TULSA, OK - MARCH 18: Will Barton #5 of the Memphis Tigers goes up to dunk the ball against the Arizona Wildcats during the second round game of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at BOK Center on March 18, 2011 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
The media session at the 2012 NBA Draft Combine in Chicago on Thursday wasn't too quoteworthy from the wingers about which Bulls fans are curious. What was most striking is the general feel in the room from media from around the U.S. that the specific teams guys cover are all looking to get bigger through the draft to save themselves from long, more expensive commitments to bigs on the free agent market.
Meyers Leonard and Fab Melo were guys that drew enough curiosity to imply people from around the country want to find a reason to raise them on their draft boards. Tyler Zeller is more viewed as a long, adept athlete than the lazy stereotypes that followed him through the NCAA. And Andre Drummond is becoming a serious threat to become a top-5 gamble. Power forwards like John Henson, Perry Jones, Terrence Jones, Royce White, and Andrew Nicholson also generated a slight bump in interest.
This is great for the Bulls, sitting at #29 in the 2012 NBA Draft, for whom any and every little bump this bigs get gives the franchise a slightly better chance at having more options from which to choose among wing players.
One of those guys is Will Barton, who declared himself "the best wing in the Draft" and wasn't shy in any fashion to get as deep into his weaknesses and his strengths.
Barton has, coincidentally, been working out with John Lucas III in Houston to improve his shooting and ball handling. As an athletic 6-6 shooting guard, he's aware that he'll be called upon to do more with the ball, move smarter without it, and that being a great defender is his key to establishing a place in the NBA.
Unprompted about defense, specifically, Barton said of his pre-draft workouts: "Defense is real important in the NBA. If you can lock down someone, you can find minutes in a rotation."
After describing his strengths of creating good shots with his athleticism and putting the ball in the basket and how he's putting in two- and three-a-days, I asked what his greatest weakness is, and he was quick in a manner that was humble and genuine to say: "Consistency with my shot."
Despite only shooting a .346 3P% in 3.1 attempts per game, the 21-year-old Barton still shot over 50% overall from the field in his last year at Memphis. This after shooting a dreadful 26.5% on 4.2 threes per game and just under 43% from the field., showing that he was more self-aware in his shot selection and more aggressive to take the ball inside. [Sports-Reference.com]
And with an almost 27% spike in the amount of possessions used per game and higher FG%, his turnovers even went down to 2.1 per game in his second NCAA from 2.5. [DraftExpress.com]
The kid talks such a big game that there's no doubt he believes what he said about being the best winger in this draft class. Adding the self-awareness of his weaknesses, work ethic to better utilize his athleticism to improve his already aggressive defensive instincts, and being able to honestly talk about waking up earlier to spend so many hours in the gym as a challenge with a smile shows there isn't a lazy bum anywhere on this young man's horizon.
How his skills will translate to the NBA is highly questionable and worthy of scrutiny, but there's a lot to like about him despite his 175-pound frame, when you add his highly active limbs and nearly 6-10 wingspan (according to Thursday's measurements).
At the end of the session, I spoke to a prominent Bulls beat writer who was one of the other two media members around Barton for most of the Q & A, and asked: "How about that Will Barton guy? Pretty interesting, huh?"
"I really like that guy," he replied with a huge smile on his face. And then, I decided I'm not crazy after talking to all of these robotic quote machines.
Barton may not be something special who'll change the landscape of the NBA. But there's no question that he has a lot of the tools, the killer mentality, and drive to be that gym rat and video room addict to be a solid asset to an already good team. And before I get deeper into others -- on top of the stellar work TheMoon has done with his draft previews -- I will admit that there are others higher than Barton on my board for what will likely be available to the Bulls, but he's intriguing and rising, nonetheless.
Friday, I'll get deeper into some others -- Orlando Johnson, John Jenkins, Tony Wroten, Jared Cunningham, and others. Any questions of potential Bulls targets you'd like to be asked? Leave them in the comments section and you may find answers in my Draft Combine recap to follow.