The Bulls are looking at another lottery pick this year. However, with a weaker draft, two players seem to fit the Bulls' roster better than anyone.
The Bulls probably are not going to make the playoffs. That 12-game winning streak that was perhaps just ahead seems unlikely now with all the uncertainty because of the coronavirus. But no matter what occurs in the NBA the rest of this season and the year, it seems likely there will be a draft. Perhaps not with players getting to wear their new team's baseball caps and exchange a lot of hugs. But the NFL seems likely to go ahead with its draft, and so the NBA figures to as well.
Which most likely means the Bulls will be a lottery team.
In most years we would be tuning into the NCAA tournament about now to gauge and analyze some of the top potential draft prospects, an annual exercise. The way things occurred in college this season, many of the top players either left, like center James Wiseman from Memphis, or played overseas, like LaMelo Ball. There also is with the success of Luka Doncic finally more credibility being placed on the usefulness of international players. Three or four could be in this lottery.
So what will the Bulls do?
In another cruel and ironic twist, when the NBA suspended play almost two weeks ago, the Bulls were 22-43 with the seventh poorest record in the league. That's right, odds to again select seventh in the draft if there were no lottery drawing.
The Bulls, of course, had the No. 7 pick in the NBA draft the last three seasons:
Lauri Markkanen in 2017 with the No. 7 pick acquired in the Jimmy Butler trade along with Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn.
Wendell Carter Jr. in 2018. The Bulls had the sixth odds for the No. 1 pick but dropped to No. 7. They had won a coin flip with Sacramento because of identical records to move to No. 6 from No. 7. Sacramento at No. 7 leaped to No. 2 in the drawing. Had the Bulls lost the coin flip, they would have moved to No. 2. Atlanta also moved up, from No. 4 to No. 3. Dallas and Memphis dropped two spots each. The Mavericks traded their 2018 and 2019 picks to Atlanta to move to No. 3 and select Doncic. Sacramento selected Marvin Bagley at No. 2 after the Suns selected Deandre Ayton No. 1.
Coby White in 2019. The Bulls had the fourth odds for the No. 1 selection but plummeted three spots to No. 7 as New Orleans at seven and Memphis at eight leapfrogged to the top two draft slots for Zion Williamson and Ja Morant. The Lakers moved up from 11th to No. 4 and eventually traded the pick in the Anthony Davis transaction.
White has proven to be an excellent choice finishing the last month averaging almost 25 per game and winning Eastern Conference rookie of the month. But the franchise probably has had the worst draft lottery luck the last three years. Will this be the year the luck changes?
Like most everything else occurring given the medical emergency, this would be an unusual draft period assuming it occurs. There likely wouldn't be the long series of individual workouts and interviews. Which generally seems like little more than an excuse for everyone to eat a lot of expensive meals on the team. Probably no draft camp. Doncic was busy playing and everyone seemed to understand he was pretty good. Teams have plenty of game film to make reasonable judgments. Though no one still knows who'll be available or declare for the draft assuming there is one. So consider this mostly a fantasy exercise for now in order to still discuss basketball and the NBA.
So make it an early and speculative look at the order of selection, which figures to change even though nothing is happening. You know, like the NFL draft reporting on ESPN. Every week they do a new mock draft changing the top quarterback selection and the order of picks even though there are no games and players basically are lifting weights. And everyone keeps watching.
So watch this space.
At No. 7 this year, the Bulls have a 7.5 percent chance for the top pick. In flattening out the odds in recent years, the three teams with the poorest records—Golden State, Cleveland, and Minnesota—all have a 14 percent chance. The lottery determines the top four picks. Then everyone is placed in descending order by record. The Bulls have a 32 percent chance to get into the top four. The three poorest teams have a 52 percent chance. This all, of course, is assuming no more regular-season games are played. That's unknown at this time.
For discussion purposes, we'll assume this is the final standings. It likely won't change that much if the NBA returns to play. Though there still could be regular-season games. Nothing has been decided.
Drafts generally are labeled by the top players. Last year it was considered a two-player draft with Williamson and Morant. The 2018 draft was less certain with most projecting Ayton No. 1, but with sentiment for Doncic. Most believed Markelle Fultz was the appropriate No. 1 in 2017 when Lonzo Ball was No. 2 and Jayson Tatum No. 3. That was not preliminarily considered a strong draft. Last year's was considered good because of Williamson and Morant.
This is not considered a great draft, though all drafts end up including All-Stars and surprise breakouts, like Donovan Mitchell in 2017. Klay Thompson was No. 11 and Steph Curry No. 7. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard No. 15 were not non-lottery picks. That's where the scouting comes in. Teams have done that scouting since last fall, which should be enough.
Draft projections generally fall into tiers.
This draft generally looks like a top four-tier before a drop-off, which obviously is hardly scientific.
The top four prospects for now, according to most analysts, are in some order:
Anthony Edwards, Georgia shooting guard.
LaMelo Ball, Australia/Los Angeles point guard.
James Wiseman, Memphis Center
Obi Toppin, Dayton forward.
If the Bulls won the No. 1 selection, I think I'd take either Ball or Wiseman.
Probably Ball because I still don't see White as an elite playmaking guard. You can succeed at a high level with a scoring point guard like White playing with Zach LaVine. But I'd be tempted to play the three together with LaVine at the wing. You'd have a potentially high level, fast-paced threesome who'd be exciting and exhilarating to watch.
I wouldn't worry so much about the Ball family issues with his brother doing fine in New Orleans. LaMelo seems much better, a 6-7 guard with a better shot, though still not a classic stoke, who is a terrific playmaker and can score at a higher level than Lonzo. It could be amazing to see LaMelo run with White and LaVine and with Lauri Markkanen trailing with his shooting ability.
Wiseman would be my second choice because of his athletic ability and, especially, his size. He is a bit on the thin side for now. But he's a seven-footer with a long reach. Though Carter does his best, the Bulls still need that alternative to match some of the other big, athletic centers. He'd be a heck of a target for the guards to throw those lobs on the run and, again, a fit with Markkanen's spacing ability.
Many believe Edwards is the best guard scoring prospect, sort of a Bradley Beal type even if he didn't shoot threes that well this season. With LaVine and White, I'd probably pass. If Wiseman and Ball were gone, the safe sure-to-make-it selection is considered to be Toppin. He's regarded as a so-called three/four with good size for the wing. He's athletic and strong, though probably not a playmaking type.
He's probably not an ideal fit for the Bulls, who do need a future wing player. But someone who perhaps is a better facilitator.
The fallacy of these early rankings is there's no certain order. After all, how could every one agree on a specific sequence of players, especially those so young and inexperienced? So players projected even outside the top 10 could become All-Stars, like the reigning MVP. And then what if the Bulls do end up at No. 7 again?
That's a discussion for next time. It seems like we'll have plenty of time for consideration and debate.