Even the most optimistic Chicago Bulls fan would have to admit, the duo of Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen may not be the long-term frontcourt answer for the team once it reaches the point of serious contention in the Eastern Conference.
While one or both of the young Bulls bigs may need to be moved at some point, there is one 6-foot-11 prospect Chicago owns the rights to who is having a phenomenal 2020-21 campaign. The Bulls selected Simonovich in the second round of the 2020 NBA Draft and chose to stash him in Europe for more development.
The 21-year-old from Montenegro has proceeded to light up the ABA League. In a recent win over Borac, the stretch-big scored 28 points on 9-for-18 shooting. He drained five threes and grabbed 13 rebounds.
This game marked the fifth double-double of the season for Simonovic. Simonovic is averaging 16.4 points for the season, 9.1 rebounds, shooting 48% from the field, 33% from three, and he’s 5.5 shots per game from beyond the arc.
There is a possibility the Bulls could bring him over for the 2021-22 NBA season. If he continues to develop, the addition of Simonovic could be the equivalent of a lottery pick or a solid free-agent acquisition.
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Simonovic is Still Improving, But Upside is There
One of the main things you’ll see when you look at Simonovic is his build. He’s still a little too thin to play center effectively against the Joel Embiid and Domantas Sabonis types. However, at such a young age, he has time to add bulk to his frame.
It would appear 240 pounds might be the sweet spot for him to maintain his mobility. If he struggles to add the muscle naturally, he might wind up being a better power forward than center. If you look at the video below, which captures one of Simonovic’s most-recent performances, you’ll see he has excellent mobility.
He grabs rebounds and can lead the break while making sound decisions with the ball.
He looks a lot like a more aggressive version of Markkanen. Still, without some added muscle, he could find himself in a position similar to The Finnisher, oft-injured or simply too weak to reach his potential on the inside.
Karnisovas Has Done Well Scouting International Players
Bulls’ Vice President of Basketball Operations, Arturas Karnisovas, has an excellent track record when scouting international players dating back to his time as an executive with the Denver Nuggets. Most notably, Karnisovas assisted in the scouting of current star Nikola Jokic.
Karnisovas was a guest on ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski’s podcast in 2020, and he said:
The way everybody was thinking that he was not athletic enough to make it in the league, including us, but the skill level was always there. From passing to shooting to probably the best hands I’ve ever seen. It was about improving his body. About how this would work in our setting. Now we say that he’s our point guard. He initiates most of our offenses. Joker took it to the next level because he also brings the ball up. He takes the rebound, he brings the ball up, he initiates our offense. How many teams in the league have their center bring the ball up with two minutes to go?
No one expects Simonovic to become the next Jokic, but there are some similarities in height and skill set. If Simonovic is three-quarters the player Jokic has become, the Bulls will have struck gold.
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