I forgot how exhausting “scouting” NBA prospects can be. I suppose I should have paid attention throughout the year like I have in the past, instead of doing a cram session like this was a high school history exam. Oh well. So the last week and a half, I watched a bunch of breakdowns on a bunch of guys, and it led me to this giant conclusion, the Perfect Player for the Bulls to draft with the #18 overall pick is… Jeremy Sochan, or Kendall Brown, or Malaki Branham, or Mark Williams, or Jalen Williams, or EJ Liddell, or Tari Eason, or MarJon Beauchamp, or Walker Kessler, etc.
The truth is, the Bulls find themselves in a great position at 18th overall. This is a pretty deep draft in terms of players that should become strong rotation contributors, and maybe even stars in the league. Sure, there are probably less than a handful of prospects with superstar potential in this draft, and most will probably be selected in the top 5, but I feel like this draft could have a sleeper or two that slips out of the lottery. It’s up to Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley to identify, draft, and develop that talent.
Even if you miss on the possible sleeper, the prospects I listed out all have skills that should translate immediately to the NBA, and have future growth potential.
Guys like Jeremy Sochan, MarJon Beauchamp, Kendall Brown, and Tari Eason, are big wing defenders that could help a team win with their length and athleticism. Malaki Branham is a scorer that has found a lot of success in the mid-range, and could become a true two-way threat with some work on defense. Mark Williams and Walker Kessler were two of the best rim-protecting Bigs in all of college basketball last season, and both look like they could develop into future defensive anchors for whatever team picks them.
And that leaves the two players that I really want to focus on, EJ Liddell and Jalen Williams. Out of all the projected post lottery draft talent I looked at, Liddell and Williams stood out as players with sleeper/star potential. Like most mid- to late 1st round prospects, they will need to do a lot of work before they become stars, but I feel like they have some of the basic building blocks in their repertoire.
EJ Liddell out of Ohio State, is a 6′ 7″, 240lb forward with a 6′ 11″ wing span, and a whole heap of small-ball center potential. He is a two-way player with an emphasis on help defense, a surprising amount of rim-protection for his size, sneaky athleticism, strong basketball instincts, and “switchability” when it comes to defending the pick-and-roll or perimeter. On offense he has a strong post game. Whether it’s scoring or facilitating, Liddell has the skills and awareness to really hurt opponents from the post. He’s no stranger to perimeter scoring either, hitting over 37% of his threes in his last season with Ohio State, while taking nearly 4 a game. I’ve seen Liddell compared to players like Eric Paschell and Marcus Morris, not exactly superstars, but I believe there could be more to his game than just being a rotation player, if he does the work and plays with heart. My thought for EJ Liddell is more a question: What if Taj Gibson could score like Carlos Boozer, how awesome would that player be?
Last post, I expressed my desire for the Bulls to pick a player with some creativity and I think Jalen Williams fits that bill to a “T”. He is a 6′ 6″, 209lb guard out of Santa Clara, with a whopping 7′ 2″ wing span. He was largely considered to be nothing more than a 2nd round draft pick, until he wowed at the NBA Draft Combine and started shooting up draft boards. Williams is an excellent lead ball-handler with superb handles and uncanny vision. He is an awesome PNR ball-handler, able to thread passes through and over defenders to the roll man with ease. He has the “quarterback look off” ability, where he can get teammates open just by fooling defenders with his eyes. He isn’t a flashy passer, but he gets the ball where it needs to be when it needs to be there. He plays under control and at his own pace. Williams is one of those guards that uses change of speed and subtle hesitation to get into the paint with his defender on his back, sort of like Chris Paul or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He can dribble, score, and pass with either hand. An injury to his right hand at a young age forced him to play exclusively with his left, making him an ambidextrous threat in all facets of the game when his right hand healed. The big positive for Williams is not only can he create for others, he is capable of getting his own shot, and he can score from all over the court.
Williams has a ton of defensive upside, too, on top of his already impressive offensive game. His length and size make him a formidable on-ball defender, and his instincts and reach make him dangerous patrolling the passing lanes and as a help defender. However, defense is the area of his game he will have to work on the most. He is unpolished on that end of the floor, but the potential for all around greatness is there. To me, if he maxes out his development, I mean million-to-one-shot meets his full potential, you have a Jayson Tatum clone, and even if Williams never gets there, you’d still be drafting a smart, creative player with a ton of two-way potential.
If it were up to me, I’d draft Jalen Williams at 18th overall. ‘Nuff said.
My love for Liddell and Williams aside, the Bulls truly are sitting in the cat-bird seat when it comes to this draft. There WILL be some very good players left for them to choose from at 18th, and if the Round Table go with any of the players I’ve mentioned, of if they go with someone I haven’t even watched yet, like TyTy Washington, Dyson Daniels, or Josh Minott, I trust Karnisovas and Eversley to make the right decision.
That about does it for the RokDeez Bulls Blog Something, Something, Bulls Draft 2022, Part 2. I’m thinking about writing a part 3 exploring the possibility that the Bulls trade their pick, we’ll see if that happens. There have been a number of non-Zach LaVine trade rumors involving other Bulls players being shipped out, I’m not sure I’m interested in exploring that smoke. The offseason offers so many delicious opportunities for groundless speculation, after my post a few weeks ago, I’m trying to be a little more responsible with what I write. Until I am, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!