The rise of the 'three-and-D' wing in the NBA over the last two seasons can be attributed to a few different factors. There was a time 20 years ago when this country was particularly adept at developing skilled low post giants in the paint, but for whatever reason there simply aren't many players in the vein of Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Shaq and Alonzo Mourning anymore. New rules implemented by the NBA in 2004 took away hand-checking and moved the league towards a more slashing-oriented, drive-and-kick style that favors proper spacing around explosive ball handlers. I also think some credit can be given to the popularization and cultural infestation of video games.
Perhaps it's a point better served in football, but I think it works here, too. I would assume there are more than a few readers at Blog-a-Bull who know their way around an X-Box controller. Chances are if you fill the first criteria and are reading this post, you have a strong adoration for the NBA 2K series. Many people do.
In the video game, replacing a second big man in your lineup with an athletic wing who can get to the paint and dunk and/or shoot threes is just such an obvious move. You want the speed, the spacing, the shooting. It's really a no-brainer. Now 'small ball' has never been more en vogue, and the early adopters are gaining a sizable tactical advantage over the opposition. Those teams that have been slower to adopt small ball principles (see: Scott Brooks, Oklahoma City Thunder) really seem like they are doing themselves a disservice.
Everyone digs size, speed, athleticism and shooting. As this trend continues to develop, there's going to be a greater emphasis not only on finding stretch power forwards, but also wing players versatile enough to defend different types of offensive players. Jimmy Butler fills this role perfectly, and the Bulls are fortunate to have him. The more of these guys you have on your team, the better.
Players that seem to fit the 'three-and-D' wing criteria are going to become even greater commodities in the draft. For some reason, North Carolina's Reggie Bullock (scouting report) is still projected to be available when the Bulls choose at No. 20. As I mentioned in the Dieng piece, this purported 'weak' draft class isn't exactly lacking if you can get a guy like Bullock in the second half of the first round. He seems like a pretty safe pick who has obvious, valuable skills that translate perfectly in today's NBA.
Reggie Bullock does two things very well: shoot threes and play defense. At 6'7, 200 lbs., Bullock has ideal size to defend shooting guards, small forwards and maybe even some those ever popular small ball fours in the NBA. Every bench can use a player like him, which is why it's curious most expect him to be available when the Bulls are on the clock.
Bullock is a great catch-and-shoot player. He shot 43.6 percent from three last season as a junior on a high volume 5.8 attempts per game. After shooting a solid 38.2 percent on 4.9 threes per game as a sophomore, Bullock took on a greater role in North Carolina's offense last season and only improved his efficiency. This is a good sign.
But does Reggie Bullock have NBA range? Oh, I think he does. Watch his Draft Express video highlights and you'll find some very deep threes. Including:
So yeah: Reggie Bullock can shoot. With Derrick Rose back in full force next season, the Bulls will need shooters to space the floor and be available for kick-outs. Given the team's dire lack of long distance shooting at the moment, a player like Bullock makes a lot of sense at No. 20.
His unselfishness also seems to fit right in with the Bulls, as well. This won't be a player gunning for stats. He'll know his role, he won't demand the ball and he'll likely only take shots in the flow of the offense. Add in the fact that he projects as an above-average defender and there's enough to like about the 22-year old that would warrant the Bulls' first round pick.
If Butler is the obvious touchstone here, there's one major different between him and Bullock: Jimmy is just a lot more athletic. Athleticism is obviously vital in the NBA, but it can be a bit hard to quantify, especially when Bullock posted an impressive 36.5-inch vertical at the combine. But a quick survey of various Bullock scouting reports reveals he rarely dunked in college, struggled to create his own shot and had problems finishing vs. length.
That last part is what gets me, because the defenders in the NBA are only going to be bigger, better and more athletic. If you're having problems finishing against, like, Clemson, you might have a tough time going up against Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe for the next decade.
Butler's defense and improved three-point stroke drew all the attention last year, but Jimmy was also really incredible at finishing at the rim. He was deadly as a baseline cutter and developed a true knack for converting and-ones during March and April.
It doesn't seem like Bullock has that in him, and it's part of what makes his ceiling lower. Danny Green has taught everyone the value of a role player who can get hot from deep in a catch-and-shoot scenario, but it's probably unfair to expect Bullock to improve on his limitations.
I like it a lot. Since Marco's return is in jeopardy, the Bulls are going to need a backup wing who can shoot. Bullock is an obvious candidate here, and he looks like someone who could step in and play pretty quickly.
In a dream scenario, the Bulls would be able to draft Gorgui Dieng at No. 20 and then trade for a first round pick later to take Bullock. I am normally against trading future first round picks, but I wouldn't be opposed to the Bulls trading their 2014 pick for the chance to get both Dieng and Bullock. You would figure that if the Bulls can stay healthy, they should win around 60 games. Everyone is already salivating over the 2014 draft, so even a late-looking pick will probably be tempting to teams in the back of this draft who aren't in love with any player in particular.
It's very unlikely that the Bulls pull something like that off, of course. It just isn't in their history. So if it comes down to Dieng vs. Bullock, where do you go? Conventional wisdom says to always go with size, and I tend to agree. The one other factor to consider here is what happens with Luol Deng after the upcoming season.
Deng is slated to become a free agent, so filling his position with young, cheap, developmental depth works in both the long-term and short-term strategies of the franchise. There's no telling what's going to happen with Deng; my gut tells me he'll probably re-sign on a shorter deal for similar money and that the "2014 plan" will be about Nikola Mirotic and another veteran bench piece. But who knows.
Anyways: there's a lot to like about Reggie Bullock. He should be a pro for a long time. If he's the pick, I won't complain one bit.