Sam Smith highlights the storylines of Wednesday's NBA Draft as it still remains to be seen who the Bulls are targeting, as well as who will go No. 1 overall.
Could the Bulls fate again depend on Michael Jordan?
That's how it could be in one of the most unpredictable NBA draft weeks in memory.
Jordan's Charlotte Hornets have the No. 3 selection in the first round, immediately ahead of the Bulls at No. 4. The most polarizing figure and biggest name in this draft is LaMelo Ball, the player who screams "boom or bust" more than the roaring ‘20s and the Stock Market Crash.
Invest in the currency of Ball's talent and risk the counterfeit promises of the expectations?
The Bulls are said to be interested, if only to coalesce with basketball chief Arturas Karnisovas' declaration to select the most talented player available. It's reasonably clear by now this draft, like last year with the top two of Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, appears to divide in talent, if not audacity, after the top three of Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and Ball.
Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, and LaMelo Ball are projected by many to go in the top 3 of 2020 NBA Draft is some order.
League executives studying the draft, which is an inexact science given all the intentional misdirection, generally agree Edwards and Wiseman will not escape the top three picks. Many also believe Ball will be selected in the top three, either by one of the lead trio teams or a team to trade up into a top three position. But the teams believed most interested, like New York and Detroit, have so little talent on their rosters to offer that such a move seems questionable.
Speculation around the NBA is if one of those three top players slips to No. 4, it would be Ball.
And then what would the Bulls do?
There has been a buzz—or perhaps a howl—in the last few days that the Timberwolves at No. 1 are interested in Ball. It's certainly possible even as scoring oriented shooting guard Edwards seems a more graceful fit with ball dominant point guard D'Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns. My guess is the Timberwolves select Edwards.
Then comes the Warriors, who have long been rumored to be interested in trading the pick for a veteran to widen their title window with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson returning from injury. Though it would seem an athletic seven footer like Wiseman could play immediately for the Warriors and be a bridge to their next era without going back to a full rebuild. They're likely never to get a draft pick that high again.
So then comes Charlotte, which basically doesn't have anyone on the roster who projects as an All-Star. Ball supposedly could be with his ball handling flair as a 6-7 point guard. You draft Ball, at least you get on TNT again this season. Fans will want to see him. As opposed to the rest of your roster. Similarly with the Bulls, who were basically excommunicated from national TV in their recent rebuild.
But there's considerable baggage that comes with a visit from Ball. Sometimes the inlaws don't leave.
There's LaMelo's mischievous father, somewhat more furtive in recent years, who even has challenged Jordan to play one-on-one. He wasn't heard from much in New Orleans where brother Lonzo has settled in as an overhyped basically backup guard. Dad's silence reportedly was because former coach Alvin Gentry dished out some hot sauce. He supposedly explained to local reporters that if they quoted the elder Ball for a story he would no longer give interviews to the ones who did. That was Alvin's big move to make culture easier.
James Borrego probably could accomplish a similar embargo in Mike's small North Carolina media market.
But is that conservative area ready for the Ball show? Would Ball Inc. be satisfied there? Could MJ avoid airing it all out?
Charlotte's Devonte Graham and Miles Bridges
The Hornets are now being managed by the respected Mitch Kupchak, who told local media recently the Hornets are "not good enough to draft by position... We need to upgrade every position." That came in the wake of rumors the size-challenged Hornets were targeting a big man like USC's Onyeka Okongwu. That speculation has diminished some since with similar sentiment they also would go for best talent, which means one of the top three.
The Hornets did trade for point guard Terry Rozier last year in losing Kemba Walker and have emerging point guard Devonte Graham, arguably their best player. You can always trade a point guard, but can Charlotte take the chance? Or will they drop the Ball?
With the Hornets' weak roster they could be a better target for a team to trade into the third spot if Ball were available. Then Charlotte presumably could pick up a player like Okongwu, Obi Toppin or Patrick Williams with perhaps future draft capital.
It is seeming more like Ball doesn't escape the top three.
But if he does, next up is the Bulls.
Would they take a chance? I believe they would even if the new management has been so circumspect that the Bulls' draft desire remains one of the biggest mysteries around the league. I've heard lately from executives alleged Bulls interest in Williams, Kira Lewis, Killian Hayes and Okongwu. And, of course, Deni Avdija, who remains the consensus choice around the NBA for the Bulls at No. 4.
The concern with Ball is the ball.
LaMelo Ball projects to be the top point guard taken in the NBA Draft.
The way he is most effective is controlling the ball and being a facilitator and playmaker. He often does so with brilliance and remarkably playful insouciance that doesn't allow you to take your eyes off him. Though sometimes also like a car wreck with poor shooting and erratic play. There's also been his mercenary basketball journey since 10th grade that's rarely had him in an organized setting. In this coming crucible for the Bulls franchise, is that who you want leading your franchise? But he also projects as the sort of potential star who might elevate a franchise. And who is hard to find on the current roster.
Avdija is widely regarded as a "safe" selection, a talented and versatile forward with a variety of skills. Perhaps not enough to carry a team, but certainly to enhance and blend in. The Cavaliers selecting immediately after the Bulls are said to be most interested in Avdija. Would the Bulls trade down one to get something for Avdija? Trade up one to get Ball?
The Hornets, Bulls and Cavaliers all have experienced multiple years of rebuilding projects with rosters that still don't project as playoff ready. Perhaps that changes with this draft. It looks like Edwards and Wiseman in the top two. And then some very difficult decisions. What will the Bulls do? Is Michael still up in the Air about all this? It's the week that's not for the weak. Buckle in.