Matas Buzelis

NBA Draft grades: How does Bulls' Matas Buzelis rank?

Lithuanian wing must get stronger, improve shooting to reach full potential

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Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

It's always wild to immediately grade drafts for professional sports. Projecting potential is such a crapshoot. Some players take years to blossom. Some never do.

Nevertheless, it happens all the time in this world of immediacy and hot takes. And much of the reaction to the Chicago Bulls' selection of Matas Buzelis is favorable.

From NBC Sports Chicago's perspective, the pick is a good one as much for this number as any: 19.

That's Buzelis' age. And given that he arrives mere days after the Bulls acquired 21-year-old point guard Josh Giddey, the franchise appears to be pivoting from chasing Play In Tournament spots with an aging core to development and a youth movement.

In his initial media session with reporters following Wednesday's draft, Buzelis flashed humility and strong self awareness while also showcasing some of his competitive edge. He talked favorably about what playing in the G League for Ignite did to prepare him for the next level. And he talked about being a good teammate and getting to work right away.

Bulls executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas didn't expect Buzelis to be available with the 11th pick. He was widely expected to be a top-10 selection. He talked favorably about his potential pairing with Giddey.

"It’s versatility. It’s very evident. In terms of (Buzelis') position, our league is moving towards multi-positional wings, just size and athleticism and versatility," Karnišovas said. "Can put it on the floor. And then switchability. He averaged more than 2 blocks per game. I won’t know exactly what to expect next year. But I know those guys are going to be on the floor and they’re very versatile."

Here's a look at what some other prominent outlets are saying about the Bulls' selection of Buzelis:

NBC Sports: B (story linked here)

Comment: The Bulls have a lot of questions that they need to answer this summer, but if they choose to fully embrace a rebuild, Buzelis should see plenty of minutes early on. He struggled a lot at times in the G League, so it would be good for him to work out some issues early while playing alongside guys like Coby White, Ayo Dosunmu and Josh Giddey that can make his life easier. Buzelis was an elite shot blocker last season, which makes him appealing in fantasy, assuming he shoots the ball better than he did for the Ignite.

Yahoo Sports: A-minus (story linked here)

Comment: Buzelis shot the ball under 30% from 3-point range during his one season with the Ignite but has great size at 6-foot-9 and the ability to space the floor. He's comfortable taking players off the dribble and has good footwork and ball skills in dribble hand-offs on the wing.

The Ringer: B-plus (story linked here)

Comment: In theory, Buzelis has just about all the tools you could want in a modern tweener: His jumper looks good. His timing, instincts, and quick leaping ability make him an excellent weakside rim protector. He has uncanny movement skills for his size that point toward a higher ceiling than his weak frame would suggest. But so much of his potential hinges on his ability to shoot (he’s seen wild fluctuations in accuracy across different levels of competition) and his strength development—particularly in his lower body, to be able to churn through contact on drives.

The Athletic: no grade (story linked here)

Comment: Buzelis’ success will come down to two swing areas. The first one is the frame, which has a long way to go before it fills out. I don’t think he’ll end up playing many NBA minutes next season because of that. He has a lot of long-term upside to fill a much-needed player archetype if he fills out, but front offices are mixed on whether that will happen. Nobody doubts Buzelis’ work ethic, though; he’s a competitor who demonstrates a desire to be great. The second swing skill for Buzelis is his jumper. His shot isn’t broken, but he’s only had one distinctly positive shooting stretch (his season at Sunrise Christian). Is that an aberration, or is it a signal that he has room to grow? It’s difficult to tell with teenagers.

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