The Bulls got lucky on lottery night, jumping from №7 to №4 in the 2020 NBA Draft order. Now comes the hard part….
The Bulls have a solid starting unit when healthy and aren’t far from stepping out of the “rebuilding team basement”. So while looking for a point guard of the future or a wing as Otto Porter Jr. insurance, the Bulls should ultimately be looking to select the best player available, something VP of Basketball Operation Arturas Karnisovas has acknowledged. While Lady Luck shined on the Bulls on Draft Lottery night, the Knicks, Pistons, Cavaliers, and Hawks all moved down to lower picks than they were projected to make, clearing the path for the Bulls to walk away with a nice draft night. Here are a few different (likely) ways the Bulls will attack the 2020 NBA Draft:
Stay put and hope for the best:
This is the simplest path to adding a talented rookie to the Bulls core.
Chicago selected North Carolina combo guard Coby White with the №7 overall pick in 2019, PF/C Wendell Carter at №7 in 2018, and PF Lauri Markkanen at №7 in 2017 (in a trade with Minnesota). This presumably set up the Bulls with their frontcourt of the future and a guard in Coby White who — whether or not he is a “true point” or more of a two-guard — should develop into an explosive and efficient scorer.
With White, Carter, and Markkanen and Zach LaVine set up to be core pieces of the team, Karnisovas can focus on adding the best prospect left on the board, leaving the new head coach to worry about the minutiae.
The Bulls pick at №4 will, of course, be dependent on how the top-3 shakes out. With the Minnesota Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors, and Charlotte Hornets selecting in front of the Bulls (in that order), there is a path for (arguably) the top-3 guard prospects to be available. Of course, there is much debate over who the top guard prospects even are in such a weak class but using a mix of my personal rankings and Tankathon’s, here are some of the best players that could be available for Chicago if they stay put at №4:
- LaMelo Ball (Point guard): Unlikely but there is a path for the 6-foot-7 Ball — who some, including this writer, think is the top overall prospect in the ’20 class — to drop to Chicago. Ball is an extremly creative passer with elite court vision and excellent size. The T-Wolves could literally go any number of ways at №1 with Russell (the point who might be a two-guard) and Karl-Anthony Towns (the center who might be better of as a four). With shooting guards Malik Beasley entering free agency and Josh Okogie entering only his third year in the league, it will simply be shocking if the defensively challenged T-Wolves selected Ball. The Warriors have Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Andrew Wiggins. While the Hornets just invested a lot into starting PG Terry Rozier, have another promising PG in Devonte’ Graham, and a MASSIVE $27.1 million player option that SG/SF Nic Batum is likely to pick up.
- Killian Hayes (Point guard): Hayes is 19 years and spent his last season playing for ratiopharm Ulm in the German Basketball Bundesliga. The youngster played 24.8 minutes per game over 33 games (if you add up all the European competitions) and showed off an impressive basketball-IQ while playing pro ball. He is a slick pick-and-roll passer and has a burgeoning step-back 3-point shot. Hayes is more of a traditional playmaker than Coby White and the fact that he is 6-foot-5 gives him some positional versatility.
- Anthony Edwards (Shooting guard): The Bulls have no real positional need for an explosive two-guard like Edwards but his talent makes him simply too good to pass up at №4. Edwards was a highly-touted prospect who played for a very weak Georgia team coached by Tom Crean (former college coach of Dwyane Wade and Victor Oladipo). He put up a staggering 32.1 points per 100 possessions at Georgia and look no further than his 37-point game against Michigan State in which he went 7-for-16 (43.8%) from the 3-point line for evidence of his ability to heat up in a hurry.
- Deni Avidja (SF): Deni Avidja is likely one of a long line of international prospects who will receive a “Luka Doncic bump” from fans and (to a lesser extent) less skilled basketball scouts. Avidja doesn’t really share any similarities with Doncic besides the size and the fact they are both international prospects who played pro ball at a young age. But that’s where the similarities stop. While Doncic was a generational talent — that I admittedly had №2 on my Big Board in 2018, WOOF — Avidja is a player who I think will raise the floor of a team but not become a major difference-maker. He has a high basketball-IQ and is proficient across the board without standing out in one specific area. However, with proper NBA development — emphasis on “PROPER” — he could easily develop into the best player from the 2020 class.
Move back and acquire future assets:
This is the move that will be most popular with actual NBA front office personnel. The name of the game in the ever-changing NBA is flexibility and trading back in a weak draft to stack assets positions you well for future trades or signings. At №4 the Bulls theoretically have the ability to take one of the top players at their position. While this draft isn’t extremely strong on paper, it is great from a needs-based standpoint with there being a decent number of strong guards and intriguing bigs at the top.
While the Bulls were lucky enough to jump up four spots in the ’20 lottery, the Knicks, Pistons, and Hawks all fell two spots lower than they were expected to pick. The Cavaliers — picking directly behind Chicago at №5 — fell three spots than they were expected to pick. All of these franchises have young talent and both future and present pick to bargain with the Bulls to move up and target a specific prospect they covet. And for the Bulls, who could really use a talented playmaker, moving down means you likely have a chance at one of many talented passers.
This list includes names likes Tyrese Haliburton (10.0 assists per 100 possessions), Nico Mannion (9.3 assists per 100 poss.), Cole Anthony (30.1 points, 6.5 assists per 100 poss.), RJ Hampton (17.8% assist rate, 2.7% steal rate), and Kira Lewis (7.3 assists, 2.5 steals per 100 poss.).
Move up to select key prospect:
This is the most unlikely option based on what we know of this draft class and what Arturas Karnisovas has said so far. The Bulls have a roster full of young players with untapped potential and have the luxury of taking the best player available at №4, a great prize considering the odds favored the Bulls landing the №8 pick in this draft. But when Karnisovas says “best player,” only he and the new-look Bulls front office has any clue who that is in his opinion.
There is, of course, the possibility that Karnisovas and Eversley think a player like the aforementioned Ball, Edwards, Avidja, or even bigs Obi Toppin or James Wiseman is easily the best player in the class by their evaluations. That would mean trading one of Chicago’s rotation players and/or future picks to move up those few slots would be more than worth it. And while the general consensus is that this draft class is weak, you don’t have to look back too far in NBA history to find examples of absolute gems being found in weak classes and aggressive draft day moves paying off.
Personally, I believe staying put is the best course of action for the Bulls. The extremely unpredictable nature of the 2020 NBA Draft means that it is likely that a strong prospect is available at №4. But with veterans who could help title contenders in Thad Young and Tomas Satoransky and plenty of future picks, all options are on the table for the Bulls.