March may be the most exciting time of the year for sports fans. The NCAA Tournament takes over the United States for three weeks and slows productivity on a national scale. For NBA fans that aren’t as interested in college basketball now is the perfect time to dive in and check out what kind of talent could end up on their favorite team’s roster after the NBA draft in June.
Ja Morant- Murray State. Soph. PG 6-3
After recording the first triple-double in the tournament since 2012 in Murray State’s win over the five-seeded Marquette, Ja Morant is now a national name. Because of their mid-major schedule, Ja Morant and Murray State haven’t had the chance to show their talents on a national stage until Thursday evening. Morant exploded onto the scene with a 17-point, 16-assist, 11-rebound performance.
Ja Morant's POSTER is even better with the @RacersHoops radio call! 💪
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 22, 2019
Morant is an explosive scorer, averaging 24.4 points-per-game this season. Scoring is not his only NBA -worthy attribute though; he also averaged 10.2 assists per game on the season. His ability to score in droves forces defenses to double him, and when that happens Morant has shown repeatedly that he is more than able to find his open teammates. While he certainly won’t attract double teams in the NBA, his court vision and crisp passing abilities will allow him to be a playmaker at the next level too.
Morant’s biggest question mark is his ability to take care of the ball. His overwhelming talent allows him to attempt flashy plays that don’t always pan out. He is averaging 5.3 turnovers per game this season, and that number would likely double against an NBA defense. Even in his outstanding performance against Marquette, he turned the ball over seven times. Throughout the rest of the tournament, he will need to show NBA scouts he can take care of the basketball.
On the Bulls, it is scary to think about what another point guard that can jump out of the gym could do. Morant has athleticism unseen in the United Center since the devastating downfall of Derrick Rose. His driving ability would force defenses to play him tighter than they do Kris Dunn and his playmaking ability would allow him to find an open Markkanen or LaVine on the arch and create an explosive offense in Chicago.
Zion Williamson- Duke, Fresh. PF 6-7
The consensus No. 1 pick is such for a reason. Anyone who still believed Zion Williamson was all hype had their viewpoint emphatically swatted out of the gym during the ACC tournament. After missing his previous six games due to a knee injury that resulted from his shoe exploding under his sheer force, Williamson returned to lead his Blue Devils to three straight wins and another ACC tournament championship.
— JULITO (@locosfgfan) March 21, 2019
His raw athletic ability has captivated the college basketball world and for a good reason. However, Zion is much more than just flash. He is a strong fundamental basketball player who can score in droves and hold down his team as an anchor on the defensive end of the floor.
In his freshman season, he has averaged 22 points-per-game and 8.9 rebounds-per-game. He is an efficient scorer, shooting 69.3% from the field. While the vast majority of his points come from the paint, he has proved time and time again that he is capable of stepping out and draining a three if the defense sags off. His 2.2 steals and 1.8 blocks-per-game helped elevate him to becoming the ACC Player of the Year as well as pushing his basketball ability into what has become near myth.
RJ Barrett- Duke, Fresh. SG 6-7
Zion Williamson’s partner in crime is not his sidekick by any means. Though Zion’s monstrous athletic ability has elevated him into a folk hero, Barrett is still probably the better overall scorer. Barrett has averaged 22.9 points-per-game and would likely have won the ACC Player of the Year award if not for his teammate.
His length has made him extremely tough to guard, and his ability to drive and finish with both hands has been nearly impossible to stop for opposing defenses. His .457 field goal percentage shows he is an efficient scorer and his 7.5 rebounds per-game show he isn’t a one-trick pony.
“I would rank RJ among the best players that’s ever played here.”
RJ Barrett is arguably the most-hyped basketball player this country has ever produced, but the young Canadian is meeting the high expectations @DukeMBB.
Watch the full Barrett feature tonight on Sportsnet. pic.twitter.com/nxLmEf7Lsh
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) March 19, 2019
Because of the hype surrounding Ja Morant and Zion Williamson, Barrett will likely fall to third in the draft. However, any team that he happens to fall to would be lucky to uncover this diamond.
For the Bulls, Barrett could be the perfect complement to Zach LaVine and Otto Porter Jr. His ability to drive to the rim will cause defenses to collapse, allowing him to find his three-point sharpshooting teammates on the arch for open shots. The biggest weakness in Barrett’s game is his three-point shooting. However, the Bulls are already the No. 10 team in the NBA from three-point range. Their stellar shooting will allow Barrett to produce more from inside while he develops his shot at the next level.
Jarrett Culver- Texas Tech, Soph. SG 6-6
Like Williamson, Jarrett Culver is a defensive stopper at heart. While he can still score effectively, averaging 18.5 points-per-game, he is most effective on the defensive end of the floor. He is a quick player that can disturb ball handlers, and his strong footwork allows him to cut off driving lanes. A high basketball-IQ will enable him to often be in the right place at the right time, making stops at the defensive end when they are most important. He has led the Texas Tech Red Raiders to have the fourth-best defense in the entire country in terms of both opponent’s points and opponent’s points-per-game.
Jarrett Culver can pass, shoot fairly well, get to the rim with ease and has tremendous size for a guard. He’s going to be such a gift for any team that drafts him pic.twitter.com/rOgMInpU6l
— Chris Montano (@gswchris) March 22, 2019
The Bulls defense ranks near last in the league at 27. A lengthy guard who can shut down opponents would undoubtedly improve upon that stat and Culver’s ability to score effectively still would make him a welcome addition on both sides of the floor.
Cam Reddish- Duke, Fresh. SF 6-8
Unlike Barrett, Cam Reddish has fallen into the large shadow that Zion Williamson casts. However, he should not be overlooked. His 13 points-per-game does not accurately reflect what he is capable of from a scoring perspective. Because of his incredible teammates, he has fallen to the wayside and not been able to participate in the offense as much as he might like. He has scored 20 points in eight contests this season and has shown he is proficient at both attacking the rim as well as shooting from deep.
While he doesn’t have the ceiling of his two teammates, Reddish still has the potential to be an outstanding NBA player. He can score in high numbers and will provide a pure shooter to any team that drafts him.
This step-back jumper from Cam Reddish was CRISPY pic.twitter.com/lwuLd7MRgy
— Chris Montano (@gswchris) March 16, 2019
For the Bulls, Reddish would likely slip into the two spot. His length at 6-8 would make him a nightmare for NBA shooting guards to defense, and his ability to rise up from beyond the arch means they won’t be able to sag-off anticipating a drive. This will create lanes for other teammates like LaVine and Markkanen to attack the rim.
Assuming something crazy doesn’t happen in the draft lottery, and the Bulls land a top-five pick like they are expected to, they will pick up one of these incredibly talented young players. Any Bulls fan interested in catching a glimpse of the future of Chicago should undoubtedly take the opportunity to watch them perform on the brightest stage of them all.