Ask Sam Mailbag: No Consensus Top 4, Trade-Up Scenarios, and the Denver Nuggets

A Monday edition of Sam Smith's Mailbag.
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later
Draft 2020 | AT&T Bulls Draft Coverage

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Art Alenik:

I've checked a few mock drafts on the web and they're all over the place, not only for the Bulls' pick but the top 3 as well. I don't think I've seen Edwards out of the top 3, but Wiseman and Ball both as low as 6th and Avdija as low as 8th. I've also seen Edwards, Wiseman, Ball and Avdija going #1 in various mocks. As for the Bulls, I've seen mocks having them pick Toppin, Ball, Avdija, and one where Wiseman falls to #4. Toppin was probably the most common Bulls pick I saw, but there is nothing like a consensus at all. Nobody has been able to scout and there is no reliable ‘common wisdom'. It's always a bit of a crapshoot, and you never know who will – or won't – develop beyond what you see... or who will get hurt. But this year is even more so. Usually, opinions consolidate somewhat as we approach the draft. Not sure that'll happen this year; maybe even the opposite.

Sam Smith:

That's an apt summary of this draft when perhaps scouting, perspicacity and luck will be the Big Three. Bulls executive Arturas Karnisovas has insisted it's a better than advertised draft. Especially since it's advertised as not that worthy of an advertising campaign. Which also makes it a very difficult draft to get right and a treasure for second guessing with so many young players who haven't even played in college, let alone a tournament, and a collegiate season unfinished and workouts basically eliminated. Under this sort of scenario, Scottie Pippen in 1987 would have been a fourth round pick along with Jack Haley.

There have been less talented drafts: 2001 with Kwame Brown and Tyson Chandler 1-2, 2007 with Andrea Bargnani, LaMarcus Aldridge (Bulls traded rights for No. 4), Adam Morrison, Tyrus Thomas and Shelden Williams and 2013 with Anthony Bennett, Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter Jr., Cody Zeller and Alex Len. This draft reminds me more of 1989 when pre-draft analysts variously had six different players as the No. 1 pick. Bulls broadcaster Stacey King went No. 6 with the Bulls, though the Kings were close to taking him first. It also shows how different careers can be depending on your team. King was a scoring machine in college and with the undisciplined offensive oriented Kings, he probably would have averaged 20 points and perhaps been an All-Star. But he wouldn't have any championship rings. Shawn Kemp at No. 17 and Tim Hardaway at No. 14 were the top players in that draft. The first six were Pervis Ellison, Danny Ferry, Sean Elliott, Glen Rice, J.R. Reid and King. I believe this year's top six will be better than 1989s. But who know where the best players will be picked? Check back in four years.


Wendell Carter Jr.

Stephen Zwick:

This feels like one of those drafts where in a few years in the inevitable "redraft column" scenario, the 12th or 14th player drafted will be "redrafted" as the top pick. Regardless, what do you think of Will Perdue's idea to package the 4th pick with Wendell Carter for the 2nd pick to select James Wiseman? Wiseman runs the floor really well for his size and has much better size than Carter. Though Carter seems like he better positions himself as a defender. Golden State gets a more NBA now ready player at a position of need plus another top pick. I haven't seen enough of Wiseman to really have a definitive opinion.

Sam Smith:

Seeing Will's name in trade speculation makes me smile, and not necessarily because he helped build the Bulls last three titles being traded for Dennis Rodman. I think about 1994 and 1995 when General Manager Jerry Krause, believing like many of us that Jordan was serious when he said he was done with basketball, was trying to trade Perdue. And others. Krause was good in the draft, but not so much in trades because he wanted to make the other team look bad. Like Michael, he was competitive, too, and wanted big wins. He never articulated it quite as well. As I recall with Horace Grant gone and Phil Jackson begging for a replacement power forward, Krause was trying to get Brian Grant. He was offering Perdue. Kings General Manager Jerry Reynolds was unimpressed. He's got three championship rings, Krause said of Perdue. So does your trainer, Reynolds responded. Yes, I digress.

Wiseman generally is regarded top two in talent for this draft and I think he will be very good. I don't see him as a franchise talent, so that's too much for me to give up. It's also a bad time for the Bulls to trade because I think their players are terribly undervalued with the poor season and absence from the bubble. Though most of the discussion about Bulls players who regressed is around Lauri Markkanen, I think Carter suffered the most from the way the team played. Eight games into his career as a rookie, he had a game in Denver with 25 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. A month later against Andre Drummond, he exceeded that with 28 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. Once Jim Boylen took over from Fred Hoiberg and especially this season with the emphasis on three-point shooting, Carter never had a 25-point game again around several injuries. He'd often be five feet from the basket, hesitate and look for someone to shoot a 25 footer. I wouldn't give him up now. And not basically two lottery picks for Wiseman in an era when centers are no longer the dominant player. I'd draft Wiseman if he fell to four, which is possible in this draft, because the Bulls need that seven foot athletic guy. But like with Zach and Coby, I still want to see Wendell unleashed. And they're getting a good player at four. I'd keep the pick.


Michael Porter Jr.

Mike Queensworth:

The Nuggets miss Harris and Barton. Jazz just scoring at will. MPJ is so stiff on the defensive end. He looks like he is afraid of getting hurt on that end.

Sam Smith:

It does look like Porter's Hall of Fame enshrinement won't be this year. He's good, but I still see a lot of Mirotic. The Nuggets basically take him out at the end of every game because his defense is so poor. And that's with a team that doesn't defend much. The Nuggets are (somewhat) surprisingly down 3-1. Hey, maybe Mike Malone will be available. Nah. But we do look for signs of what Arturas Karnisovas will do as the new Bulls lead executive. Will the Bulls be the Nuggets? They've been very good, but just that. They shoot a ton of threes and don't defend much. Though no one in the bubble has been the last few months, so it's a sliding scale. Out in the first round would be disappointing underachieving season.

Though we look for clues with the Nuggets, it's really not possible because Karnisovas wasn't the final decision maker. It's his first time in that position and he already looks good with the Bulls best lottery since 2008. But he must be wincing for his former team, which is being chewed up by Donovan Mitchell, whom the Nuggets drafted and traded to the Jazz for a lower first round pick and former lottery pick Trey Lyles. It seemed to make sense at the time and was similar to the Bulls two-for-one deal of the rights to No. 2 (LaMarcus Aldridge) for No. 4 and Viktor Khryapa. Hey, he went back to Moscow and played pretty well. Two starters for one seemed to make sense. To the Nuggets as well. Good for the Utah, where Mitchell has become a star and the playoffs leading scorer so far. Lots of isolations by him, which seems to work in this non-defense bubble. Remember way back when the playoffs were physical and lower scoring? You know, last year.

Mentioning Mitchell also reminds us of this debate we were having of where Lauri Markkanen fit in that draft. We were saying third after his second season. Now it's up to Markkanen to show that form again. It didn't help the Bulls never got the chance in Orlando. That 2017 draft, too, is another example of how difficult and capricious the GM job can be. We were assured Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson would be elite. Now they're all reserves. If you ranked that 2017 draft now, would it look like this? Jayson Tatum (3), Donovan Mitchell (13), De'Aaron Fox (5), Bam Adebayo (14), John Collins (19), Kyle Kuzma (27), Lonzo Ball (2), OG Anunoby (23), Jarrett Allen (22), Luke Kennard (12). Where would Markkanen fit? Based on his first two seasons? Or last season? Where will he fit in two years?

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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