Bulls Make Draft Day Trade for SEC All-Freshman After Free Agent’s Decision

Chicago Bulls

Getty Head coach Billy Donovan of the Chicago Bulls.

The Chicago Bulls have still gone with a pick in the NBA Draft once in franchise history.

That came all the way back in 2005 and almost happened again with the franchise owning zero picks coming into the 2023 NBA Draft after previous trades and tampering violations. They did not end the night that way, however, as executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas swung a trade with the Washington Wizards.

“The Bulls are acquiring the No. 35 pick from Wizards and selecting Julian Phillips,” tweeted The Athletic and Stadium NBA insider Shams Charania on June 22. “Bulls sent a couple of second-rounders to Washington to enter the draft and pick Julian Phillips.”

Phillips is a 6-foot-7 forward out of Tennessee who averaged just 8.3 points per game this past season but is a multi-positional defender and top-tier athlete.

“Our group liked him,” Karnisovas said in his post-draft press conference via the Bulls’ Twitter feed. “He’s an ex-McDonald’s All-American, freshman – 19 years old. Multi-positional defender, one of the best athletes in the draft: 43-inch vertical. He can step in right now, probably, can defend on our level.”

The defensive aspect of Phillips’ game has not been in question. But, after he shot just 23.9% from beyond the arc this past season, there is some question about whether his jump shot will come around enough.

“He has a lot of things obviously to improve,” Karnisovas said. “But we’re looking forward to he’s very young, and he’s very talented.

It’s a very similar assessment to Dalen Terry who logged 214 total minutes as a rookie.

Derrick Jones Jr Impacted Bulls’ Draft Plans

While they might have always wanted to move into the draft at some point as was reported leading up to the event, forward Derrick Jones Jr.’s sudden change of heart impacted the Bulls’ thought process.

Jones Jr. initially told NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson that he couldn’t see any reason why he wouldn’t pick up his $3.4 million player option for next season.

Two months later, Jones changed his mind, per Charania.

“It played a bit of a factor, no doubt,” Bulls general manager Marc Eversley said. “DJ, for everything he brought to the floor – the athleticism, the length, his ability to get out and defend multiple positions. Julian fits a lot of those same attributes…they’re both very similar in terms of the way they play and style of play, and we’re excited about bringing him into the fold.”

Karnisovas did say that there is still a chance that Jones returns in free agency and also confirmed that he has the green light to push the payroll into luxury tax territory if he deems it necessary.

For anyone disappointed that they haven’t done much yet, Karnisovas says “wait and see” what they do in free agency, further putting the onus on himself to get this team back on track.

But is Phillips the kind of pick that can help them do that?

Bulls Roasted for Julian Phillips Pick

“Julian Phillips — another toolsy wing who can’t shoot. Just what the Bulls need,” tweeted Mark Karantzoulis of CHGO Bulls. “I don’t mean to complain. And I certainly don’t want to trash Phillips. But if you’re going to trade into the second round and make a move — which is good — can you do so for someone that makes sense and can actually influence the rotation?”

That was a common complaint of last season as Terry was relegated to supporting his team from the bench if he was not getting reps in the G League. He admitted that he was not prepared to have such a small role.

Phillips could follow a similar path despite both coming into the league with traits the Bulls seemingly need.

But they self-identified three-point shooting as a need and Phillips will not help with that.

While it might seem like Phillips isn’t needed, the Bulls had reason to feel otherwise.

And, while he did not shoot the ball well from long distance, he did shoot over 82% at the free throw line, offering some hope for his shot long term.

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