The last time the Chicago Bulls reached the Eastern Conference Finals, they did it on the strength of the “Bench Mob.” Taj Gibson, C.J. Watson and Kyle Korver delivered the energy and scoring off the bench that helped Chicago secure the top seed in 2011.
With picks 16 and 19 in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Bulls have a chance to add a dynamic offensive player who could strengthen the bench, and Cleanthony Early could be available. At 6-foot-7 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, Early possesses the size scouts look for in prototypical NBA small forward.
Early is an explosive athlete, and he is a natural scorer from the perimeter and in the paint. Early was the driving force behind the Wichita State Shockers‘ Final Four appearance two seasons ago, and the team’s first undefeated regular season last year.
Early turned in some of his best performances on the biggest stage in college basketball, as he averaged 27 points in the Shockers’ two NCAA tournament games this past season. Early’s ability to produce under the bright lights and his top-tier athleticism could allow him to adjust to the NBA game quicker than Bulls second-year man Tony Snell.
Early would benefit from a defined scoring role, because he was not much of a playmaker in college. He averaged just less than one assist per game for his career. Nate Robinson, D.J. Augustin and Marco Belinelli prospered in the role of “second-team scorer.”
If Chicago decides to take Early with one of its first-round picks, he could infuse some much-needed energy and scoring off the bench, and maybe even become an important piece in the team’s future plans.