Bulls select Julian Phillips in 2023 NBA Draft: Instant reaction and analysis

Julian Phillips, Tennessee Volunteers. Photo by Carly Mackler/Getty Images
Julian Phillips, Tennessee Volunteers. Photo by Carly Mackler/Getty Images /

The Chicago Bulls came into the 2023 NBA Draft without a single draft pick. Their first-round pick was painfully owed to the Orlando Magic from the Nikola Vucevic trade, while their second-round pick was long gone after a 2019 deal with the Washington Wizards. It profiled to be a quiet night.

That silence was especially awful because of the many needs throughout the Chicago roster. While the franchise clings to being a perennial pillar of mediocrity, they are unlikely to trade Zach LaVine or DeMar DeRozan. There is a major need for players to fit around them, however, and the Bulls have been short of two-way wings behind and around their stars.

Having a first-round pick to add a player like Gradey Dick or Cam Whitmore would have been invaluable. Instead, they went into the draft with no picks.

The Bulls weren’t content to just sit back and wait it out, however, making their move to trade back into the draft at pick No. 35. They sent a couple of future second-rounders to the Wizards to leap in and select Tennessee forward Julian Phillips.

Bulls select Julian Phillips in the 2023 NBA Draft

The player that enticed the Chicago Bulls to trade back into the draft was Julian Phillips, a 19-year-old freshman out of Tennessee. At 6’7″ he has excellent size, with a 7-foot wingspan and good strength on top of excellent athletic indicators.

On the surface, Phillips seems like an excellent bet at this point in the draft. That size and athleticism make him a great defensive prospect, altering shots as a defender and rim protector without fouling (or blocking many shots, admittedly). On offense, he is more of a question mark, with low turnovers and a high number of free throws drawn.

The question mark is as a shooter, as he hit just 24 percent of his 3-pointers. He shot 82.2 percent from the free throw line, which bodes well for his future shooting potential, but if that never comes around he will likely not be good enough to hang around.

What’s strange about the selection is that the Bulls took a long athlete with defensive chops and poor shooting ability last season when they drafted Dalen Terry. Will Phillips see the court above Terry in the pecking order? Probably not.

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There are things to like about Phillips, and if he hits he will be a longtime starter as a 3-and-D wing. Hopefully, the Bulls can be the team to develop him into reaching that upside. If not, it will have been yet another wasted pick in a sea of failed Chicago picks.

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