Sam Smith projects the Bulls first-round 2020 NBA draft pick depending on where they might land in the draft lottery on August 20.
How does August/September/October Madness sound? Probably not going to catch on. But the NBA is going ahead starting Monday with its 2020 playoff bracket. There'll be a mini play-in tournament this weekend before the brackets are set for the first round. The conference semifinals begin August 31. The conference finals begin September 15 and the Finals September 30.
There'll be one more bracket, August 20, also known as the Losers' Bracket, that being the NBA draft lottery. And the way things have been going for the Bulls lately, left out of the NBA Orlando "bubble" to complete the season, you just have that sickening feeling the 10th place Suns and 13th place Pelicans are going to get the lucky lottery balls and get into the top four in the lottery.
Say it ain't so, Adam!
The Pelicans were the big winners last season, Zioning up to the first pick from seventh. Yes, once again the Bulls pre-lottery position. The Bulls, of course, have drafted No. 7 the last three years. And while that resulted in adding competent starters, they remain without a drafted All-Star. Those players generally come in the top few selections in the draft.
Is it the Bulls time to get lucky and climb into the top four in this NBA draft?
It doesn't appear like this draft features many potential franchise players. But the draft always yields an All-Star where it's least expected. Every team that drafts a player in the top 10 will say they are pleased and excited. It would be easier to be enthusiastic with a top four selection.
The Bulls are slotted seventh based on their 23-43 record. The Wizards record could become worse than the Bulls as Washington is on the way to eight straight losses in Orlando. But the league at least locked in the lottery odds for the teams not included in the restart. So the Bulls have a 32 percent chance for a top four pick. The teams with the three poorest records—Golden State, Cleveland and Minnesota—have identical odds for a top four pick and for No. 1, 52 percent for top four and 14 percent for No. 1. The Bulls have a 7.5 percent chance land the No. 1 pick.
Here's a guess at what the Bulls might do depending on their pick and then if the player they wanted was previously selected. The Bulls could get a break into the top four, hold the seventh spot or fall from No. 8 through 11 depending on how many teams jump ahead of them like the Lakers, Memphis and New Orleans did last season.
If the Bulls have the No. 1 pick they would select:
James Wiseman, center, Memphis State.
The Bulls biggest needs probably are a point guard and a big, athletic center. Well, there's also wing and… there probably are too many questions about LaMelo Ball regarding shooting and defense to take him No. 1. Wiseman might be the most talented in this draft, and talent wins. Critics claim an occasional lack of aggression, which isn't exactly a scientific measure. And often the function of a dominant player not yet being tested.
If the Bulls have the No. 2 pick, they would select:
LaMelo Ball, point guard, the World.
There's been much speculation about the Warriors' draft plans because they are the only team among the Debased and Demoted Eight to resume being a top contender with the returns from injury of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. So would they trade the pick for a veteran or trade down for players who better complement Curry and Thompson? If they keep the pick, Wiseman makes sense with his defensive potential. This is the point guard spot for the Bulls. Ball is the most highly ranked by scouts, though some teams are as sanguine about Iowa State's Tyrese Haliburton, also a tall, playmaking point guard. Neither is a great shooter, which is important these days at the position. But they have proven adequate thus far. Ball seems to have the biggest boom/bust potential, which sort of is what the top of the draft is about: Try to find a star. This draft doesn't seem to have any potential franchise players even like last year with Zion and Ja; right, no one name only guys. Perhaps other than LaMelo, who is athletic with performing flair. Haliburton may be the safer choice and he also appears to be top facilitator. I probably take my chances with LaMelo, who looks like the biggest name in this draft.
If the Bulls have the No. 3 pick, they would select:
Deni Avdija, small forward, Israel.
If there were no change in the lottery drawing, the Bulls probably could get Ball at Nos. 3 or 4. Cleveland at No. 2, Minnesota at No. 3 and Atlanta at No. 4 are unlikely to be interested in a point guard, especially someone so ball dominant like, well, Ball. The Cavaliers selected point guards, Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, in the last two drafts. The Timberwolves traded for D'Angelo Russell to pair with Karl-Anthony Towns and the Hawks have All-Star Trae Young. Ball isn't that highly regarded to be a can't miss star. But for the purposes of this exercise, assume the Knicks at No. 6 moved to No. 2. The Knicks probably have the least talented overall roster in the league. But they seem most in need of a point guard. And New York loves a big name, if not necessarily new coach Tom Thibodeau.
Ball is considered a generally disinterested defender. So if Ball is off the board, would the Bulls take Haliburton? Possibly. He's not as daring a passer as Ball, but is more steady with fewer turnovers. He shoots more of a set shot like Magic Johnson and is thin, but looks like he could fit in quickly with Coby White and Zach LaVine. But the so called wing position has become just as vital as point guard in the NBA lately, and the Bulls also are exceptionally weak there with the oft-injured Otto Porter Jr. entering a final season. Avdija is an impressive wing prospect who can handle the ball and pass with an improving shot, a pro already who has played against high level competition. Not quite Luka Doncic, but the sort of player NBA scouts haven't tended to appreciate enough. He'd be a nice fit with LaVine and White, again in a strong offensive wing and backcourt alignment that fits the current NBA. And certainly the Orlando games, which have been all offense.
If the Bulls have the No. 4 pick, they would select:
Onyeka Okongwu, center, USC
There's a chance Avdija could be off the board by now as he could fit with either the Cavs or Timberwolves. Some scouts say Georgia shooting guard Anthony Edwards is the top talent in this draft with a physical NBA game already. Though he didn't shoot well in college (still young is always the explanation) and his team wasn't very good. Plus he doesn't seem that much of a sure shot to surpass both LaVine and White. Similarly, scouts say the closest to can't miss is Dayton's Obi Toppin. But that's the other position the Bulls have that's well staffed, power forward. Again, Toppin doesn't seem that much better than what they have. The Bulls wouldn't miss with Haliburton with the need for a facilitator. But Okongwu would be a strong addition.
Yes, Wendell Carter Jr. is a somewhat similar player, but not quite with the physical force that Okongwu could bring. He's in the mold of Miami's Bam Adebayo. But most significantly, the Bulls have had an appallingly weak physical response and presence these last few seasons. Other than perhaps from some of their small, reserve guards. He could provide that physical presence that also could empower teammates. It makes a difference when you know someone has your back.
If the Bulls have the No. 7 pick, they would select:
Tyrese Haliburton, point guard, Iowa State
Ol' No. 7, eh? In another six-player draft? The Bulls, as much mentioned, have drafted seventh the last three years. They haven't particularly missed, but once you're out of the top five you need some luck and great scouting for a star. They're there, but not always in plain sight. The general consensus is Wiseman, Ball, Edwards, Toppin, Avdija and Okonjwu will be taken in some order in the top six picks. Haliburton is often part of that group which extends to No. 7. He may not project as a star, but he'd fit well with the Bulls, a tall point guard with a credible shot who is an excellent passer and celebrated as a teammate. He could play both guard positions, which is in fashion now, a smart, efficient and effective point guard.
If the Bulls have the No. 8 pick, they would select:
Patrick Williams, small forward, Florida State
This is where the draft supposedly drops off. We know, of course, there will be stars who come afterward, like in previous drafts after the top nine with Paul George, Klay Thompson and Donovan Mitchell beyond the non lottery starts like Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Williams might be someone like that, a potential two-way player (a vital Bulls need as their best defenders are generally their poorest offensive players) who could grow into a scoring wing player. This is about the scouting excellence the Bulls hope the new management brings. New top executive Arturas Karnisovas in brief media comments after he was hired disputed conventional wisdom this wasn't a deep draft. If the luck goes against the Bulls again, he'll have a chance to prove that.
If the Bulls have the No. 9 pick, they would select:
Killian Hayes, point guard, France
The left hand dominant point guard has been rated top five by some teams, though he seems less NBA-ready despite international pro experience than someone like Haliburton. He seems like he'll develop into a facilitating point guard who can lead a team with an improving shot, though he tends to be more a slashing scorer for now.
If the Bulls have the No. 10 pick, they would select:
Aaron Nesmith, shooting guard, Vanderbilt:
He's more of a catch and shoot guy and missed much of last season with a stress fracture. But he fits what the NBA demands now and what the Bulls dearly lack, which is great shooting. He was shooting more than 50 percent on threes even with attempting more than eight per game. He's not the athlete and defender like Klay Thompson, but is that kind of player who appears like he could be a big time streak scorer. The Bulls desperately lack a great spot shooter.
If the Bulls have the No. 11 pick, they would select:
Devin Vassell, small forward, Florida State.
Mostly this would suggest the NBA really hates the Bulls if four teams were to jump them in the lottery. Vassell wouldn't be a bad consolation prize. He's an athletic wing who runs the floor well and who could develop that two-way game that's in such demand. Many of these mock drafts mention Auburn's Isaac Okoro for the Bulls, something of a next Jimmy Butler. But Okoro seems to have so little shooting ability that it wouldn't make sense even with his defensive potential. Of course, if the Bulls do select him I'm going to have to do some fancy backtracking. I think they can do better even at the edge of the top 10.