What Should the Bulls Do With The 7th Overall Pick?
Well, it happened again. The Bulls got the 7th overall pick in the NBA draft for the 3rd year in a row. The Bulls had a 48% chance to land in the top four picks, and obviously that didn’t happen. John Paxson, the Bulls GM, has stayed optimistic throughout the last 24 hours and has stated that he “likes a lot more than seven players in this years draft”.
But that’s spin. This is a disappointing draft position, and the Bulls organization will have a big decision to make before June 20th: will they trade up, draft at seven, or trade it away?
Option 1: Trade Up
If the Bulls don’t really love more than seven players, they can try and make their way up for one they do love, and the obvious candidate (non-Zion division) is Ja Morant, the best PG in the draft, and a position of desperate need for the Bulls. But if the first wave of news post-lottery is to be believed, they’ll have to convince Memphis to part with the #2 overall pick to get him.
In order to trade up, the Bulls will certainly have to give up some key players. Bulls management has gone on record as saying that Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. are considered “untouchable,” which leaves one clear-cut asset: Zach LaVine. The Bulls could package him with the 7th overall pick in this year’s draft and a future first round pick in order to move up, but that might still not be enough. Nor are Kris Dunn and Chandler Hutchinson likely to sweeten the pot quite enough to tip the scales.
If Memphis was willing to keep Mike Conley and pair him with Zach Lavine, this could be a trade that benefits everyone. Memphis would have two proven NBA players in their backcourt, and they could draft a Jarrett Culver type player to pair with Jaren Jackson Jr for youth in their frontcourt. However, it doesn’t seem likely that the Grizzlies would be interested in this deal. Morant has superstar potential and they can move Conley to acquire more young players.
Trading up would be the best option for the Bulls. They receive a PG in Morant who can finally be the missing piece in the Franchise, they would move their largest guaranteed contract, and have a real case for a big name free agents with their new max-slot availability.
Option 2: Draft at #7
This is the most likely scenario for the Bulls. The Bulls have drafted at no. 7 overall the last two years and it has worked out pretty well. They can still find a player with a lot of potential at #7 in Cam Reddish, Jarrett Culver, or Coby White, for instance. And while all of these players have promise, none is they type of sure thing a team wants to find this high in the lottery. While all have enticing ceilings, all have similarly disappointing floors.
The Bulls front office isn’t the most creative, which is why they will likely end up using their own pick. Wendell Carter Jr. was a very safe pick last year and the front office hasn’t shown any indication of changing course - but they have good reason to, and it’s based on the composition of the current roster.
For a team as bad as the Bulls were last year, it’s very possible that they have long-term solutions at four of the five positions. At SG, Zach Lavine; SF, Otto Porter Jr; PF, Lauri Markkanen; C, Wendell Carter Jr. None is older than 25, and all are under contract until the end of the 2020-21 season. It’s a young core that many rebuilding teams would love to have, and appears to dictate a positional draft, instead of the best player available: if the Bulls don’t draft a PG, then they are drafting a bench player.
The problem is that the best true PGs in the draft, Morant and Darius Garland of Vanderbilt, look to be long-gone by the time #7 rolls around. The next PG available is Coby White, and let’s just say he is not a good fit. While he ran the offense at UNC a fair bit, White is really a shooting guard. He really isn’t a playmaker, but looks to score more than distribute -- and the Bulls have enough players who prioritize putting the ball in the hoop over being well-rounded. White doesn’t seem to fit what the team needs.
It doesn’t appear wise for the Bulls to draft at their current pick: if the draft plays out as predicted, there doesn’t seem to be a player who will fill the gaping hole at the point for them. If they doubt their ability to get up to the elite players, but don’t like the options in their range, they have one more option.
Option 3: Trade It Away
Trading down or trading away their pick could also be an option for the Bulls. Some rumors have emerged that Lonzo Ball could be dealt for the Bulls current pick. Excluding that specific rumor, there would certainly be interest in the Bulls pick elsewhere in the league. Without any specifics of possible suitors, it’s hard to talk in depth of this particular option.
The Bulls need to develop their team’s identity this offseason. Drafting at no. 7 doesn’t seem to be the solution for a team struggling to find identity. There are two players in the draft that could help the Bulls form their identity, Zion Williamson and Ja Morant. Williamson isn’t going anywhere but New Orleans so that leaves Morant. If they can’t get Morant, they ought to trade their pick elsewhere. It is a valuable asset for another franchise, but the pick wouldn’t be maximized if used by the Bulls.