towering frontcourt, size is becoming a priority for many teams across the league. While the 2024 NBA Draft is thought to have one of the more underwhelming prospect pools in a decade-plus, a handful of intriguing centers are expected to go in the first round.

The Chicago Bulls have Nikola Vucevic under contract for two more seasons, but the time is now to start thinking about a succession plan. Should they take a stab at finding his replacement in this year’s lottery with the No. 11 pick?

Well, let’s dive deep into some of their potential options!

Zach Edey and Donovan Clingan - options for the Chicago Bulls
© Michael Chow/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Donovan Clingan

Age: 20
Height: 7’2″
School: UConn

Unfortunately, it would take some catastrophic individual workouts for Donovan Clingan to tumble to No. 11. Aside from projected No. 1 overall pick Alexandre Sarr, Clingan has been the clear-cut No. 2 center on most big boards. He used an excellent run to a second-straight National Championship with the UConn Huskies to seemingly solidify himself as a top-10 pick.

But, hey, we can never say never in the NBA! The hierarchy of this prospect pool is extremely hard to figure out, which can always lead to some draft night chaos. If Clingan is shockingly there for Arturas Karnisovas in the late lottery, he’d be foolish not to take him. The seven-foot center projects to be an excellent rim protector at the next level. He averaged 2.5 blocks in college in his 22.5 minutes per game and was a big reason why the Huskies ranked top 4 in adjusted defensive efficiency, per Kenpom.

Clingan moves his body remarkably well for someone with his stature. While he’ll surely have to operate in a drop scheme defensively, he has the fluidity in his game to adjust on the fly and deter drives to the rim with his ridiculous length. There is All-Defensive Team potential with this guy.

As for the offensive end, he should be a high-quality roll man who can sky for lob dunks of finish with a soft touch around the rim. Will he be limited? Absolutely. He doesn’t possess a convincing jump shot right now and still has a ways to go as a post-up threat. While he could definitely overpower certain small-ball centers down low, I wouldn’t consider him a master of footwork.

Still, Clingan is the kind of player guards will not want to drive on and big men will hate bumping bodies with. For teams in need of a future answer at the position (*cough* the Chicago Bulls *cough), he would be a great choice.

Kel’el Ware

Age: 20
Height: 7’0″
School: Indiana

Most current mock drafts don’t have a center going after Clingan until post-lottery. With that in mind, the case could be made that every other name on this list should be deemed a “reach” for Chicago. But I don’t necessarily think that’s true for Ware.

I like the Indiana big man more than most. Maybe it’s my Big Ten basketball bias coming into play, but I would not be shocked if we’re talking about Ware as a likely late-lottery pick in a few weeks. Another seven-footer, he is a very different prospect than Clingan. He fits a lot more into our idea of the “modern NBA big” thanks to his ability to handle the ball in the open court and hit some long-range shots.

Ware averaged 15.9 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game for the Indiana Hoosiers this past season. He also went a very encouraging 17-40 from downtown. While it may not have been the highest volume, it undoubtedly flashed his willingness and potential to play along the perimeter.

But, again, what stands out more for Ware offensively is his overall mobility and length. He recorded a seven-foot-four wingspan at the combine, which was the fifth-highest. We saw him put this to good use in more ways than one last season, ferociously flushing lobs and impressively nailing turnaround jumpers near the paint.

Defensively, Ware can pull himself away from the rim and potentially switch at times. He can use his length to disrupt passing lanes and is a very smart shot blocker. The big concern with Ware is probably his slender frame. I can see a world where he has a much harder time embracing the physicality of the NBA, especially on the offensive end. But we all know NBA strength and conditioning can do wonders. I don’t know, if the Chicago Bulls decided to take a chance on him at No. 11, I wouldn’t be screaming.

No Ceilings put together a great highlight video of the big man. Watch and come aboard the Ware hype train …

Yves Missi

Age: 20
Height: 7’0″
School: Baylor

I have to be honest, I didn’t watch a ton of Baylor this past season, so my takes on Yves Missi come primarily from reading up on him and watching highlight videos. Having said that, Missi wouldn’t be a bad pick for a front office that has watched Nikola Vucevic try to play defense the past few years!

I can easily understand the appeal. There are zero questions about this guy’s motor and only a few about his defensive upside. He may be the most versatile defensive center in this draft class when we consider his lateral quickness and agility. Missi seemingly has the ability to view the whole floor at once. It can be hard for guys to learn how to put themselves in the right place at the right time, but Missi already appears to do it pretty consistently.

Again, for teams that have really lacked rim protection in recent years, Missi feels like an enticing choice. You also don’t have to worry at all about his effort on the glass. He has that kind of Andre Drummond-like ability to spring repeatedly at the ball until he can get his mitts on it. To be sure, I’m not saying he’ll be the rebounder the Chicago Bulls’ veteran is (few are), but the focus in that department is there.

I’d say what confuses me most about Missi is where he fits in offensively. His raw athleticism will make him an asset in the tip-in and putback department, but I’m not sure I see him providing much else right now. I saw a handful of highlights where he was able to catch the ball near the elbow and attack a bit off the dribble, which was at least something! Still, I’m not convinced that’ll work at the next level yet.

Kyle Filipowski

Age: 20
Height: 7’0″
School: Duke

You might remember all the hype around Kyle Filipowski. He committed to Duke as a top 4 prospect in the 2022 class, per 247 Sports. The towering big man felt like the kind of freshman who could take college basketball world by storm, but that’s not what happened.

To be sure, Filipowski played good basketball during his freshman season. He averaged 15.6 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game. The stretch five only shot 44.1 percent from the field, however, and he went an even more underwhelming 28.3 percent from downtown. Expected to be an offensive juggernaut, Filipowski opted to return for a season. And scouts saw some of the improvement they wanted to see.

Filipowski shot a considerably better 50.5 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from long range, averaging 16.4 points. Still, there is a reason he could slip into the 20s. Filipowski isn’t a jaw-dropping athlete with innate rim-protecting skills. He’s a giant human who should immediately be able to hang with some of the size in the NBA, but there will be serious questions about his ability to handle physicality. Especially for players who aren’t quick-twitch athletes, you’d like to see them establish more of a bruising post presence.

Nevertheless, there is obviously plenty to like. The decision-making from the middle of the floor took a step in the right direction this past season. He can find cutters and spray the ball out to open shooters. Of course, his most impressive skill is his potential to score at all three levels. Filipowski should be an adequate 3-point shooter, and he also possesses enough ball-handling ability to attack some closeouts. As for his post moves, the footwork flashes are impressive.

Some Chicago Bulls fans aren’t going to love this, but a decent comp for Filipowski could be Nikola Vucevic with a little more ball-handling ability. I know that isn’t about to make anyone salivate, but most teams would happily take someone with Vucevic’s ceiling at No. 11. This also means he might not be the worst starting center for Filipowski to learn behind during his first couple of seasons!

DaRon Holmes II

Age: 21
Height: 6’9″
School: Dayton

The smallest player on this list, DaRon Holmes II has slowly but surely climbed up draft boards. The Dayton big man averaged an impressive 20.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks during his junior year with the Flyers.

The two-way upside for Holmes is what will keep him from dropping too late into the first round. He is a hardworking defender whose undersized frame allows him to guard multiple positions. What you’ll also notice immediately with Holmes is his burst. He isn’t the most fluid athlete, but he sure is explosive. I can’t even remember all the times I saw highlights of him blocking jump shots and skying for crowd-pleasing alley-oop dunks. He also has quite a boxy frame that allows for him to initiate contact inside and finish strong. Again, he may not be as big as other players on this list, but the strength should be there.

Even more important, Holmes has shown shocking improvement as a 3-point shooter. Despite shooting a combined 26.9 percent in his first two years at Dayton on less than one attempt per game, Holmes shot 38.9 percent on 2.5 attempts a night this past season! The jumper truthfully looks pretty good, too!

I mean, look what he did at the combine

Holmes is the kind of guy you watch highlights of and wonder why he isn’t in talks to go top 5. But that is because (sadly) highlights don’t tell the whole story. Holmes didn’t play the toughest competition during his time in the Atlantic 10 Conference. So how quickly he can adjust to the next level is a fair question.

Likewise, I think it’s fair to wonder how much more Holmes can improve. Are we already seeing the best he has to offer? Can the 3-ball continue to fall at that rate with a higher volume? Additionally, can he show more off the dribble? He appears to be pretty right-hand dominant, so I’m not sure how easily he’ll be able to attack the rim in certain situations.

Regardless, I expect Holmes to continue to move up some draft boards, including in Chicago.

Zach Edey

Age: 22
Height: 7’4″
School: Purdue

Zach Edey is the most well-known name on this list. The two-time NCAA Player of the Year, the Purdue standout came up just short of claiming a championship this past season.

Let’s be honest, despite all of Edey’s accolades, it’ll be a shock if he goes in the lottery. Not only will he enter the league at 22 years old, but he is about as traditional of a big man as you can get. Edey is a back-to-the-basket player who needs a good point guard and lots of defensive help. If teams are able to pull him away from the rim, they will fly right by him. If teams are able to play uptempo, Edey will drag behind. The weaknesses are obvious … but so are the strengths.

Edey is an absolutely enormous human being. He will instantly be a handful physically for many centers across the league, and his rebounding on both ends could prove to be an immediate difference-maker. Likewise, his sheer size should make him an extremely valuable screener.

We also saw him average 25.2 points per game this season for a reason. He’s a highly efficient finisher around the rim with a real feel for navigating the post. We’re not just talking about someone who will overpower you but somebody who can outsmart you.

Edey is NBA-ready. He knows who he is and sounds more than ready to be a professional. Now, does he make sense for the Chicago Bulls at No. 11? Eh, I don’t think so. You probably want to take a chance at a higher-upside prospect in the lottery.

written by

Elias Schuster is the Lead Chicago Bulls writer at Bleacher Nation. He started with BN full-time in 2019 immediately after graduating from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign with a degree in Journalism (yes, he started with the Jim Boylen Era). Since joining, Elias has been the driving force behind Bulls and NBA content for both the site and social accounts. You can follow him on Twitter/X @Schuster_Elias.

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