With the 2018 NBA Draft coming up next week, there are a lot of varying opinions on what the Bulls should do during an important draft. Owning two first-round picks (No. 7 and No. 22) with a deep group of talented players to choose from, the Bulls could go in a number of unique directions.
So we polled five NBA Draft analysts on what they would do if they were running the Bulls during the 2018 NBA Draft process. We asked Rob Dauster (NBC Sports), Jeremy Woo (Sports Illustrated), Jonathan Tjarks (The Ringer), Ricky O’Donnell (SB Nation) and Jonathan Wasserman (Bleacher Report) three Bulls-related questions about who they would take at No. 7 and No. 22, along with some potential trade options that would potentially benefit the franchise.
Question: In an ideal scenario, who do you take at pick No. 7 for the Bulls?
Rob Dauster (NBC Sports): I think the ideal pick would be Trae Young or Wendell Carter. I don’t like Michael Porter Jr. there because I’m afraid of A) Porter’s back injury, B) what kind of teammate and what kind of work ethic he has long term and, perhaps most importantly, C) that he’s stiffer than people realize, meaning that his long-term position is as more of a four/small-ball five than as a big wing in the mold of a Paul George or a Carmelo Anthony. Put another way, Porter, to me, is going to be the same position as Lauri Markkanen, and given the risk involved with him, I don’t think you draft a player in the same position as your other lottery pick.
Personally, I want Young over Carter, but that’s because I am probably higher on Young as a prospect than just about anyone else. Shooting is the most important skill that a player can have in the modern NBA, and Young can certainly shoot that thing. I also think that his basketball IQ and the ability he has to read the floor, particularly in ball-screen actions, will translate exceptionally well to the NBA. I get the defensive concerns and the questions about whether or not he’s good enough to be ball-dominant in the NBA, but he is still worth the risk in my mind.
Carter is the guy that I would bet on ending up in Chicago, and it’s a fine consolation prize. He’s a much better and more well-rounded player than he was able to show while at Duke, and he should compliment Markkanen well offensively.
Jeremy Woo (Sports Illustrated): Based on the players that should realistically be available, I think Wendell Carter would be the best option for Chicago. I think it’s a misconception that the Bulls have to hit a home run with this pick – or that there’s even one to hit, really – so on those terms, consider Carter a stand-up triple. Carter has one of the highest floors of any player in the draft, an extremely high IQ and well-rounded game and should be able to start alongside Lauri Markkanen for a long time. They could do much worse than establishing two talented, skilled bigs as the long-term foundation of their team.
Jonathan Tjarks (The Ringer): I would take Miles Bridges from Michigan State. It’s hard to see any of the best big men (Deandre Ayton, Mo Bamba, Jaren Jackson, Marvin Bagley) falling all the way to 7, and I don’t think any of the top PGs are worth giving up on the backcourt (Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine) already in place. I think the MSU Bridges has the best all-around game of any of the wings that are likely to be available, and he would slot in nicely as part of the frontcourt of the future with Lauri Markkanen at the 3 and 4, as well as at the 4 and 5 when you go small.
Ricky O’Donnell (SB Nation): At No. 7, the Bulls will likely see two of Michael Porter Jr., Trae Young and Wendell Carter on the board. I could talk myself into any of them. Each is obviously talented in their own way, but all of them have red flags. Porter probably has the highest ceiling and lowest floor of that group. I’d reluctantly make him the pick. I do think he has some real downside, starting with his surgically repaired back that cost him all but two unimpressive games at Missouri. There are some legit questions about his skill set, too. Where is his shooting and ball handling at? Will he leverage his scoring ability to help set up his teammates? Does he make any impact on defense?
That said, the ideal version of Porter is an athletic 6’11” three-level scorer who can be moved all around the court from small forward to (eventually) center. I want to see some Lauri Markkanen-MPJ 4-5 pick-and-rolls. He would just give the Bulls so much flexibility if he reaches even 85 percent of his potential. It’s a scary pick, but Porter is too tantalizing to pass on out of the group of players who are likely to be available.
Jonathan Wasserman (Bleacher Report): Ideally, teams drafting top six reach on Trae Young, Michael Porter Jr. and Wendell Carter, which would leave either Jaren Jackson Jr. or Mohamed Bamba to Chicago. They’d both fit perfectly next to Lauri Markkanen for their rim protection, but they’re also really high-upside prospects in general. Jackson and Bamba have the chance to be much more effective offensively players than they were able to show in college. Unfortunately, it seems unrealistic to think either will be there. I’m higher on Mikal Bridges than most and think he’d be a great two-way wing between Zach LaVine and Markkanen.
Question: Based on what you’ve done at pick No. 7, who do you take at pick No. 22?
Rob Dauster: I would target a shooter and a multi-positional wing defender, because I think the Bulls lack those pieces and because I think there is an abundance of them in the early-20s. Kevin Huerter from Maryland is one guy. Boise State’s Chandler Hutchison would fit there. Khyri Thomas, Josh Okogie and Melvin Frazier all also make sense, although that might be a bit of a reach.
Jeremy Woo: Naturally, I think the Bulls will look for a wing at this spot. I personally like Kevin Huerter, who would give them more consistent three-point shooting. I think they end up with Chandler Hutchison.
Jonathan Tjarks: I would take another big wing at 22, whoever was best available. To me, I’d rather have smaller and faster players around Lauri than a bigger and slower one. The reality is that the only way to get a player whose bigger and faster than Lauri at 7 or 22 is to take someone without much skill. I also wouldn’t want to invest first-round draft picks in non-elite 5s because I eventually want Lauri to play 10-15 minutes as a second-unit 5, so there would only be so many minutes available for bigger players in my rotation.
Ricky O’Donnell: I think the Bulls have to take the best player available regardless of what they do at No. 7. I’d love Troy Brown, a 6’6″ freshman guard from Oregon. He was raised as a point guard before moving to the wing in college, but he’s retained his ball handling and passing skills. He’d give you a secondary playmaker with high basketball IQ on the court, in addition to a versatile defender. His jump shot is the question.
If he’s off the board, I’d gamble on Mitchell Robinson, a 7-foot center who was originally committed to Western Kentucky before ultimately dropping out of school to focus on the draft. He’s an incredible athlete and profiles as a rim protector/rim runner in the vein of Houston’s Clint Capela. He’s unpolished in a lot of different ways, but you can’t teach that combination of size and athleticism.
Jonathan Wasserman: If the Bulls take a forward like Bridges or Porter at No. 7, they could be thinking guard at No. 22. Aaron Holiday stands out as an attractive play, since he’s shot at least 41 percent from three every season at UCLA, and Dunn doesn’t give Chicago much perimeter scoring. If Chicago winds up with Jackson, Bamba, Carter or Young, Chandler Hutchison is the guy who’ve I’ve pegged to the Bulls. He’d give them a scoring wing at the 3 where they lack talent.
Question: Given the option of trading up or down, what would it take for you (as Bulls GM) to make a move that benefits the franchise?
Rob Dauster: Trading up all depends on the cost. Ayton has the potential to be a Hall of Famer, but I think there are too many questions about his defense to make him worth what it would take to get him. I wouldn’t trade up for Bagley or Doncic, personally, and while I do think that Jaren Jackson Jr. — and potentially Mo Bamba — are ideal fits as fives in the modern NBA, they both strike me as a piece to the puzzle a la Draymond Green as opposed to the superstar than can carry a team to the title.
As far as trading down is concerned, I probably wouldn’t do that, either, unless the package is just too good to say no to. They are basically locked into getting either Young or Carter, and I would very much want to roll the dice on Young becoming Steph Curry 2.0. Carter I might be able to be talked out of, but I see him as a longtime starter in the NBA, someone that could end up being another Marc Gasol.
Jeremy Woo: If the Clippers came calling offering Nos. 12 and 13 for my No. 7, I’d consider it, but I’m doubtful the Bulls care to roster three rookies. If the Hawks wanted to move down to No. 7 and offered No. 3 for both picks, I think that would be worth it if I could get Jaren Jackson Jr. at that spot. But I think there are eight players who have set themselves apart at the top of the draft, and I’d be comfortable picking from two of them if I were Chicago. With that position noted, the Bulls will likely have some trade suitors on draft night.
Jonathan Tjarks: I would trade up, if at all possible. I’m a little outside of the mainstream in that I think Luka Doncic and Jaren Jackson are the best players in this year’s draft, and I think both have the potential to be All-NBA caliber franchise players. If you can grab a player like that, you have to go for it. I would move pretty much anyone outside of Lauri to get one of those 2. I think Ayton has the same type of upside, but I worry that his floor is significantly lower because of defensive issues.
Ricky O’Donnell: I want Jaren Jackson Jr. or Luka Doncic. Like I said above, No. 7 + No. 22 + Bobby Portis is the most logical offer if a team like the Hawks (for example) really wants someone like Trae Young. I’d also be good with moving down if they can get No. 12 and No. 13 from the Clippers for No. 7. Miles Bridges, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lonnie Walker and Zhaire Smith are four names I’d target in that range.
Jonathan Wasserman: If I’m Chicago, my targets are Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley III, Jackson and Bamba. To guarantee one of them, it would mean moving into the top 5. Maybe the Mavericks would move back two spots from No. 5 if the Bulls gave them No. 7 and No. 22, but the Mavericks would have to love someone like Carter more than Jackson, Bamba or Porter to do that deal. Throwing Dunn into any trade wouldn’t help since the Mavericks or even the Grizzlies at No. 4 already have point guards, and the Bulls would be left without one. Realistically, Chicago sits tight at No. 7 and guarantees itself one of the following names: Jackson, Bamba, Young, Porter, Carter, Bridges.