How directly they go about that could be a bit different than conventional wisdom suggests.
A move up could put them in prime position for a player that finished as the AAC Rookie of the Year, earned AAC All-Freshman honors, and was named to the regular and postseason All-Conference teams.
Bulls’ Big Draft-Night Splash
Johnson’s mention that the Bulls could try to move up is not insignificant. A league executive relayed their potential interest in moving White and the pick for a veteran asset such as Matisse Thybulle.
ESPN’s Jonathan Givony also reported that there is some belief around the league that the Bulls are not in love with their projected options with the 18th pick.
SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell joined Johnson as well as NBC Sports Chicago’s Rob Schaefer on the June 21 episode of the “Bulls Talk Podcast”. Johnson asked him to pick a prospect for the Bulls not named E.J. Liddell or Tari Eason, both of whom have been popular projections.
“The guy I would love is Jalen Duren…youngest American player in the draft. But built like an absolute manchild. He has the physicality to dominate physically in the NBA from Day 1…He’s like 250 (pounds), 7-foot-5 wingspan, massive hands, broad shoulders. He’s a powerful, powerful player.”
O’Donnell’s answer drew a “spicy” from Schaefer who added that he also likes the potential fit between Duren and the Bulls.
“Everything that you say…is exactly what I dream of the Bulls getting in a frontcourt player…even if fully healthy, I suspect at some point [last season] they would have run into an issue of versatility and play style.”
What Duren Brings to the Table
O’Donnell gave a detailed breakdown of just what the Bulls would be adding if they were indeed able to move into position to select Duran, whom he has ranked as the fifth-best prospect in this class.
“Immediately his utility is going to be as a lob threat offensively and as a rim protector defensively…I think he has potential to be much more than that. Defensively, I really like his feet on the perimeter…I like the fact that he can play multiple types of pick-and-roll coverage…I think one thing you want out of your big man is just pick-and-roll defensive versatility.”
Duren’s versatility is not limited to defense, though, says O’Donnell.
“Offensively, I love his short-roll passing ability. He just flashed it faintly. He threw like seven or eight awesome passes at Memphis. That’s not a lot. But you also got to remember that he was the youngest freshman in the country. He played AAU this time last year…so I like his ball skills”
As for what he can do for his teammates with his skill set despite not being an established playmaker, ODonnell had the answer.
“He’s going to…open some passing windows just with the threat of his slamming ability.”
Bulls’ vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas mentioned defense, size, and athleticism as things the Bulls could look to add this summer.
Bulls Chances at Landing Duren
O’Donnell states from the beginning that Duren might not be available at 18. But he adds that he could slide far enough to elicit action from the Bulls if they felt he was the target for them in this class.
“This might require a trade up. But…if you have 18, maybe Coby White, maybe the Portland pick…how high can you get with that? Can you get up to 13? Can you get up to 14?… It seems like he’s not going to go in the top 10. And, for a Bulls team that needs some size, he’s the closest thing to Robert Williams in this draft.”
Williams’ impact was noticed by his head coach, Ime Udoka, who called the big man the “modern-day NBA center, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps.
The Bulls finding that kind of impact from Duren right away is questionable, notes O’Donnell.
“Duren is going to turn 19 days before the season. We’ve seen this story before. It’s just tough for a 19-year-old to come in and contribute.”
O’Donnell pointed to former Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr. who only hit his stride this past season after being traded to the Orlando Magic. But he added that Duren is the kind of piece a team might want in the future like Nic Claxton of the Brooklyn Nets.
Playing Complementary Basketball
The biggest sell on Duren from O’Donnell is how well he would theoretically complement current Bulls center, Nikola Vucevic. Certainly more of an offensive threat than a defender, O’Donnell noted Vucevic’s ground-bound nature makes a player such as Duren necessary.
With Johnson reporting that Vucevic and the rest of the core are expected to return next season, finding ways to cover up his deficiencies is paramount.
Having Patrick Williams healthy for an entire season will go a long way. But the Bulls could check off several boxes including defense and rebounding if they found a way to land Duren on June 23. With teams such as the Oklahoma City Thunder at 12th overall in the backend of the lottery looking to move out, the possibility certainly exists.