5. Drafted Julian Phillips
Drafted Tennessee forward Julian Phillips with the 35th pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.
The Chicago Bulls needed to find a way to add forwards to this team, so it was not a surprise to see them go after one in the NBA Draft. Without a pick in either round heading into Draft Night, the Bulls had to trade back into the draft, doing so at pick No. 35 to take Tennessee forward Julian Phillips.
The good for Phillips is that he is a fantastic athlete with a nearly-7-foot wingspan. His defensive chops are solid, both defending man-to-man and rotating inside. Looking at players such as DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic, he could step in as one of the team’s best defensive forwards from the jump.
The issue is the offense, and Phillips couldn’t have been much worse than his freshman season at Tennessee if he tried. He averaged just 8.3 points per game, shot 41.1 percent from the field and 23.9 percent from 3-point range, and largely eroded the scouting report until his offensive projection is simply a big shrug.
If the shot comes around, he’s a clear rotation player and perhaps a long-term starter. If it doesn’t, and right now that seems more likely, he’ll be unplayable. Given the Bulls’ struggles with Derrick Jones Jr. the past two seasons, for the Bulls to let him walk and then draft such a similar player is a bizarre move.