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Bulls draft rumors: What about the ‘safe’ option in De’Andre Hunter?

ESPN mocks him to the Bulls

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-National Championship-Virginia vs Texas Tech Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

When ACC Sixth Man of the Year De’Andre Hunter suffered a wrist injury right before the 2018 NCAA Tournament, Virginia promptly became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed, getting thrashed in the first round by UMBC. The Cavaliers had Hunter available in 2019, and he helped lead them to a national title, capped off by a tour de force performance in the national title game against Jarrett Culver and the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

While Hunter soundly outplayed Culver in that national title game, many believe Culver is the better prospect and would be the more ideal prospect for the Bulls to wind up with. I agree with this sentiment because I believe Culver has more offensive upside, but Hunter still projects as a useful 3-and-D forward who would help the Bulls if they took him.

ESPN’s most recent mock draft has the Bulls selecting Hunter at No. 7, noting his “mature approach” as a selling point while also adding in tidbits about Patrick Beverley and Sekou Doumbouya:

The Bulls also will likely be disappointed to see most of the elite guards off the board by the time their pick comes up. Free agency might be their best option to address their guard needs (Patrick Beverley would be a great fit, and there’s mutual interest, per sources), and Chicago could look to continue to add depth to the forward spots. Sekou Doumbouya had an outstanding workout with Chicago last week and is under consideration, but it might be tough to turn down the defensive versatility and readiness of Hunter, who brings the kind of mature approach this front office typically covets in the draft.

The Hawks are very high on Hunter -- per sources, they are the only team Hunter has worked out for -- and Atlanta might try to package some combination of its six picks in this draft to move up and select him. But the Bulls very well might just want to hold onto Hunter if they can grab him here.

ESPN’s scouting video calls Hunter a “safe” pick thanks to his “winning pedigree” and “versatility” as a 6-foot-8, 222-pound forward who can play multiple positions:

Hunter put up stellar numbers in Virginia’s methodical system, averaging 15.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 32.5 minutes per game. He shot 52.0% from the field and a terrific 43.8% on 3-pointers, though his 2.8 3-point attempts per game were a little low and his shooting release is a bit slow. This can hopefully be resolved with some refining and more of a green light in the 3-happy NBA.

The 21-year-old also has limitations as a shot creator and playmaker. He’s a straight-line driver who doesn’t have much creativity off the bounce, and he doesn’t boast elite athleticism. He can certainly improve some of these offensive skills, but there are legitimate questions about how he’s going to score consistently in the NBA and whether he can ever be an effective facilitator for others.

Defensively, Hunter is a stud who can capably guard 1 through 4 thanks to his 7-foot-2 wingspan, technique and strength. His block and steal rates weren’t as high as one would expect, and while some of that can be explained by Virginia’s conservative defensive scheme, there’s a chance he just lacks elite defensive playmaking chops. Still, Hunter should be a difference-maker on that end, and that’s something the Bulls could use.

Hunter’s two-way play earned him All-American honors, as well as ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He’s a winner who hit numerous big shots in the title game, and this whole package makes him seem like a very Bulls-y pick, especially under Jim Boylen.

I wouldn’t be all that excited about De’Andre Hunter at No. 7 after a disastrous Bulls season, but there’s reason to believe he’d make them a better team, even if the chances of him becoming a star are minimal. We always see the value of two-way wings, especially in the playoffs, and Cole Zwicker over at The Stepien had this to say earlier in the year about the value a player like Hunter can bring to a team:

Here’s the thing about wings in the playoffs: it’s often more important what you don’t take off the table (especially shooting and defensively) than it is what you add (and subtract) in more extreme fashion. This is the premiere position and role where this sentiment applies and in some cases you’re searching more for players without stark holes in their games. (A random example) but Terrence Ross is a very good shooter who can’t guard anyone. Jonathon Simmons can give you defensive minutes but can’t survive offensively. An Ariza type in the playoffs, despite lack of extreme strengths, doesn’t have extreme weaknesses, and that renders him more valuable than a lot of regular season players.

When you’re terrible for a season (or multiple seasons) Hunter isn’t the kind of godsend that teams or fans crave that can change a franchise. Guys like Trevor Ariza, Thabo Sefolosha, DeMarre Carroll, and Ben’s example of Wes Matthews don’t look like gamebreakers. But you almost always find these guys on winnings teams because of the value they bring on both ends in a specific role, and how hard that role is to fill. They also tend to get underpaid based on lack of scoring pedigree and self-creation acumen.

The Bulls need a legitimate star or two, but they also simply need more good basketball players who are competent on both ends. De’Andre Hunter could be that guy.