Sam Smith's Bulls Draft Prediction

This NBA draft reminds me of the comedy/satire movie Airplane —watch out, here I come with the 80s references again — in which the harried air traffic controller as the emergency builds keeps offering observations like, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines.” And, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.”

In many respects, this looks like the wrong year to tank a season for a high lottery pick.

With the NBA draft Thursday, I’ve heard rumors from team officials and agents that virtually every team in the top 10 has been trying fairly aggressively to trade its pick. And even with reports Tuesday that the 76ers have assured Ben Simmons they will take him with the No. 1 pick, I have heard scouts say the 76ers have continued in trade talks for the No. 1 selection.

Of course, given that the teams are basically seeking All-NBA level players for the picks, there doesn’t seem to be any deals imminent for now. Though the real bargaining occurs on draft day.

The reason for the unsettled nature of this draft is, again, so many players, particularly after the first few, who have considerable development issues. Often once they begin to play in the NBA that can changes as some become surprises, especially because the league is so much younger now and college play and coaching is so bad it’s hard to rate some players. But the lack of excitement even at the top of the draft shows the limits of so called tanking for high draft picks. You also have to be in the right draft, and this one doesn’t seem like it is one.

Though it might not be too bad for teams, like the Bulls, at the edge of the lottery and into the middle of the first round.

Obviously, you are not going to get the top talent where the Bulls select at No. 14. It’s said they’ll all have warts, but perhaps not too serious. Teams like to use the top of the draft as sort of a boom-or-bust high stakes gamble and shoot for a superstar. After all, the NBA more than any league has shown the value of having that level star. So when you have a top five pick, you are looking for a star or taking a chance on a player who perhaps projects as a star.

You don’t go for a rotation player when you have a top five pick. But this year it may come to that.

Simmons is regarded as perhaps the star of this draft with his all around abilities and size at maybe 6-10 and 240. But he’s basically refused to work out for anyone, only lately finally agreeing to even talk to the 76ers. He’s represented by LeBron James’ agent with perhaps dreams and demands beyond his production. After all, his college team couldn’t even make the NCAA tournament.

Some teams have liked the makeup and skills of Duke’s Brandon Ingram. But even he as the consensus No. 2 prospect is regarded as some years away from a primary role as he’s 18 years old. But if you’re satisfied to select a player who might fit into your rotation in the next season or two, this may be your draft.

First, the players considered almost certain to go in the top 10 are Simmons, Ingram, Kris Dunn, Jamal Murray, Marquese Chriss, Buddy Heild, Dragan Bender, Jaylen Brown, Jakob Poeltl and probably Henry Ellenson. Maybe Domantas Sabonis.

Then teams vary by need, by desire and interest. Like with Bobby Portis last season when the Bulls got him at No. 22. Some teams had him ranked top 12 and others top 25. So there’s always a wide variation, and in this draft in the top 10 as well. Though it seems the most solid five are Simmons, Ingram, Dunn, Chriss and Murray.

Here’s a look at some of the players who should be available and may make sense for the Bulls to select with the No. 14 pick.

  • Dejounte Murray, Washington, 6-4, 170: He’s my choice, which based on past experience means he has no chance to be a Bull. There are flaws, which is why he may be available at No. 14. That’s the point. Yes, I know the Bulls biggest position needs probably are point guard and center, but what they really need is someone athletic who can create with the ball and get, as the coaches like to say, downhill. The Bulls actually have enough guys like Mirotic, McDermott and Dunleavy, and maybe even E’Twaun Moore, who shoot threes. What they need is someone to make plays off the dribble with some flair. This kid has more hot dog than dog and some spice to his game. He wasn’t a great shooter in his only year in college, just under 30 percent. But neither was Jamal Crawford when he came to the Bulls with that varied and undisciplined game. That’s the comparison being made with this Murray, and Crawford has been tutoring his fellow Washington stater.
  • Wade Baldwin, Vanderbilt, 6-4, 202. Arguably the draft’s top point guard prospect after Dunn in a weak point guard draft. Murray’s probably more the Crawford type combo scoring guard. The NBA.net draft site likens Baldwin to Spencer Dinwiddie, whom the Bulls just got for Cameron Bairstow, and Luther Head, the Chicago and Illini kid who really wasn’t a point guard. They’ll need to update that one. Baldwin is a point guard and considered an athlete with good size, long arms and nice point guard potential, though his shot needs work. With Derrick Rose into his last season, Dinwiddie just added and Moore’s return uncertain as a free agent, the Bulls need to begin to look for a future point guard. He’s not ready, but they probably don’t need him now.
  • Denzel Valentine, Michigan State, 6-5, 210: Probably as ready to play as you’re going to get in this draft and certainly in the middle. There have been reports of a knee problem and about athleticism. But they are probably outweighed by his ability to help immediately, which I believe the Bulls treasure. Checks most of the important NBA boxes with intelligence, mature, leadership, shooting and passing ability. Since you probably are drafting here for the bench, why not focus on a guy who could fit right in off your bench and contribute? Though you know before it’s over we’ll write or call him Denzel Washington several times by mistake.
  • Furkan Korkmaz/Timothe Luwawu: I list them as an entry because while it’s possible the Bulls could be interested in one—I’d guess Luwawu if they are—I doubt they go the international route as the orientation is long for other than the great ones and youngsters barely play overseas because the teams don’t do development. Forkmaz from Turkey is 6-6 and 180, the one who didn’t play much as an 18-year-old, but more offensively talented, a good shooter with a promising floor game. Luwawu from France is about 6-7 and 200 pounds, older and having played more, but in a weaker league with a poorer team. He’s more the defender, athletic without much of a shot and often described like a Thabo Sefolosha type. They both seem longer projects than I believe the Bulls would prefer.
  • Malachi Richardson, Syracuse, 6-6, 200 There’s this notion--and I am among those who suggest it--about getting a shooting guard for the Bulls so Jimmy Butler can play more small forward and run the court. Though you’re not getting one from the draft to fill that role immediately. But Richardson is a shooting guard who can shoot decently, a good thing for the position, though still under 40 percent on threes. He’s an aggressive, long armed, athletic player, a bit undisciplined on occasion—there’s always a reason you are not a top five choice—but with a scorers’ mentality.
  • Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame, 6-1, 193: Tough, physical player for someone relatively small. Described by some to play like a football player coming at you and athletic, but not particularly creative off the dribble. His shooting is decent, though declined last season as a junior. Strong with the reputation of an aggressive attitude and athletic with strong character, though his smallish size is considered a liability.
  • Malik Beasley, Florida State, 6-4, 190: Athletic and hustling shooting guard who is more catch-and-shoot than putting ball on the floor and creating. Shot close to 40 percent on threes in college, though not a playmaker. The Bulls need more guards who can create, though it didn’t much hurt Reggie Miller.
  • Skal Labissiere, Kentucky, 6-11, 215: A lot of the mock drafts—which are just guesses based on need and hunches and basically have no knowledge of the team’s thinking—mention him with the Bulls. I don’t see it given his project nature. The Bulls could use a big man with the free agencies of Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah. There’s a chance Sabonis could slip to the Bulls as one or two players, often a big man, usually slips down in the draft, especially in this era with so much emphasis on perimeter play. Labissiere was highly touted and considered skilled coming into college and then did almost nothing. He has shooting ability, is basically a seven footer with skills. But probably too much of a project. Though the Bulls, like most teams, subscribe to the best player available theory, it’s hard to see them taking a power forward with such a backlog at the position. The centers considered potential first rounders like Thon Maker, Cheick Diallo, Damian Jones, Stephen Zimmerman and Diamond Stone all seem like D-league players for the next year or two.

Here’s a sampling of mock drafts and whom they have the Bulls selecting at No. 14:

ESPN: Wade Baldwin

NBA Draft.Net: Wade Baldwin

NBA Draft Express: Timothe Luwawu

CBS Sports: Domantas Sabonis

Walterfootball.com: Dejounte Murray

Draftsite.com: Jakob Poeltl

Tankathon: Wade Baldwin

Netscouts: Skal Labissiere

<pBleacher Report: Tyler Ulis

Mynbadraft.com: Deyonta Davis

Cheatsheet.com: Deyonta Davis

Draftutopia.com: Furkan Kormaz

NBA Draft Room: Henry Ellenson

Fox Sports: Domontas Sabonis

SB Nation: Demetrius Jackson

Rotoworld: Deyonta Davis

SI.com: Skal Labissiere

Hoopshype: Deyonta Davis

NBA.com consensus: Domontas Sabonis

NBA.com: Furkan Korkmaz

Sporting News: Domantas Sabonis

Nothinbutnets: Jakob Poeltl

Draftsite.com: Jakob Poeltl

Charlotte Observer: Malachi Richardson

Washington Post: Timothe Luwawu

Yahoosports: Timothe Luwawu

USA Today: Timothy Luwawu

Basketball Insiders: Wade Baldwin