Sam Smith: Here's what the Bulls might do if they land a Top-Four pick

The Bulls hold a 20.3% chance of moving up into the top-four of the draft and keeping their pick.
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later
Draft 2021 | AT&T Bulls Draft Coverage

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Sam Smith breaks down the Bulls' chances in Tuesday night's NBA Draft Lottery and offers his thoughts on who the team may select if they happen to draw a top-four selection.

I'm relatively familiar with 20 percent odds, which is the chance the Bulls have Tuesday in the NBA Draft Lottery of retaining their No 1 draft pick and getting a top four selection in this year's NBA draft.

That 20 percent chance is what my first employer in a book store gave me of making it to my second week after I was asked by a customer where was the self-help section and replied it would defeat the purpose if I told them.

That's what her friends said were the chances a popular girl like Kathleen Rood would marry me. My friends had it more like the 4.5 percent chance the Bulls have to get the No. 1 selection (she did).

That's what my high school English teacher said was my chances of graduating when I defined gross ignorance as 144 times worse than ignorance and explained the significance of the phrase "darkest before the dawn" as the best time if you planned to steal your neighbor's newspaper.

But here I am still relatively employed, married for more than 40 years and looking for a frame for that diploma. So, yes, there's also a chance Tuesday for the Bulls in the 7:30 p.m. drawing on ESPN.

The Bulls last March at the trading deadline acquired All-Star center Nikola Vucevic from the Orlando Magic mostly for Wendell Carter Jr. and the Bulls' 2021 and 2023 first round draft picks. The 2021 pick, however, is protected one through four, which means if in the lottery it becomes a top four selection, the Bulls retain the pick for this draft.

The two No. 1 picks then roll over to 2022 and 2024 since a team cannot trade consecutive No. 1 picks.

So it's also a big day for the Bulls, who will be represented in the video drawing by general manager Marc Eversley. Former Bulls center and Chicago native Nazr Mohammed will represent Oklahoma City with other former and current players, like Ben Wallace for the Pistons, Miles Bridges for the Hornets, Fred VanVleet for Toronto and Hakeem Olajuwon for the Rockets representing their teams. Pelicans vice president Swin Cash will represent New Orleans.

Anthony Edwards represents the Timberwolves, who have a 37 percent chance of a top-four pick. If their pick isn't top-three, it goes to the Warriors from the Andrew Wiggins trade. Thus the Warriors could have two lottery selections. Houston, Detroit and Orlando have the best odds for a top pick, though the Rockets also could lose out if they fall out of the top-four.

The Bulls move on with trade possibilities and free agency if they do not land a top-four position.

But if the Bulls do end up in the top four, what will/should they do?

Keeping to form, it appears once again they will not be consulting me.

We know from the history of the draft—Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard at 15, Donovan Mitchell at 13 and MVP Nikola Jokic from the second round—that winning the right to select in the top-four doesn't guarantee acquiring the best player.

Still, the "experts" generally have identified four or five players in a first tier of this draft. They might have differing opinions in five years, but the consensus for now is those players will in some order fill out the top-four or five selections in the July 29 draft.

Cade Cunningham

So if the Bulls get the No. 1 pick, what will they do?

Select Cade Cunningham of Oklahoma State.

The 6-7 swingman is generally regarded as the top talent in this draft. Though he gave off some confusing signals in the NCAA tournament with uncertain play at times, pro scouts generally are convinced of his star potential because of his varied skills to play all three perimeter positions as a point forward. The Bulls primary need is generally regarded to be a point guard. But with players like Vucevic, Zach LaVine and Coby White, a passing forward like Cunningham could alleviate the need for just a primarily point guard ball handler. Though Patrick Williams played considerable small forward last season, he probably fits better as a stretch power forward. So small forward also would fill a vital position for the Bulls. Most scouts believe Cunningham will be taken No. 1 by whoever has the pick.

Jalen Suggs

So if the Bulls get the No. 2 pick, what would they do?

Select Jalen Suggs of Gonzaga.

There seems little chance Suggs would go No. 1. Some have speculated USC center Evan Mobley could surpass Cunningham depending on the team. Suggs would fit many of the Bulls primary needs, a smart player and unselfish playmaker who has good size and defensive abilities to help run a team. He comes from a sophisticated program and is a competent shooter. The Bulls could even see him as a No. 1 overall pick considering their needs.

Evan Mobley

So the Bulls get the No. 3 pick, what do they do?

Select Evan Mobley of USC.

The general assumption is Suggs still would be there, but with the importance of point guards and the impact they've had (see Chris Paul), there's always a possibility he could be selected depending on which team might advance in the lottery. Assuming Cunningham and Suggs were off the board, the Bulls probably would select Mobley. Sure, the Bulls have invested heavily in Vucevic. But he's so skilled he can step out and also play power forward with his shooting. Mobley is a dynamic, athletic seven-foot shot blocker with shooting ability. Some say a bigger version of Bam Adebayo or even like Anthony Davis. Though centers lately are not generally considered high priority, athletic big men are valuable with huge perimeter players like Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant. Having an athlete to defend players like that can change a playoff series.

Davion Mitchell

So the Bulls get the No. 4 pick, what do they do?

Select Davion Mitchell of Baylor.

The popular consensus is this is a four and perhaps five player draft with the last two being the G-league freshmen, shooting guard Jalen Green and small forward Jonathan Kuminga. Green generally is rated higher with an elite scoring ability, a bigger version of recent rookie scoring threat Anthony Edwards. He's a top athlete and scorer. And even though the Bulls have LaVine at shooting guard, the NBA these days is about a lot of scoring. You can never have too much. Kuminga is that Pascal Siakam type of athlete/scorer that has become popular. And with good reason, though perhaps less a need for the Bulls given his below average shooting. Mitchell is usually not considered part of most of the top fives, but neither was Patrick Williams in the last draft. Mitchell mostly outplayed Suggs in that championship game. He's smaller and a junior, and NBA teams often disdain upper classmen. I like experience and maturity. I know; not being asked. Mitchell is a tough player who improved his shooting dramatically and makes plays for teammates. That sounds like someone the Bulls—and many teams—can use.

And, remember, as I wondered to my college accounting professor just before I began to consider journalism: If money doesn't grow on trees, how come banks have branches? So perhaps achievement remains possible even with a 20 percent chance.

Got a question for Sam?

Submit your question to Sam at asksam@bulls.com

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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