Sam Smith predicts who the Bulls would draft at each pick

The Hall of Fame writer takes a guess as to whom the Bulls would select if they landed that number in the 2019 NBA Draft
by Sam Smith


Zion is likely the number one pick, but what about the other players in the draft?

If the Bulls win the No. 1 pick in Tuesday's NBA Draft Lottery, they're selecting Zion Williamson of Duke.

I know, not exactly a scoop, though we've heard speculation about the greater need for a point guard and maybe this is the chance to make a bold move in trade for an established star like Anthony Davis.

The Bulls—or anyone else who gets the No. 1 pick—aren't about to commit immediately. Who knows, maybe the Warriors will offer Curry, Thompson, Durant, the new arena and a cable car line. But Williamson will be the Bulls choice and I suspect everyone else's because he has a chance to be an NBA superstar and players like that don't come along often. Perhaps the last ones were Derrick Rose in 2008 and Kevin Durant in 2007, though not with this level of hoopla. No player coming into the NBA has been as celebrated since LeBron James in 2003.

And Zion may be bigger.

James, after all, was on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high schooler.

Zion got President Barack Obama in his orbit. The former president hasn't been to many, if any, sporting events. But he came to see Zion, which happened to be the game Zion hurt his knee and blew out his sneaker. Which came to be the top NBA story of the week as NBA players on TV and in social media began a debate about whether Zion should skip the rest of the season to save himself for the NBA draft. Williamson, to his credit unlike many NBA players who sit out a lot of games, wanted to play and returned as soon as he was able.

The team that lands the No. 1 pick and Zion likely will have the biggest advance ticket sale and season ticket increase that night and the most new sponsors expressing interesting. Zion's Summer League games could produce higher TV ratings than some playoff games. His dunks will become the lead stories on every night's ESPN SportsCenter.

This for the NBA is the second coming of Wilt, Kareem and LeBron, who produced the most anticipation as rookies. But none had more than three million followers on Instagram coming into the NBA. OK, there was no Instagram then.

It would not be a surprise given the anticipation and his popularity that Williamson will be an All-Star as a rookie, just the third in the last 20 years. The previous two, Blake Griffin and Yao Ming, were 22 years old by then. Williams still isn't even 19 years old. He should become the world's most popular teenager.

By the way, the All-Star game next February is in the United Center.

No one can guarantee success. But Williamson seems as can't miss an NBA prospect as you might find. He's got incredible physical abilities and strength, an apparent high intelligence quotient for the game and seemingly excellent character. He'd likely be the most coveted rookie since James and ranking in anticipation with the likes of James, Shaquille O'Neal, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Wilt Chamberlain. Perhaps Jordan, too, though more people at the time seemed excited about Olajwuon and what he would do with Ralph Sampson.

Here are my guesses on whom the Bulls would select with their first pick, which could be 1 though 8. I'm only reasonably certain about 1 and 2.

Zion Williamson

Zion Williamson poses with the Naismith Men's College Player of the Year trophy

So if the Bulls get the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA draft, they would select:

Zion Williamson, Duke, 6-6, 285, power forward

Seems close to Charles Barkley. He's drawn player comparisons to everyone from Larry Johnson to Julius Randle given his compact physique. But there's really never been a player with that unique left handed combination of size, sense, burst, power and polish. Williamson appears to be an extraordinary athlete in a class with the likes of LeBron and Wilt for players we've never seen like that. Yet, he appears to have instinctive basketball skills with a flair for showmanship. He's one of those players you pay to see and who you can't turn away from watching. He'll be the story of next season as much as anyone or any team.

Ja Morant

Ja Morant of Murray State blows past his defender

If the Bulls get the No. 2 pick, they would select:

Ja Morant, 6-3, 175, Murray State, point guard

Though Kris Dunn remains an option and teams have given up on guards too fast, like Chauncey Billups, Victor Oladipo and Kyle Lowry, Morant appears to be a dynamic lead guard who could carry a team. He's got an improving shot with an exceptional athletic ability to handle the ball and pass on the move and play in a fast offense.

R.J. Barrett

R.J. Barrett celebrates after a big play against Wake Forest

If the Bulls get the No. 3 pick, they would select:

R.J. Barrett, 6-7, 215, Duke, shooting guard/small forward

There's no sure thing after the first two in this draft, assuming they are, but he's probably too good to pass unless some team offers you crazy stuff. He's not the super athlete type, but he seems to be one of those players who will figure out how to make plays and score. He can handle the ball and finish perhaps in the mold of a James Harden type who doesn't overwhelm you until you see the box score.

Darius Garland

Darius Garland at the 2018 Nike Hoop Summitt

If the Bulls get the No. 4 pick, they would select:

Darius Garland, 6-2, 175, Vanderbilt, point guard

He basically missed his college career with a knee injury, though meniscus. Kyrie Irving missed most of his freshman year as well. It wouldn't be just need for the Bulls since Garland projects as a high level point guard who is versatile in passing and scoring. He has excellent ball handling abilities and confidence with his shot to lead a team.

DeAndre Hunter

Virginia's DeAndre Hunter drives to the basked in the 2019 Final Four game against Texas Tech

If the Bulls get the No. 5 pick, they would select:

DeAndre Hunter, 6-8, 225, Virginia, small forward

The Bulls likely would move into trade mode if they were outside the top 4, but then so likely would other teams. He would fit Bulls needs as well. The Bulls desperately need shooting, and while he didn't attempt a lot of shots, he's a good shooter and played for a team that didn't take a lot of shots. He checks a lot of Bulls boxes as a good defender, though he projects in the NBA mostly as that so called 3-D player without that much creativity.

Jaxson Hayes

Jaxson Hayes goes up for the big slam

If the Bulls get the No. 6 pick, they would select:

Jaxson Hayes, 6-11, 225, Texas, center

I'm not sure if the Bulls would because he's one of those young project types. But the Bulls are going to need size and athleticism at center with Wendell Carter Jr. projected in the middle. Hayes seems similar to the Nets Jarrett Allen, a long, athletic big man who primarily will play defense. It's always worth having one of those around even if no one is supposed to play centers anymore.

Coby White

Coby White goes hard to the basket

If the Bulls get the No. 7 pick, they would select:

Coby White, 6-5, 185, North Carolina, point guard

He wouldn't be the kind to become a starter immediately and take over a team since he's more of a scorer, anyway. He'd be a youngster about whom you'd want to be patient. Looks more to shoot first as more of a combo guard for now. But can be an additional playmaker as he gets stronger.

Cam Reddish

Cam Reddish for Duke University

If the Bulls get the No. 8 pick, they would select:

Cam Reddish, 6-8, 215, Duke, small forward

There's a minuscule chance all four teams would jump the Bulls and send them this far down. If so, it would be worth taking a risk on an athletic player with the so called high ceiling who was overshadowed by his famous teammates and considered something of a question mark. But he has great natural talent and could be a surprise star.

One will not be a lonely number Tuesday.

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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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