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What modeling and scouting says about the Bulls draft position tonight

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After some simple regression analysis, a lot of reading, and YouTube scouting, I have some opinions on who the Bulls should draft.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Bulls are in a good spot in this year's draft, as I feel fairly confident that there will be a good player available when they're selecting.

I've done my usual round of YouTube scouting and reading of DraftExpress, as well as reading everything I can by draft guys like our man Ricky O'Donnell, Jonathan Tjarks and Kevin O'Connor. I read all the model results, like this one from FiveThirtyEight's Neil Paine or Nylon Calculus's Layne Vashro's model, and Kevin Pelton of ESPN's work ($).

I even went so far as to build my own simple regression analysis to try to predict players' 4th year Real Plus-Minus numbers based on their final-year college stats and size.

Here are the results of my model*:

Name Off Def pRPM
Karl Towns 0.41 1.88 2.30
Myles Turner -0.62 1.98 1.36
Robert Upshaw -1.59 2.86 1.26
Tyus Jones 1.94 -1.32 0.62
Cameron Payne 1.74 -1.14 0.60
Jahlil Okafor 0.08 0.47 0.55
Frank Kaminsky 0.36 -0.02 0.34
Justise Winslow 0.24 -0.09 0.15
Dakari Johnson -0.43 0.49 0.06
Christian Wood -0.89 0.86 -0.03
Kevon Looney -0.21 0.18 -0.03
Cliff Alexander -0.60 0.50 -0.10
Delon Wright 0.64 -0.78 -0.14
Bobby Portis -0.32 0.10 -0.22
Stanley Johnson -0.17 -0.10 -0.27
Devin Booker 0.65 -1.13 -0.48
D'Angelo Russell 0.79 -1.28 -0.50
Richaun Holmes -1.17 0.68 -0.50
Andrew Harrison 0.62 -1.13 -0.51
Willie Cauley-Stein -1.59 1.00 -0.59
Chris McCullough -1.84 1.18 -0.65
R.J. Hunter -0.15 -0.57 -0.71
Jerian Grant 0.83 -1.60 -0.77
Kelly Oubre -0.57 -0.24 -0.81
Trey Lyles -0.56 -0.29 -0.85
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson -0.40 -0.50 -0.89
Rashad Vaughn 0.01 -0.91 -0.90
Brandon Ashley -0.67 -0.37 -1.04
Vince Hunter -1.17 -0.10 -1.28
Aaron White -0.29 -1.05 -1.34
Josh Richardson -0.77 -0.68 -1.45
Justin Anderson -0.26 -1.20 -1.46
Darrun Hilliard -0.71 -0.80 -1.51
T.J. McConnell 0.19 -1.78 -1.59
Larry Nance -1.20 -0.42 -1.62
Sam Dekker -0.35 -1.28 -1.63
D.J. Newbill -0.31 -1.60 -1.91
Aaron Harrison -0.80 -1.16 -1.96
Montrezl Harrell -1.06 -0.91 -1.97
Michael Qualls -0.79 -1.28 -2.07
Jordan Mickey -2.59 0.52 -2.07
J.P. Tokoto -1.01 -1.07 -2.07
Alan Williams -1.71 -0.38 -2.09
Tyler Harvey -0.19 -1.95 -2.14
Jarell Martin -1.30 -0.85 -2.15
Keifer Sykes -0.02 -2.14 -2.15
Chris Walker -2.83 0.61 -2.22
Terry Rozier -0.92 -1.41 -2.34
Rakeem Christmas -2.23 -0.18 -2.41
Cady Lalanne -2.32 -0.23 -2.54
Olivier Hanlan -0.64 -1.95 -2.59
Ryan Boatright -0.44 -2.23 -2.67
Branden Dawson -2.24 -0.48 -2.72
Chasson Randle -0.62 -2.14 -2.76
Michael Frazier -1.31 -1.45 -2.77
Treveon Graham -0.89 -1.91 -2.80
TaShawn Thomas -2.20 -0.66 -2.86
Sam Thompson -2.01 -0.89 -2.89
Quinn Cook -0.69 -2.34 -3.03
Corey Hawkins -0.75 -2.29 -3.05
Norman Powell -1.70 -1.42 -3.12
Pat Connaughton -1.70 -1.54 -3.24
Anthony Brown -1.46 -1.83 -3.29
Jonathan Holmes -2.45 -0.89 -3.34
Darion Atkins -3.03 -0.36 -3.38
Terran Petteway -2.27 -1.27 -3.54
Joseph Young -1.36 -2.49 -3.85
Julian Washburn -2.36 -1.52 -3.88
Dez Wells -2.27 -1.69 -3.96

*: This doesn't include international players, hence the exclusion of guys like Emmanuel Mudiay, Mario Hezonja, Kristaps Porzingis, etc.

Based on my model, the other major models, the scouting I've read from people who follow these guys more closely than I do, and my own evaluations based on what I've seen of them and how I think about the league, I have come up with a list of guys I will feel pretty satisfied with if the Bulls draft them.

Delon Wright

There's not a single model that doesn't at least like Wright. He's a huge point guard with a post-up game, and he's an absolute beast of a defender at the point of attack. He's stuffed the stat-sheet for two straight years on the Utah Utes and completely turned them around from a win-loss perspective. He's 23, so he'd be old for a rookie, but I've come around to thinking that youth is actually somewhat overrated in evaluating draft prospects. Upside is nice, but production is harder for me to ignore. There's some concern around Wright's jumper, but based on Andrew Johnson's regression analysis to project 3 point percentage based on NCAA numbers, Wright should be around a 34-35% 3 point shooter, which is good enough that he should still be a threat. It's better than Derrick Rose, at the very least.

R.J. Hunter

I really like Hunter quite a bit. A flaw in my model, which I want to fix eventually, is that it's only based on the last year of a player's NCAA data. That particular flaw causes my model to rate R.J. Hunter lower than he would be with a full accounting of his college career. Even with R.J.'s 30% 3pt shooting percentage this year, which vastly understates his talent**, he still rates pretty nicely in my projected 4th year RPM numbers. In fact, he rates much better than either Snell or McDermott did based on their final years in the NCAA. He would, in my opinion, be an upgrade over Doug right away and might be a better long-term bet than Snell. The fact that he should be available at pick number 22 makes giving up two firsts last year to draft McDermott all the more infuriating, but I need to stop now before I get derailed going down that rabbit hole again.

** Check out his prior year 3 point percentages and his free throw percentages or just watch him shoot. The guy is a shooter.

Jerian Grant

I have a pretty strong feeling he won't be available at number 22 and, given the depth in this draft, the Bulls would be fools to trade up just to get their man again, but Grant is going to be a solid combo-guard, I think. He's got great size for his position, he projects quite well offensively based on his senior year at Notre Dame in my system, and I think that's even discounting him a bit, because like Hunter, he shot worse from deep this year than I think is his true talent.

Rashad Vaughn

As Ricky mentioned in his big board piece, Fred Hoiberg specifically targeted Vaughn during the recruitment process when he was coaching at Iowa State. Vaughn is a scorer who has the size to defend his position at the NBA level. His offensive numbers rate out well for a player in the late first round and his defense projects as decent for a SG (the model has a preference on defense for bigs, as does the Real Plus-Minus metric which it's attempting to model).

Those are the four guys I think I would most like the Bulls to get, but not necessarily in that order. I'd also be fine with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, if only because a few models really like him and he is clearly a high-level NBA athlete. If he ever learns to shoot, he will probably be the steal of the draft. A lot of scouts like Justin Anderson. I like his length and how much he was able to improve over the years, but I think I would take any of the 5 mentioned above ahead of him.

Here's to hoping that either the Bulls get one of these guys or that they take someone else and he turns out to be great leaving me with a smiling, egg-splattered face.

A Little Extra

Aside from my 4th year RPM projections, I also have a model for projecting rookie year RPM. Here are the results of that, if you're interested (Karl Towns is, unsurprisingly, the favorite for ROY):

Name Rook. Off. Rook. Def. Rook. RPM
Karl Towns -0.71 0.48 -0.23
Robert Upshaw -1.66 0.90 -0.75
Kevon Looney -0.71 -0.17 -0.89
Willie Cauley-Stein -1.64 0.45 -1.19
Dakari Johnson -1.11 -0.16 -1.27
Bobby Portis -0.95 -0.50 -1.45
Jahlil Okafor -1.07 -0.45 -1.51
Delon Wright -0.80 -0.74 -1.54
Cliff Alexander -1.23 -0.43 -1.65
Richaun Holmes -1.39 -0.28 -1.67
T.J. McConnell -0.78 -0.91 -1.69
Chris McCullough -1.98 0.28 -1.70
J.P. Tokoto -1.30 -0.55 -1.85
Cameron Payne -0.16 -1.77 -1.92
Christian Wood -1.36 -0.60 -1.96
Myles Turner -1.56 -0.44 -2.00
Jerian Grant -0.64 -1.43 -2.07
Branden Dawson -1.75 -0.35 -2.11
Stanley Johnson -1.14 -0.97 -2.11
Frank Kaminsky -1.06 -1.08 -2.13
Darion Atkins -2.00 -0.14 -2.15
Alan Williams -1.60 -0.57 -2.17
Tyus Jones -0.40 -1.78 -2.18
Trey Lyles -1.26 -0.92 -2.18
Jonathan Holmes -1.36 -0.88 -2.24
Vince Hunter -1.66 -0.59 -2.25
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson -1.36 -0.97 -2.33
D'Angelo Russell -0.56 -1.81 -2.36
Justise Winslow -1.17 -1.20 -2.37
Cady Lalanne -1.86 -0.56 -2.42
Aaron White -1.22 -1.23 -2.45
R.J. Hunter -1.02 -1.44 -2.46
Montrezl Harrell -1.40 -1.07 -2.47
Rakeem Christmas -2.04 -0.50 -2.54
Andrew Harrison -0.99 -1.58 -2.58
Kelly Oubre -1.37 -1.22 -2.60
Chris Walker -2.30 -0.31 -2.61
Jordan Mickey -2.28 -0.41 -2.69
Sam Dekker -0.95 -1.77 -2.72
Josh Richardson -1.54 -1.22 -2.76
Jarell Martin -1.65 -1.14 -2.80
Treveon Graham -0.91 -1.91 -2.82
Darrun Hilliard -1.31 -1.55 -2.87
Larry Nance -1.89 -1.11 -2.99
TaShawn Thomas -2.10 -0.94 -3.04
Brandon Ashley -1.68 -1.40 -3.08
Michael Qualls -1.33 -1.85 -3.18
Sam Thompson -2.06 -1.25 -3.31
Justin Anderson -1.26 -2.06 -3.32
Terry Rozier -1.53 -1.82 -3.35
Julian Washburn -2.02 -1.50 -3.52
Michael Frazier -1.53 -2.01 -3.53
Aaron Harrison -1.44 -2.10 -3.54
Olivier Hanlan -1.37 -2.22 -3.59
Pat Connaughton -1.63 -1.97 -3.60
Keifer Sykes -1.19 -2.42 -3.61
Devin Booker -1.04 -2.60 -3.64
Anthony Brown -1.66 -2.02 -3.69
Ryan Boatright -1.28 -2.48 -3.77
D.J. Newbill -1.47 -2.37 -3.84
Tyler Harvey -1.11 -2.76 -3.88
Rashad Vaughn -1.40 -2.62 -4.02
Quinn Cook -1.38 -2.66 -4.04
Dez Wells -2.33 -1.72 -4.04
Corey Hawkins -1.54 -2.53 -4.06
Terran Petteway -2.12 -2.05 -4.16
Chasson Randle -1.51 -2.72 -4.22
Norman Powell -2.26 -2.06 -4.32
Joseph Young -1.65 -2.69 -4.34

As you can see, Delon Wright projects to be the best rookie guard by projected rookie Real Plus-Minus. He also rates as above replacement level (-2.00 points per 100 possessions). This shouldn't be that surprising, as he is the oldest of the legit guard prospects in the draft, but it does lend some additional credence to the idea that he's ready to contribute right away.