The Chicago Bulls forever stay on brand.
In the 2019 NBA Draft, the franchise selected two guys with high floors who project to be serviceable NBA players at the absolute worst. They didn’t hit any home runs, or take any risks, but they brought in two guys who fill glaring needs on the team.
North Carolina speedster Coby White was the Bulls’ No. 7 selection in the first round. The 6-foot-5-inch point guard averaged 16.1 points per game on 42.3 percent shooting from the field last season, good enough to break some guy named Michael Jordan’s freshman scoring record at North Carolina. The Bulls could choose to add a veteran point guard in free agency to fortify that position, but otherwise it will be a dawg-fight between him and Kris Dunn for playing time next season.
Also, the Bulls hat somehow stayed on White’s head, which has to be a good omen, right? White has already endeared himself to Bulls fans with this heartfelt Players’ Tribune tribute to his father and this genuine reaction to college teammate Cameron Johnson getting drafted:
In other news, the Bulls also used their second-round pick this year, nabbing Arkansas center Daniel Gafford with their 38th overall pick. It’s a Bobby Portis-approved pick in case you were wondering.
Gafford was an All-SEC and SEC All-Defense selection last season as a sophomore for the Razorbacks. He’s an athletic rim roller and protector whose most glaring limitation is his complete lack of shooting range. Nonetheless, he’s a clear upgrade to Cristiano Felicio and is probably needed anyway given Robin Lopez might leave in free agency.
Gafford and Wendell Carter Jr. could become an elite interior defense tandem in the future if everything goes right.
Naturally, Chicago Bulls executives Gar Forman and John Paxson are pleased with their work on draft night:
Bulls exec VP John Paxson: "We feel we have gotten two really good basketball players, young but who fit the direction we've talked about the last couple years."— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) June 21, 2019
But let’s also peruse some more objective evaluations. Here are the 2019 Chicago Bulls draft grades from around the Internet. Enjoy!
This is a guy nobody projected to be a one-and-done player, so the idea that he goes in the top half of the lottery is pretty remarkable. Roy Williams put the ball in his hands and let him show he can be a primary ball-handler. That’s what the Bulls need more than anything. Great pick.
Chicago needed to add depth at center, and in Gafford, the Bulls get a rim-running big who can finish lobs and protect the rim. His upside offensively is limited, but he’ll be a productive second-unit player early.
White could be the final piece on an interesting young lineup in Chicago. They took two young big men (Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr.) with the no. 7 overall picks in the last two drafts, and acquired Zach LaVine and Otto Porter Jr. in trades. This group could be better than the sum of its parts. White is an extremely athletic guard with great size for his position (6-foot-5, 191 pounds) as well as the ability to make plays and shoot 3s off the dribble. The big knock on him is that he’s not an elite playmaker, but he may not have to be that type of player when he’s next to so many other good passers in Chicago. His shooting ability may already make him a better fit than Kris Dunn. White makes them better next season while also giving them another chance to find a star.
White is a strong fit for Chicago, helping to address its long-term need at guard with a player many had pegged as the best fit at No. 7. White’s shooting ability and size make him an appealing prospect, and he’s just begun to tap into his ability as a playmaker. This pick is hard to knock, given both value and need.
Chicago stays put and lands the point guard it needs to help round out its starting five. As the draft process progressed, it seemed clear the Bulls didn’t believe in Kris Dunn as a viable option at the position, so finding a replacement seemed a priority. White should fit in well.
The North Carolina product excels pushing the pace in transition. He’s one of the fastest end-to-end players in this draft class. He’ll generate a handful of points each game for the Bulls in transition on his own. In the half court, White’s ability to knock down jumpers off the catch will allow Zach LaVine to continue to initiate the bulk of the offense. Not shouldering White with a heavy creation burden right away should be a positive.
Long-term, White has the potential to be a gravity-inducing pull-up threat from outside the arc. Although he struggled to shoot it efficiently off the bounce in Chapel Hill, White’s mechanics look good, and he should progress well.
The 19-year-old does have his concerns. Chicago likely won’t be building a league-topping defense with White playing significant minutes, and he still needs to develop as a playmaker and facilitator. The good news is this situation should give him space to grow.
At 6’5, White is more of a scorer than a facilitator at this stage. He showed an elite ability to play fast and hit spot-up three-pointers during his freshman season at North Carolina. He’ll need to improve his facilitating ability and his accuracy on pull-up jumpers to reach his ceiling.
This pick fills a big need for the Bulls and also gives them flexibility moving forward. White has the size and skill set to play on- or off-the-ball. If he doesn’t grow into the Bulls’ point guard of the future, he should be a quality sixth man. This is a pick that offers both a high ceiling and a high floor for Chicago.
White and Gafford: B+
Long pegged as Chicago’s likely pick, White ended up falling to the perimeter-needy franchise. The combo guard set a North Carolina freshman record with 106 threes in 2018-19―and the Bulls mustered a league-low 9.1 triples per game. Gafford pads Chicago’s mediocre frontcourt depth with decent rebounding and defense.