The Chicago Bulls shouldn’t be worried about fit in this week’s draft, let alone focusing only on point guard. At this point of the rebuild, they need as many two-way players on the team as possible, even if it could cause a possible logjam at one of the positions. And if the point guards are off the board, the Bulls could possibly have one of the better two-way players in the draft fall into their lap in Texas Tech sophomore Jarrett Culver.
Culver was in the Bulls’ building last week as the highest-profile prospect they’ve worked out this summer.
Last season, Culver was stellar for the Red Raiders. He averaged 18.5 points and 6.4 rebounds while recording a box plus/minus score of 11.2. Culver helped lead TTU to the championship game in the NCAA tournament and impressed during their run. With his athleticism and ability to make an impact on both ends of the floor, Culver has the tools to be a solid player in the NBA.
At 6’5, Culver is a good size for a forward and can to get to the hoop at will. With his lanky frame he’s able to get by his man quickly off the dribble. Shooting 67.6 percent at the rim last season (via the Stepien) Culver is able to elevate over taller defenders when he gets to into the lane. He’s also shown a nice knack of getting to the line, averaging 5.5 attempts per game and an attempt rate of 37.7 percent. Culver’s ability to slash towards the paint helps his off-ball impact as he can make backcut to catch defenses sleeping. With opposing teams centered in on LaVine or Markkanen when they get the ball, Culver could easily slip towards the hoop and for easy layups.
One thing which should be intriguing to the Bulls when it comes to fit with Culver is he gives you another ball handler on the floor. Despite playing the three, coach Chris Beard put the ball in Culver’s hands a lot and asked him to play like a point guard at times. Culver has shown to be a really good passer, especially out of the pick and roll. He averaged 3.7 assists per game and had an assist percentage of 26.1, the highest of anyone on the team. Culver is able to to dissect defenses with his vision, delivering perfect passes to teammates for layups. With defenders collapsing in on him after he takes screens, Culver is able to maintain his dribble and is always looking to distribute the ball. It’s not just pocket passes either, Culver can make smart reads out of the post to a teammate on the three-point line or fire a laser of a pass to a cutter in the lane.
Jarrett Culver and Tariq Owens with a nice PnR here. Culver uses the screen , turns the corner on Jaxson Hayes, and follows that up with a perfect pocket pass to Tariq Owens for an easy dunk pic.twitter.com/EIHVUdzMMW— Zach Milner (@ZachMilner13) January 13, 2019
Outside of LaVine, the Bulls really don’t have any options when it comes to playmaking guards. Kris Dunn struggled to get guys involved and was too aggressive at times, leading to careless turnovers. With Culver on the floor the Bulls would have two guys capable of initiating the offense. Culver would also be good facilitator to Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter Jr.
Defensively, Culver is also very solid. On a Red Raiders team which finished first in KenPom’s adjusted defensive rankings, Culver was the spearhead of that unit, often tasked with defending the opposition’s best wing player. In most of the matchups he was more than able to hold his own, recording a defensive box plus/minus of 5.8 last season. Again his length and size come into play. With his wingspan he can make quick recoveries to contest effectively even if he’s a couple steps away from his man. He’s a smart defender, knowing when to rotate over or collapse in on an opposing player. Culver is also able to switch effectively, using his quick feet and length to stay in front of smaller guards. He’s shown he can guard anyone from 1-4’s and for a Chicago team which struggled defensively last season, this comes as a positive welcome. With Wendell Carter Jr. at center, the Bulls have a solid defensive anchor but they need to surround him with at least decent wing defenders. WCJ can’t block everything if every possession opposing guards are easily able to get into the paint. Culver would be one of those guys to help shore up the first line of defense for Chicago.
When it comes to his weaknesses as a player, one thing which sticks out about Culver is his lack of shooting ability. Culver was average shooting the ball from the field (54.2 true shooting percentage) but struggled to be an effective three-point shooter at 30.3 percent from downtown. The lack of jump shot for a wing draft prospect is a bit troubling given the way most NBA offenses play these days. Defenses will be more than happy to go under screens for Culver or stay near the paint, crunching the space in which his teammates can operate. LaVine would have a hard time if there’s one extra defender in the paint to stop him. It could prove to be troublesome for other shooters with defenses willing to send Culver’s man over to them when they come off screens, daring Chicago to swing it to him on the perimeter. His shooting is going to have to vastly improve because it will open up his offensive game a whole lot more.
Free throw percentage can be a telling indicator for how well a player projects to shoot from outside the paint, and Culver’s percentage has gotten better in his two years, peaking at 70.7 percent in 2018-19. In this case for Culver, the shooting does need to improve much more for teams to view him as a threat from the outside. His FT numbers do show that such a leap could be possible.
Defensively, he will need to get stronger. With his skinny frame he will have trouble guarding wings bigger than him. He’ll be overmatched in the post and have to bulk up for this not to happen. His strength will also affect himself offensively as he will go up against much stronger players in the NBA. He won’t be able to bounce off guys and score in the paint with as much ease as he did in Lubbock. As we saw with Markkanen in his rookie season, Culver will have a tough time grabbing defensive rebounds as well. While he can switch multiple positions, until he gets stronger he will struggle guarding some of the power forwards he’s going to face.
There’s a lot to like about Culver as a prospect. Despite his lack of shooting, he will give Chicago another perimeter playmaker and defensive versatility. He has the makings of a “jack of all trades, but master of none” type player. Although that doesn’t really scream out superstar potential, drafting Culver would be another solid addition. He projects to be an effective two-way player, something which the Bulls need more of.