I’m going to level with you all; I wanted this post to be different. More exciting. More interesting. From the moment we started conceptualizing our rebrand and its companion website, I dreamed of being able to write a huge guide to March Madness for the NBA/Bulls fans that start paying attention to college basketball — and their stars — the minute the bracket comes out.
I was all in on the process. I was ready to “Build the Equity” like a good little member of See Red Nation.
Staying up late to watch DeAndre Ayton dominate in the post and do things we’ve never seen a man of his size do? Check. Drooling over Marvin Bagley and his quick and powerful second jumps? Done. Openly mocking Trae Young? I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was to get #madonline over how poor of a teammate I think he is.
But then the Bulls (and Niko) beat up on all of the sub-.500 teams in the league and continued to push their win totals higher and higher as the rest of the league lost seven, eight, nine, seventeen games in a row.
Goodbye and farewell Ayton and Bagley. We hardly knew thee.
But, that doesn’t mean that where the Bulls will ultimately be drafting won’t produce some quality talent. There are some interesting players that are expected to be available with the 8th or 9th pick in the upcoming NBA Draft that should be able to immediately step up and into the everyday lineup next to Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine.
Here are four of them that you NEED to schedule everything in your life around on Thursday and Friday:
Villanova SF, Mikal Bridges
Thursday March 15, 5:50 PM against Radford
A few weeks ago, I dove deep into Villanova’s do everything small forward. What he does on the basketball court, the Bulls could use right now (there’s no denying that his ceiling is higher than Denzel Valentine, Paul Zipser and David Nwaba). And I’m not sure anyone else in college basketball could be ready to walk into that locker room and play tomorrow.
Not only is Bridges a proven leader, winner and perimeter defender, but he’s starting to transform himself into a go-to scorer that is capable of filling it up from behind the arch or at the rim.
What I wrote before the Big East Tournament has tripled in my mind now:
Which brings us all the way back to Bridges and what sticks out; he’s “3 and D” ready now. He’s the type of guy you want to build into the offense with the Jimmy Butler 3 as he doesn’t need to have the ball to be effective (the Bulls have enough of those kind of guys already). He can be a secondary or third scorer in Fred Hoiberg’s offense with his ability to put the ball on the floor and blow by help defenders (he’s got as quick of a first step as anyone his size) that collapse onto Markkanen or LaVine or shoot from outside.
The more and more you watch him the more you realize how crafty he is without the ball.
Bridges is the perfect match for what the Bulls need and I would believe HAS to be an early favorite among DougPax based on their previous values.
What Bridges and Dunn could do defensively is giving me the shakes.
Alabama PG, Collin Sexton
Thursday March 15, 9:20 PM against Virginia Tech
The Bulls don’t need a 6’2″ freshman point guard. The Bulls don’t need a 6’2″ freshman point guard. The Bulls don’t need a 6’2″ freshman point guard. The Bulls don’t need a 6’2″ freshman point guard…
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 8, 2018
There is no other player outside of Mikal Bridges that I’ve fallen more in love with during the last few weeks of the season than Collin Sexton. It’s like watching a more smooth De’Aaron Fox, but with a bigger green light. The 19-year old can shoot it from deep just as well as he can leave you in his dust in transition. There’s nothing on the floor that I don’t think he can do.
I’m being serious:
The dude played 3-5 and almost walked away with a win!
While I’m doing my best from staying away from outlandish comparisons in this piece, the case can be made (and sold) that Sexton has a John Wall ceiling. And if that’s available where the Bulls are picking, you take that player and worry about what you’ll do with Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine later.
Michigan State SF, Miles Bridges
Friday March 16, 6:10 PM against Bucknell
Another versatile small forward who can play bigger in small ball lineups, Bridges has impressed me full time out on the wing during his sophomore season. The extra year of seasoning – something none of us would’ve bet on happening at this time last season – has helped grow his overall offensive game.
Still, I’m not sure Bridges fits with this version of the Chicago Bulls. Where Mikal Bridges can produce offense for himself AND his teammates, Miles Bridges doesn’t seem to have that aspect of his game yet. For Miles to be effective, he has to have the ball in his hands, or needs it fed to him in space on catch and shoot situations. Can he develop the type of ball handling and court vision like Blake Griffin has later in his career and almost become a defacto point forward? It remains to be seen, but the skill to do so is definitely there.
BUT, when Miles does attack the basket (or post up), his athleticism, explosiveness and strength are above and beyond what anyone else that will be available with the 8th/9th pick has. He’s a linebacker in the air that gives you Blake Griffin in his prime feels:
Defensively, Bridges should be able to hold his own both on the wing or in the post depending on lineup situations. There aren’t many other players in the league that are going to be stronger than him at the 3 right now.
There’s an NBA player in there somewhere, I’m just not sure it’s with the Bulls.
Duke PF/C, Wendell Carter
Thursday March 15, 2:45 PM against Iona
Of the four guys mentioned, Wendell Carter is the least flashy BUT quite possibly the safest pick the Bulls can make. At only 18-years old, his all around game is already extremely mature and could mix well with Lauri Markkanen’s.
Don’t sleep on this dude. I know it’s a boring name right now (ANOTHER DUKE PLAYER COMING TO CHICAGO, SHOCKING!), but if it weren’t for Marvin Bagley’s reclassification, I think Carter would have a lottery grade right now if only from extra offensive touches. He has shown that he’s more than capable of finding the open man when double teamed in the post. And when he’s not, he’s crushed the opposition with some heady pump fakes and light feet.
Can he stretch the floor out? Perhaps. It’s not a definite and the Bulls will really have to dive into that during their evaluations. BUT he has made 19 of his 41 attempts so far this season.
Defensively? Well, let’s just say that he’s a BIG fan of the volleyball block:
Wendell Carter straight snatched a man's soul very rude smh pic.twitter.com/alUwRxAwoG
— Duke MBB Analysis (@CC_DukeGames) January 16, 2018
Oh mY gOd Wendell Carter Jr. achieved a #PORZINGIS
I am sweating pic.twitter.com/0yKYlzkb1I
— Matt Spendley (@mattspendley) February 22, 2018
Not a bad way to start the break, right?