Sam Smith breaks down what moving up to the fourth pick means for the Bulls.
You can just hear the United Center announcer now. Frommmmmmm Maccabi Tel Aviv, forwardddddd….Deni Avdija.
Who just might be the Bulls 2020 draft selection now that the Bulls Thursday in the NBA draft lottery moved up to No. 4 for October's NBA draft.
"How happy we are to move up, to break recent tradition," Bulls Executive Vice-president of Basketball Operations Arturas Karnisovas said on a post drawing media call. "We know that moving up from seven (the last three drafts) to four is a huge deal for our organization and for the city of Chicago and the fans of the Chicago Bulls. So we're extremely happy."
Karnisovas represented the Bulls on the video call set up by ESPN and the NBA. Karnisovas was at the Advocate center wearing a black Bulls golf shirt with red Bulls logo. As ESPN counted down, he was looking inscrutable as the announcer intoned that the Bulls and Hornets had moved up when the Knicks came up with No. 8, a drop of two places. The Bulls would move up three after dropping three last year, from four to seven. Karnisovas was shown with a shy smile when the Bulls were revealed fourth.
"A bunch of things happen in the draft," noted Karnisovas, who was typically circumspect about his intentions. "You're going to move up. You're going to move down. Who knows? There's going to be a lot of conversations with other teams. It's an exciting time. People are going to have different evaluations of each player and opinion is going to vary (because of inactions since March). I think there are opportunities there and we're going to take advantage of them. Some teams are going to look at that player at the four. Some teams are going to look at him at 18.
"There's a lot of opportunity in that environment," Karnisovas added. "I was obviously hoping for top three. But it was great, great news. Hopefully at four we're going to get a very good player."
It's not considered a potential superstar heavy draft at the top like last year with Zion Williamson. And especially with the Golden State Warriors at No. 2 and going to get back in title contention, there could be trades. The Knicks, for instance, are said to be anxious to draft a point guard. But they fell from sixth to eighth when both the Bulls and Charlotte Hornets, the big lottery winners, moved ahead. Charlotte picks third. Could the Knicks put together a package and the Warriors still would have a lottery pick?
But without a trade it also makes sense for Golden State to add a player most rank as the No. 1 or No. 2 prospect in athletic seven footer James Wiseman. The Minnesota Timberwolves with center Karl-Anthony Towns figure to be attracted to the other most highly regarded prospect, Georgia shooting guard Anthony Edwards.
That sort of sequence—or pretty much any other—would leave the Bulls able to fill crucial needs almost no matter how the first three selections go. Though Karnisovas has been coy about the Bulls needs, the biggest gaps seem to be at point guard and small forward. Perhaps a big center if Wiseman were available.
Certainly Charlotte could select Avdija, a versatile small forward who already is playing professional basketball. Which would leave the Bulls with a further interesting dilemma since Dayton's athletic scoring forward Obi Toppin is regarded as the most can't miss prospect in this draft.
The Bulls have depth at power forward with Lauri Markkanen and perhaps Wendell Carter Jr., who in this NBA still projects as a possible center. But Karnisovas has said he doesn't worry about position and has duplicated positions in the draft if the player is the most talented.
There also would be one or two highly rated point guards available, the most notable being LaMelo Ball. The younger brother of the Pelicans' Lonzo is the more talented in the family, a brassy lead guard with an often spectacular style and polarizing family name. He's likely to be the most notable player coming into the draft and an attraction with his passing. Iowa State point guard Tyrese Haliburton isn't considered as eye catching. He's steadier and more versatile with an ability to play off the ball as well. Either could be the facilitating point guard the Bulls miss.
But Avdija would be an ideal fit, a fluid, athletic and versatile point forward who could draw comparisons to Toni Kukoc and Scottie Pippen, if not quite with their resumes. Israel restarted playing and Avdija has averaging 17.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists while shooting 41 percent on threes, the latter often considered a flaw. He's able to deliver the ball off the dribble and play a full court transition game that would fit with Zach LaVine and Coby White. The prospects are tantalizing.
Which is why hitting the lottery for the first time since the 2008 draft and Derrick Rose was crucial for the Bulls. They were settled into the seventh spot again with the possibility of falling one or two spots if teams jumped, like the Lakers, Pelicans and Grizzlies did last year.
Though Karnisovas has emphasized there's a wide variety of opinion about this draft and indicated there is value to be found throughout, the consensus about the most talented players has been through the sixth or seventh selections. Moving up to No. 4 assures the Bulls of being able to select among the most elite players in this draft.
Karnisovas also noted the expected variations of analysis in this draft because of the coronavirus. Plus when he was a top executive with the Denver Nuggets, the team often traded down in the draft. They did so to positive results when they traded the No. 11 pick in the 2014 draft for Nos. 16 and 19. Doug McDermott didn't work out for the Bulls that year while the Nuggets were pleased with Gary Harris and Jusuf Nurkic. But the Nuggets also traded down with Utah, trading the Jazz in 2017 the rights to Donovan Mitchell for Trey Lyles and the No 24 pick, which they used for Tyler Lydon.
This will be the first time Karnisovas is in charge of an organization with the responsibility of making the final draft decision. Moving up in the draft for the No. 4 selection is a huge preliminary victory. The October draft will help determine whether it will eventually translate into more wins for the Bulls.
"I think you address by selecting the best player available, especially at four," said Karnisovas. "I don't think you address needs at the four. You get the best talent. That's what we're going to be looking for with the highest upside player. The way I approach the draft is there's a ton of opportunities. You're going to take 100 calls and possibly nothing is going to happen and you're going to stay at four and (second round) 44. It's an exciting time to make your organization better that night. It will probably be a difference of opinion from team to team, which creates opportunities. So that's the way I'm looking at it.
"On Oct. 16," said Karnisovas, "you'll see who it's going to be. We're going to select a player that's going to help us next year and in the future for sure."
It seems much more likely now.
Mock Draft August 20, 2020
1. Minnesota Timberwolves. Anthony Edwards, Georgia SG
They've got center Karl-Anthony Towns and traded for his buddy, point guard D'Angelo Russell. Edwards is the big, athletic shooting guard for that Big Three. Though he's somewhat erratic and reminds me a bit of Isaiah Rider. Bad memories in Minnesota with JR. He's considered by many the top talent in this draft.
2. Golden State Warriors, James Wiseman, Memphis C
With Steph Curry and Klay Thompson returning from injury, they're not the typical lottery team. So they'll also be looking at trades to make an immediate rerun. If they keep the pick, Wiseman makes the most sense as a big time athlete to hand off the baton to compete into the next decade.
3. Charlotte Hornets, Obi Toppin, Dayton, PF
There'll be talk about LaMelo Ball and the attention he brings in a market with modest interest. Perhaps too much risk/reward. They have a bunch of guards and need scoring. Toppin is the safest pick, a sure athletic scorer in a scoring league.
4. Bulls, Deni Avdija, Maccabi Tel Aviv, SF
Ball would be appealing for attention and excitement. And need as the Bulls don't have a true facilitating point guard. But you still could make a case of seeing what Coby White and Zach LaVine could do together. The wing position is virtually empty and with his international experience he's already a pro who also can be a secondary ball handler. Luka-light? That wouldn't be too bad.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers, LaMelo Ball, Ball-land, PG
What, another point guard! Yes, it was Collin Sexton, who is sort of a point guard, and last year Darius Garland. Sure it's a guard/wing league. But another? Ball's too talented to pass. You can always trade a point guard. Perhaps the Bulls would be interested as they were enamored of Garland last year. Plus in post-LeBron/Kyrie times you need an attraction.
6. Atlanta Hawks, Onyeka Okongwu, USC, C
He's a physical and powerful inside force to support the addition of Clint Capela and the presence of John Collins to add that toughness to all the skilled shooters and Trae Young.
7. Detroit Pistons, Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State, PG
Derrick Rose has some years left, but they'll need a successor. Plus he's excellent at playing off the ball and can work into an eventual starting spot as a reliable leader.
8. New York Knicks, Isaac Okoro, Auburn, F
He'll begin the Thibs effect as probably the best wing defender in this draft. They were supposedly hoping for a point guard but don't seem to have anything to trade up and the remaining points may be too big a risk. You hire Thibs, you have to play his way.
9. Washington Wizards, Killian Hayes, France, PG
John Wall is set to return and supposedly looking good. But those were a lot of surgeries and after losing Tomas Satoransky to the Bulls there really was no replacement. So they'll eventually need one, if not sooner.
10. Phoenix Suns, Devin Vassell, Florida State, F
You never can have too much shooting in this NBA. The Suns have the league's longest winning streak going with those bubbleicious eight straight. They have Mikal Bridges, one of those 3-D guys like Vassell. Devin Booker always can use more spacing and shooting around him.
11. San Antonio Spurs, Patrick Williams, Florida State F
He's another of those kinds of players who can surprise and be one of the best in this draft with his potential two-way skills and perhaps another steal for the Spurs
12. Sacramento Kings, Cole Anthony, North Carolina PG
It's been a tough year for the Kings, bad in the bubble, the GM fired and having to look at the what if of Luka all the time. Anthony was the big prospect last year and had a knee injury. Worth a look for the upside.
13. New Orleans Pelicans, Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt, SG
Could be the best shooter in the draft who had an even shorter season than most in college with a foot injury. Lots of young guys and some missing shooting if they don't keep JJ Redick beyond next season.
14. Boston Celtics, Saddiq Bey, Villanova, F
This was Memphis' pick from a trade and the Celtics have two other firsts. So who knows what they'll do as they don't figure to use all three. Bey's an excellent shooter and though they need size their wing formula seems to work well. He's more insurance as Hayward has had injury issues.