Illinois star declaring for NBA Draft could be huge for Bulls

Ayo Dosunmu, Chicago Bulls Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Ayo Dosunmu, Chicago Bulls Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Illinois big man Kofi Cockburn declared for the NBA draft Wednesday morning, giving the Chicago Bulls another option on their big board.

The Bulls have the 18th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft thanks to winning a tiebreaker over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Moving up one slot isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but we’ve seen how many times teams lose out on desired targets because the team in front of them changed course.

Chicago will likely look to either beef up their perimeter defense or upgrade their interior presence. Bulls backup center Tristan Thompson has expressed interest in retiring after this season, making it imperative for the Bulls to find a formidable backup (or replacement) for Nikola Vucevic.

Cockburn declaring gives the Bulls that exact opportunity. He is an athletic 7-foot center who can establish himself as a shot blocker immediately. With NBA development, he could also become a scoring threat. At the bare minimum, he is a player who can set screens, block shots and make layups.

Might the Bulls target Kofi Cockburn in the NBA Draft?

He also played with Bulls standout rookie Ayo Dosunmu and possessed great chemistry with the point guard. Cockburn was the X-factor for the Illini in each of his seasons there, and became their vocal leader this year, while being the only player in college basketball to average 20 points and 10 rebounds per game.

He had two more years of eligibility, but felt that he was ready to take the next step and enter the NBA. He has gushed over the idea of being reunited with his first collegiate PG as well as possibly staying in the state of Illinois.

"“I would love it, man,” Cockburn said in an interview with FanSided’s Mark Carman a few weeks ago. “I was just talking with Ayo Dosunmu yesterday on the phone and we basically spoke on that. I was just telling him that would be insane if we reunited in Chicago. I think that would be big time. I love Chicago, I love the state of Illinois.”"

It’s never a bad idea to bring in a hometown kid, especially one with these close connections. That passion, that also spans to his love for his teammates, is evident in his game. He plays with a high level of intensity that influences his teammates. With his size and athleticism, he’s a perfect player to balance out Vucevic.

Vooch’s game is stemmed in footwork and finesse. While he can bang down low, he isn’t known for beating teams up inside or imposing his athletic will. Thompson is extremely active but is undersized and isn’t a quality finisher.

Cockburn can play with Vucevic, too, as Vooch is a great passer in high-low situations. He’ll also be great off the bench because he’ll give opposing defenses a different look, forcing them to change their defensive scheme when he’s on the floor.

If Cockburn is available when the Bulls are on the clock, he may be a viable option for Chicago. We just don’t know if it’ll be in the first or second round.

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