In the face of reports that the Bulls want to draft B.J. Mullens with the 16th pick and realizing I don't know much about the kid (other than the fact that he's big, athletic, and a statistical disappointment), I thought I'd do some research. I've become even more irrationally excited about drafting Mullens than I am about bringing over Omer Asik. After reading some things and watching some things, I think I might have convinced myself that getting Mullens at 16 would be a major coup.
1. Knowing that Mullens was one of the top big-man prospects coming out of high school, I wondered how he stacked up against other recent big-man high schoolers. Since most high school highlight reels for guys Mullens' size consist of dunks on 6'3" guys, I sought out stats. Here's what I found (stats are per game and culled from All-USA team announcements):
- B.J. Mullens: 27 ppg, 15 rpg, 3 bpg.
- Amare Stoudemire: 29 ppg, 15 rpg, 6 bpg.
- Kevin Love: 34 ppg, 17 rbg, 4 bpg.
- Greg Oden: 20 ppg, 10 rbg, 3.7 bpg.
- Spencer Hawes: 20 ppg, 12 rbg, 4 bpg.
- Dwight Howard: 25.5 ppg, 18 rpg, 8 bpg.
- Al Jefferson: 42 ppg, 18 rpg, 7 bpg.
I think looking at these high school stats can be informative despite all the things you can say against using them (wildly divergent high school programs and competition levels, for one; the huge advantage being 7'1" in high school as compared to higher levels of ball; no information on minutes played; etc.). The first thing these stats demonstrate, to me, is that Al Jefferson was a raging beast in high school. The second thing is that you can't infer much from them regarding offensive skill. Dwight Howard is nobody's prototypical post scorer, and he scored more than Spencer Hawes, whose bread-and-butter is offense. Mullens is closer to Amare than Oden, but take that with a grain of salt. More telling are the rebounding and block numbers in my mind. Mullens' relatively low block numbers compared to guys like Love and Hawes (both inferior athletes to him) suggests he may not have innate defensive instincts to fall back on. Similarly, being in the same rebound ballpark as Amare (rather than Howard or Jefferson) suggests he might be an adequate but not dominant rebounder. All told, I think his high school stats suggest Mullens will not be an immediate defensive force.
In my mind, that's perfectly OK. We have defensive big men already. We've been looking for a credible offensive big man forever. As long as he isn't getting beaten to a pulp inside, I don't care. We shouldn't be expecting an Olajuwon-esque complete center at pick 16 of a weak draft anyway. And I think there are indications Mullens could be a good offensive center.
2. Video of Mullens Working Out for Washington. Workouts, of course, can be deceiving. Yi Jianlian's infamous pwnage of a folding chair is a cautionary tale. This video of Mullens' workout for the Wizards, however, seems encouraging, specifically the part where he drains a bunch of elbow-distance jumpers with pretty nice-looking form on his shot. He keeps the ball elevated and out in front of him and seems to get good rotation on the ball. He's going nowhere near game speed, but as an approximation of a spot-up jumper, this could look a whole lot worse. One of the knocks on Mullens that I'd heard before investigating was that he can't shoot. This does not look like a man who can't shoot. This looks like a guy who could develop Brad-Miller range.
3. Video Highlights from Fox Sports. As mentioned before, I couldn't find many highlights of Mullens doing anything but dunking, but this video shows a nifty jump hook and Mullens finishing with a layup on a fast break. Of course, this needs to be taken with a brick of rock salt as highlight films by their very nature pick and choose positive things to show (for instance, I bet you could put together a lengthy clip of Tyrus making jump hooks and layups and think he had the best hands in the world). But combined with Draft Express holding as one of his great positives his finishing ability and his great hands, I think this might be a fair representation of his capability. Not shabby.
4. Putting all this together. It's kind of an easy comparison since he's on the team and beloved by certain purveyors of this blog, but I wouldn't be surprised if Mullens could approximate Brad Miller on the court. I say approximate because there's no indication Mullens has his passing skill, his on-court IQ, or his "I'll-stand-up-to-Shaq" toughness, but from a skill standpoint he could be the type of center that holds his own defensively, has range on his jump shot, and has good hands around the basket. He seems like a good kid. I doubt he's ever been seriously coached. But even if he never reaches full potential, I don't see how he doesn't become in fairly short time a useful (think 10 min/g) role player, and in time perhaps a 25 min/g role player. That, to me, is the floor. Considering that he has the highest ceiling of any guy potentially available at 16, I don't see how we shouldn't pick him if he's there.
(Commence the refutation of all my points.)