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Bulls draft preview (part one): Who might interest Chicago at No. 22?

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The Bulls pick 22nd in Thursday night's NBA draft.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Check out part II of this post for picks 4-1.

A new era of Chicago Bulls basketball is underway, and with it comes a number of variables that will shape the future of this team under Fred Hoiberg. The Bulls have the luxury of a young but experienced roster almost entirely under contract heading into the offseason. They don't have the luxury of salary cap space. That means the team's first offseason under Hoiberg will be defined by moves made around the margins, and an attempt to maximize small tweaks rather than a chase a big fish.

For everyone's mental health, this is probably a good thing. The Bulls went through the Carmelo Anthony circus just 12 months ago, even if it feels a decade removed now. That was before we knew Jimmy Butler would blossom into a 20-point per game scorer, an All-Star and one of the best wings in the NBA. It was before we knew Joakim Noah's game would essentially disintegrate following a season in which he finished fourth in MVP voting. It was before we knew if Derrick Rose could get through a season healthy, if Nikola Mirotic could live up the substantial hype he created in Europe and that Taj Gibson's ankles would fall apart.

The point is that things change fast in the NBA, and there's only really one fail-proof way to keep a sustainable winner. That is by drafting well.

This is not unique to basketball. The Blackhawks became a modern day dynasty by drafting Patrick Kane, Joanthan Toews, Corey Crawford, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brandon Sadd and Teuvo Teravainen. The Bears fell apart by drafting Shea McClellin, Gabe Carimi, Major Wright, Jarron Gilbert and Chris Williams. Fans have a tendency to overemphasize veteran acquisitions, but free agency always works better as a complementary tool. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Jorge Soler were always going to be more important than Jon Lester, no matter how much money each is earning.

That's why the Bulls' No. 22 selection in the first round of the 2015 NBA Draft is most important move they will make this offseason. They're about to land a young player on a cost controlled contract who can grow with a core that has already reached its prime. Just because the Bulls aren't in the lottery doesn't mean this pick should be discounted. Butler was taken at No. 30, Mirotic at 23, Gibson at 26. If the Bulls want to start the Fred Hoiberg era off the right way, they need to nail this draft pick.

With that in mind, I thought it would be good to look at a few players the Bulls could target in the draft. As part of my gig as the college basketball dude at SB Nation, I watched these prospects closely all year. There's going to be a great player available when the Bulls come on the clock, they just have to figure out who that guy is. Here's seven players who could be their selection.

7. Terry Rozier, PG, Louisville

Even during the college season, Rozier was a player who struck me as the type that would fit well in Chicago. He's arguably the most athletic point guard in this class, he's a tenacious defender and he has elite length for the position with a 6'8 wingspan.

For a Bulls team that isn't as athletic as it was during the halcyon days of 2011 and 2012, adding a speed demon like Rozier is an appealing thought. Hoiberg's Iowa State squads were always defined by their pace, and Rozier's ability to turn defense into offense and push the ball in transition off turnovers and missed shots would seem to fit well in his system.

Still, many people would consider Rozier at slight reach at pick No. 22. Why is that? There's two main reasons:

1) Rozier is not a reliable three-point shooter. He made 30.6 percent of the 4.4 three-pointers he attempted per game this past season as a sophomore.

2) Rozier does not appear to have a great feel for the game. He had 108 assists to 79 turnovers this season and may struggle with the complexity of decision making in a half court NBA offense.

The latter worries me more than the former. Rozier's shot isn't broken; he's an 80 percent free throw shooter and hit 37 percent of his threes as a freshman. He can hit a mid-range shot off a dribble pull-up. I do worry about his decision making, though. There are plenty of examples of athletic young point guards who have simply looked lost upon entering the NBA, and that could certainly happen to Rozier.

As a long term prospect, I still think his package of tools is enticing. I would not mind one bit if he's the pick.

6. R.J. Hunter, SG, Georgia State

You can't talk about R.J. Hunter without first acknowledging he gave us arguably the best March Madness moment of the decade with his buzzer-beater against No. 3 Baylor in the round of 64. It was a shot so good it knocked his father (and head coach) straight out of his chair:

There's one thing you need to know about R.J. Hunter: he can shoot the shit out of the ball. That is generally a skill that can be backed up by numbers, but it's strangely not the case here. As a junior at Georgia State this past season, Hunter only made 30.5 percent of the 7.5 three-pointers he attempted. It's mostly because teams were planning their entire defense around stopping him by face guarding him 30-feet from the baskst.

Don't let that number dissuade you from realizing how gifted Hunter is shooting the ball from deep. He made 40 percent of the 7.7 threes he attempts per game a year earlier. More importantly, he has a beautiful stroke with a quick and high release that should translate perfectly to the NBA.

After watching the Warriors bomb the league with shooting, why wouldn't you want a player like Hunter? Well, there are a few reasons.

For one, he doesn't project as a good defender. He's never experienced anything like playing man-to-man defense in the NBA after playing zone throughout his college career at a mid-major. He's also extremely skinny, weighing in at just 185 pounds at the draft combine. He has great length with a 6'11 wingspan but doesn't have great lateral quickness. He's working on being more than a one-trick pony in the NBA, but there's no question his biggest value is going to come from shooting.

For a Bulls team that just traded two top 20 picks for a shooting specialist in Doug McDermott and drafted Tony Snell in the first round a year before that, maybe it doesn't make sense to add another one-way shooter. People like to believe Hunter's best case scenario is Klay Thompson, but Thompson had 20 pounds of muscle on him and more explosion (to be fair, Hunter did jump two inches high at the combine -- 31" to 33". That is more of an anecdotal observation).

In a post-Warriors world, long wings who can shoot at an all-world level will be coveted. R.J. Hunter is that type of player. Whether he turns into a C.J. Miles/Marco Belinelli type or reaches a higher plane remains to be seen. He's certainly the type of player who has one elite skill and shouldn't flame out of the league, though. There's value in that.

Draft Express videoStrengths // Weaknesses

5. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SG, Arizona

The following is a list of things to like about Rondae Hollis-Jefferson:

  • He's a world class athlete. Hollis-Jefferson posted the second fastest time in the lane agility drill and the three-quarter sprint drill at the combine, while also showing off a 38-inch vertical jump.
  • He was arguably the top perimeter defender in college basketball last season. Think of him as a 6'7 Tony Allen, someone who can be tasked with defending the other team's best wing scorer. He helped hold D'Angelo Russell to nine points on 3-of-19 shooting in the round of the 32 in the NCAA Tournament.
  • He's great at drawing fouls (5.4 free throw attempts per game in just over 28 minutes per night) and he's going to get easy points in transition every game.
  • He has great size for an NBA two-guard (6'7 with a 7'2 wingspan) and he's a tough rebounder. That means you can slide him up the lineup and have him defend multiple positions.
There's really only one thing not to like about Hollis-Jefferson, and that's that he can't shoot.

Hollis-Jefferson only made eight three-pointers combined in his two years at Arizona. He doesn't have a smooth release and likely never projects as a reliable jump shooter. Of course, shooting is something a player can improve at, while you can't teach anyone to be as big and as fast and as pro-ready defensively as RHJ is right now. Maybe he improves as a shooter (and also a ball handler), but the team that takes him will believe he can be a solid role player in spite of his obvious flaws.

Draft Express videoStrengths // Weaknesses

(Part 2 later this week)