Ivica Dukan has been the Bulls international scout since 1991, assisting Chicago in identifying the best talent from around the world. Most notably, playing an integral role in bringing Toni Kukoc overseas to the Bulls in 1994.
For as much grief as we’ve given the Bulls front office over their drafting abilities in recent years, if there’s been one consistent theme it’s finding international talent. From Nikola Mirotic almost six years ago (I still believe in Niko), to Cristiano Felicio last year, and now it appears to be Paul Zipser.
Last June, in the Adidas Eurocamp, Zipser was a standout, separating himself from all others in attendance. As one of the most experienced players during that camp, having played in the EuroCup, Euroleague, and the German BBL, he made a case for being the best prospect there, according to DraftExpress’ report:
“...(Zipser) is at the very least the most “ready” to play the role he would be asked to in the NBA, as a 3’n’D combo forward.”
Six months later and after being selected with the 48th pick last June, it seems as though he’s finally worked his way into that role, playing over former first-rounders Doug McDermott, Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine. To this point in the season, Zipser’s appeared in 21 games, starting four of the last 12. His stats on the season don’t particularly jump out at you, as he’s only shooting 35.6% from the field, and 30.2% from long range. But in the last 12 games that we’ve seen his minutes and role increase, his numbers have as well, at 42.3% from the field and 33.3% from three.
But why is Fred playing him? At least from my perspective, with Zipser on the floor it feels like there’s a stronger comfort level and trust rather than with the aforementioned players he’s playing over. There’s a very even-keel demeanor with Zipser, rarely does he give off the appearance of being rushed or out of control on either end of the floor, a testimony to his previous pro career overseas.
Defensively, where his “counterpart” McDermott can often look like he’s out of place, Zipser for the most part is a smart defender, understanding where he needs to be and when in addition to having great length and size with his 6’8 frame. Going back to DraftExpress’ report from last June’s EuroCamp, here’s what they had to say about Zipser’s defense:
“Defensively, he guarded multiple positions in his no-nonsense fashion, mostly operating at the power forward position, using his strong frame, but showing nice versatility switching onto players big and small all over the floor.”
Making the transition from playing overseas to the NBA isn’t easy, especially defensively. But Zipser has done well in making that transition, and has shown, albeit briefly, that he’s not a liability defensively. For one, he’s got great hands:
And Friday night, when he was switched on to the league’s MVP front-runner (my humble opinion), he was able to hold his own:
The jury is probably still out on if Zipser is a good defender because of his limited minutes this season, but I think it’s safe to assume that he’s at the very least passable on that end. And when you can be that, it goes a long way in building trust with the coach and teammates, as we’ve seen.
On the opposite end, Zipser’s percentages as we saw aren’t sexy. But that’s not because he’s forcing shots or getting rushed into plays on that end. His shot, which is a very slow release with high arch, needs to find more consistency from deep. But you can tell he’s a smart player, picking his spots appropriately and using his big frame to finish through traffic:
Is Paul Zipser the second coming of Toni Kukoc? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Zipser Fever is high after this stretch of 12 games, but we still need a larger sample size to really determine what we have. We can see the talent Zipser has, and where he can bring value to the Bulls, which is encouraging and makes watching his developing with this team all the more intriguing.