Rookie Julian Phillips continues to outperform Bulls' expectations

Chicago Bulls v Portland Trail Blazers
Chicago Bulls v Portland Trail Blazers / Amanda Loman/GettyImages

Entering the 2023 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls arrived at the party empty-handed. After all, they had already dealt away both their first and second-round picks to bring Nikola Vucevic and Otto Porter Jr. to the team a few years back. In retrospect, both of these were ill-advised decisions, particularly the former, as one of the picks sent out to acquire Vucevic was used to draft rising star Franz Wagner.

Even so, the Bulls insisted on getting involved at this year's draft by trading away a pair of future second-round picks to select Julian Phillips 35th overall. While I doubt anyone was holding too high of expectations for Phillips, the Bulls have proven once again that they have an eye for talent in the second round.

For a team intending to compete now, it's understandable why Phillips didn't get much run out of the gate. He's a developmental project for the future. But when the injuries began racking up, it was only a matter of time before the rookie got his shot.

In the four games he's registered 15 or more minutes of playtime, Phillips has averaged 9 points and 1 block, while posting a net positive box plus/minus. He's still very raw, but the fact that he's been able to hold his own out there on the court at this early stage of his career is very indicative of his future potential.

If Phillips does indeed pan out, he will uphold Chicago's recent trend of drafting quality players in the second round of the draft. In the last five drafts alone, the Bulls have drafted serviceable rotation players in Phillips, Ayo Dosunmu, and Daniel Gafford — although it should be noted that Gafford was selected by the old regime.

While Chicago's young guards thrive, Julian Phillips could be in line to be the Bulls' next big breakout.

Phillips was given his first chance to play a substantial role during last night's game against the Boston Celtics, as he assumed the 6th man role as the first player off the bench. Although the Bulls wouldn't come out on top, it was through no fault of Phillips.

The rookie contributed by scoring 9 points on 4-for-5 shooting, grabbing a pair of rebounds, and playing frenetic defense during his 17 minutes on the court. Although the Bulls lost by 17 points in the end, Chicago was only outscored by 5 points against the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics when Phillips was on the court.

Julian enjoyed an even more impactful performance in late January when he registered 23 points in a winning effort against the Portland Trail Blazers. Couple these strong outings with his impressive preseason showings, and I think the Bulls have real potential to work with here.

If not for the devastating amount of injuries to this Bulls roster, Phillips may have never received this chance to prove himself. It's a small silver lining, I admit, but at this point I'm happy to take any good news about this team I can. Phillips has already surpassed fellow young Bulls wing Dalen Terry in terms of current on-court production, so I reckon we'll continue to see plenty of him so long as Williams and Craig are sidelined.

The best part about these developments is that the front office seems to have learned from their previous mistake of only signing Dosunmu to a two-year deal. Phillips is inked for the next four years and will have plenty of time to develop over that span. With very little else happening in the way of noteworthy changes on this team, Phillips' story is one worth keeping an eye on.