Here's who the Bulls could consider taking if they jump up in the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery

The Bulls 2023-24 season begins Tuesday with the NBA Draft Lottery conducted at McCormick Place.

It could become the highlight of the Bulls season if the lottery balls bounce the right way and the Bulls get one of the top-four selections in this draft that features potentially historic French big man Victor Wembanyama as the expected No. 1 pick. 

Though the odds are against a Bulls win. 

The Orlando Magic has the rights to the Bulls 2023 draft pick, currently ranked No. 11 in the draft, from the 2021 Nikola Vučević trade. It involved Wendell Carter Jr. and two No. 1 picks, the first being the 2021 selection Orlando used for Franz Wagner. The transaction is complete once the Magic exercises the 2023 pick. If that pick comes up in the top-four in this lottery, the Bulls retain the selection for this year and the Magic would be entitled to the Bulls pick top-three protected pick in 2024. If the Bulls miss the playoffs in 2024 and move up in that lottery also, then Orlando just gets two second round picks to conclude the deal. 

So it’s most likely the Magic gets the 2023 Bulls draft pick this year.

But you say there’s a chance?

There is for the Bulls, who in the draft lottery after winning a one-ball tiebreaker over Oklahoma City have a 1.8 percent chance next week to get the No. 1 pick—it was 1.7 percent when the Bulls rang the bell to skip to No. 1 for Derrick Rose—and an 8.5 percent chance to delay the delivery of the pick to Orlando and land in this year’s top four. Which could prove restorative for the Bulls franchise, as well, with two players, Scoot Henderson and Brandon Miller, regarded by many NBA executives as future All-Stars.

May the 16th be with the Bulls.

Here’s a look at the projected top-four prospects for next month’s NBA draft and how they might fit and look in a Bulls jersey.

No. 1: Victor Wembanyama, 7-5, 220, France, Center.

He’s the reason why we’ll be watching the NBA next October. Eventually it will be for other reasons when the real players decide to begin playing. But the excitement for the start of the 2022-24 season will be this French phenom. Or, at least, we hope he will be. The scouting projection is the NBA never has seen anything like him, a man seven and a half feet tall who plays like a six-foot guard who can shoot, pass and dribble like the best at each position. And defend like few have with that size and coordination. Generational talent has been thrown around often, but since the NHL Blackhawks last week won their lottery rights for such a guy the word police have put that off limits here for the NBA Lottery. Wembanyama is the third most anticipated for sure NBA No. 1 pick in the last 20 years. The other two? Uh oh, Greg Oden and Zion Williamson. So it’s never a sure thing. You worry about guys that size, many of whom have had leg and foot injuries. Wembanyama seems like a high-level Chet Holmgren, the No. 2 pick last year who suffered an—oh oh—foot injury and missed his rookie season. But you have to take Wembanyama first if you get the chance. Just like everyone had to with Oden and Zion. Even if some believed Kevin Durant or Ja Morant would be better as they came to be. Your fan base will never let you live it down if you don’t. 

If the Bulls get No. 1, they are taking Wembanyama. The projected Nos. 2 and 3 selections are highly ranked, but really no debate compared to Wembanyama. So what if the Bulls get the lottery luck? Though variously listed anywhere between 7-2 and 7-5, Wembanyama probably is an NBA power forward for this era. Which would fit the Bulls well since that’s their secondary need after a point guard. Winning the lottery for Wembanyama shouldn’t mean a complete dismantling of the roster for draft picks and young players. Wembanyama would fit ideally next to Nikola Vučević with Wembanyama playing a defensive center for rim protection and more on the perimeter on offense with his shooting range and handle. Then Patrick Williams moves to small forward for what could be one of the better front lines in the league for its defense and offensive versatility. Wembanyama might even be the best French center in franchise history. Which means something when you also had Joakim Noah.

No. 2. Scoot Henderson, 6-3, 195, G-League, Point Guard.

This is almost a tossup selection for most of the league, and even if the Bulls landed No. 2 because the Bulls’ primary needs are a point guard and a power forward. Assuming, of course, there are no major changes in the roster core and Patrick Williams moves to wing/small forward. Which is kind of a major change, but it’s difficult to see how the Bulls franchise can move forward relegating Williams to a bench role. The other guy for this spot is Alabama power forward, Brandon Miller. He is the ideal positional size player for this era at power forward, an athletic 6-9 player who can shoot from long range and defend his position. There was a legal issue and an injury late in the season that moderated his production. But no one in the NBA seems concerned it would outweigh his potential production and possible star turn.

But Henderson should be the choice for the Bulls if they were to get No. 2 in the Draft Lottery because, as we’ve seen, how difficult it is to find a dynamic point guard. And how much of a difference it makes to have one since the Bulls best play was in 2010-12 with Derrick Rose. And then not again until 2021 with Lonzo Ball. Henderson at 19 years old isn’t ready to take over a veteran team that has designs on competing in the Eastern Conference, like the Bulls do. But no teenager does. Remember, LeBron James’ teams didn’t make the playoffs his first two seasons. And Henderson is no LeBron. Which also is good to remember about Wembanyama. He isn’t getting into the playoffs as a rookie, either. Unless a team toward the bottom of the lottery moves up to get him. Henderson seems more like a scoring point guard for now in the Rose mold. He had his breakout game earlier this season scoring 28 points to lead his team against Wembanyama’s team. Remember, the Bulls had .500 records in Rose’s first two seasons. And when he said he could be the MVP we all rolled our eyes. Keep an eye on this guy.

No. 3. Brandon Miller, Alabama, 6-9, 200, Power Forward.

He had a controversial close to the season with a report he had handled a gun involved in a fatal shooting, charges that were denied and Miller then was cleared to play. He had a groin injury and a poor close to the season in the NCAA tournament. But he remains a valuable NBA prospect with seemingly no concerns among teams about involvement in the case.

Miller’s abilities fit the profile for the modern NBA power forward who can shoot threes and has the size to defend inside and outside with defensive switches. Miller shot 38 percent on threes despite a poor close to the season after the controversy emerged. He was almost 42 percent before that and averaging more than eight rebounds. For the Bulls, he’d be an ideal fit with Patrick Williams at small forward and Nikola Vučević at center with Williams and Miller being elite three-point shooters who could both help space the court and defend with excellent size to complement a versatile center like Vučević. A player like Miller would give the Bulls one of the biggest, most athletic front courts. And then with a big guard who also shoots 40 percent on threes like Zach LaVine and perhaps another 40 percent three-point shooter in Coby White, the Bulls shooting profile could vastly change for the better.

No. 4. Gradey Dick, Kansas, 6-8, 205, Small Forward.

Not that it would be bad to get No. 4, but for the Bulls this season would be like the 2020 draft of having No. 4 in what is generally regarded as a three (potentially great) player draft. Though we know from the history of the draft, the teams and scouts never get this right. And when you redo drafts five years later, it’s never the same top five. That 2020 draft did produce All-Stars at Nos. 1 and 3, but the third All-Star was at No. 12, Tyrese Haliburton. So when you’re out of the no brainier category, you both need to be smarter and do what’s best for your team.

The consensus among the draftniks at No. 4 this year is to select one of the twin brothers athletes from Overtime Elite, the separate professional league for 16 to 20 year olds who skip the rest of traditional schools. Amen Thompson, an athletic 6-7 wing player, is generally regarded as the likely No. 4 pick. His twin, Ausar, comes slightly behind, both impressive wing scorers. Though neither is a good shooter. While the Bulls positional weaknesses are power forward and point guard, the main need is shooting. There’s an NBA view of a so called position less game that would fit having a Thompson. But players still have positions, and Patrick Williams finally has agreed his best needs to be at the wing. So why bring in another when there’s other issues? Even if it sees like Amen could be a star.

Gradey Dick looks like the best shooter in the draft, a pure catch-and-release player who is no fish story. Just a glimpse at this year’s NBA playoffs shows practically game after game the team making the most threes wins. No team regularly shoots fewer than the Bulls, and no team is bereft of catch-and-shoot players like the Bulls. Most draft experts project Gradey Dick barely out of the top 10. Though we also heard a lot of those similar things about Haliburton. Gradey Dick isn’t the playmaker of someone like Haliburton. But he’s got probably the most valuable skill for the NBA these days. He wouldn’t project as a starter for the Bulls, but coming off the bench he could fill a valuable need for a team that probably needs two guys who can shoot like that.

If the Bulls didn’t care for Gradey Dick, I’d look at a few other players projected in the lottery who might fit more what the Bulls need than the Thompson brothers. It wouldn’t be a mistake to select Amen because, so be it, the Bulls hardly can pass on potentially elite talent. But if the Bulls get No. 4, it might be worth it to take a look at a potential point guard like 6-7 Anthony Black from Arkansas. Perhaps he’s not the prototypical player to run a team, but he’s got terrific size and seemingly has the potential to run an offense. He’s considered a good defender and with his size would give the Bulls the backcourt/wing defensive possibilities they currently lack often playing so small. He’s not a good shooter, which could be an issue, at least early on. Another possibility at No. 4 could be 6-8, 240-pound Jerace Walker from Houston. Maybe a bit small for power forward, but he has a long reach and is a powerful, physical player with a competent shot and top defensive abilities, a player with the toughness any team would desire for playoff ball. That’s where the scouting comes in because there always are players whom no one expects who become stars. 

Now the lottery balls just have to settle in the right order.

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