The Chicago Bulls are signing Rawle Alkins, per Shams Charania, pulling an expected Toronto Raptor from the camp roster.
On draft night, it was reported that Alkins had signed with the Raptors, a deal we noted was an Exhibit 10 contract. And it was! But as I explained in this piece on Alkins taking a page from Fred VanVleet’s book and betting on himself for Dime Magazine at UPROXX last week, there was a complication due to Alkins being in the process of changing agents. It’s hard to strike a deal without one, and while Alkins sorted that out, he remained a free agent, turning in a strong performance at Las Vegas Summer League to potentially improve his stock.
Now, the Raptors have lost out on Alkins to the Bulls, who were willing to offer a firm two-way commitment rather than the less certain Exhibit 10. They can also offer a more clear path to playing time than the post-trade Raptors may be able to.
Alkins is a name who has been on the Raptors’ radar for some time now. When he tested the draft waters in 2017, the Raptors brought him in for a pre-draft workout, both to get an intimate look at him and to establish a scouting baseline against which to evaluate his development. Alkins ultimately decided to return to Arizona for a sophomore season, and the Raptors obviously saw enough growth to want to bring him into their development incubator. It’s not terribly difficult to see why, even though the 20-year-old Alkins didn’t take much of a step forward in his second year. The numbers remain fairly impressive – he averaged 13.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.3 steals while hitting 35.9 percent on four 3-point attempts per-game, all roughly in line with his freshman year – and Alkins’ small uptick in responsibility saw him earn Honorable Mention All-Pac-12 honors. That he missed nine games due to a Jones fracture early in the year may have prevented him from having an even more impressive follow-up.
The Raptors were surprised Alkins went undrafted, as they had him high on their internal board. They worked quickly to lock him in for Summer League, and Alkins impressed. He didn’t see the floor until the second half of his first game and then nearly sparked a comeback on his own with a tremendous showing, and after a couple of games that graded as just fine, he took over an elimination game, scoring 25 points including five in a two-minute overtime to lead the Raptors to victory. All told, Alkins averaged nine points, 4.7 rebounds, two assists, and 1.3 steals while hitting 9-of-21 from beyond the arc. Two of those numbers in particular stand out, as the efficacy of his 3-point shot will likely determine how long it takes him to earn NBA minutes, while the playmaking wasn’t a pleasant surprise the Raptors didn’t expect to see quite so early. If he can become a spot-up threat – he has a quick release and repeatable mechanics – and a threat to attack closeouts and make plays for others rather than being exclusively a transition weapon, that should allow his elite on-ball defense to get on the floor, and that’s where he’ll earn the bulk of his NBA keep.
From a tools perspective, Alkins has the type of 3-and-D potential teams seek with these potentially undervalued assets. He only stands 6-foot-4 but possesses a 6-foot-9 wingspan and is 217 pounds, making for solid size at the two-guard or as a wing in general. He’s used that size well to haul in offensive rebounds and get to the line, he blocks shots well for a perimeter player, and is a high-end individual defender. He has great lateral quickness that allows him to stay in front of ball-handlers, changes direction well, and was one of the best defenders in college basketball according to Synergy Sports data. Given the defensive reputation, most draft experts thought Alkins would be selected, as he ranked anywhere from 20th to 57th in 14 draft rankings we surveyed, averaging a rank of 39 (he was the second-highest ranked undrafted free agent through this lens).
Given how valuable 3-and-D wings can be, he’s a smart developmental player to target, even if his game still needs some further refining. Alkins still has steps to take as a defender off the ball and within a team defense, and the Bulls will want to continue to foster the growth of those nascent playmaking skills and make sure his 3-point shot becomes a reliable weapon. It wouldn’t at all be surprising to see Alkins contributing before long given what he showed in college and Vegas, and the Bulls aren’t quite as deep at the wing spots.