Since the Chicago Bulls decided to barely make the playoffs last season and win both of their games against the Sacramento Kings (which should be considered per negligence from Fred Hoiberg), they do not have any lottery picks in this incredibly loaded 2017 NBA Draft. Instead, they ended up with the 16th pick and a second-round consolation prize from the multi-year saga of hoping the Kings would be good enough to be one of the 10 worst teams in the league. Essentially the worst-case scenario from the Deng trade with Cleveland. As the NBA has changed in that time, one second-round pick is much better than none. A lesson learned far too late in Chicago as they do not have the rights to their own second-round pick until 2020.
While there are plenty of rumors flying around that Jimmy Butler could be involved in a three-way trade with the Celtics and the 76ers, I am doubtful that the Bulls will get enough back from these teams to agree on moving Butler to the Celtics by draft night. If the Bulls are not going to take the most logical path in blowing this team up for a full rebuild, then it sounds like we will be seeing almost the exact same team coming back next season.
Staying the course has been the message coming from the front office since the off-season started in Chicago. In order to successfully retool on the fly around Butler, Chicago is going to have to reevaluate how they have normally approached the draft and the offseason, not make any major mistakes, and probably get a lucky break or two.
The first major decision for the front office this season will be nailing the 16th pick in the loaded NBA Draft. Let’s start with the Bulls’ needs. The currently have a top 10 two-way talent in 27-year-old Jimmy Butler who can rotate between the two and the three on a great contract. That’s it. There are no other major assets on this team. Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade are both far too old to be a part of even the short-term future of the Bulls, and none of the young bench players have proven to anything other than minor rotation players. Robin Lopez is probably the second-best asset on this team, but he isn’t built for the new NBA. There is no reason to make draft decisions around Lopez.
Therefore, the Bulls should be open to any and all players in this draft. The next decision will come based on who is left on the board after the halfway point of the first round. Under this front office, the Bulls have had a history of picking NBA ready players instead of taking shots on raw but high-potential. This philosophy has netted them one superstar (Butler), multiple solid rotation players (Taj Gibson, James Johnson, Tony Snell) and a few ‘end of the bench’ players (Norris Cole, Kevin Seraphin). In fact, the only true bust would be when they went young and took the 19-year-old Marquis Teague at the end of the first round. Considering almost all of these draft picks were made in the middle to late rounds and were fitting the needs of Chicago teams that wanted to win now, I would say the Chicago’s track record for drafting is well above the league average.
In this draft, though, the Bulls philosophy must change from a “contribute now” type player to players with the rawest potential. There is no guarantee that Jimmy Butler will resign with the Bulls in 2019 when he will most likely opt out of his player option. Either way, the player drafted needs to fit the mold of the new NBA, complement a star player like Butler, and be a player who can develop into a starting role. If any of the consensus top 12 fall to the Bulls at 16 then they should go with the best player available.
Zach Collins – Most likely won’t fall to 16 but Collins is a no-brainer in today’s NBA. He might not have the super athleticism of other bigs in this draft, but his fundamentals are all better than solid and show the ability to spread the floor as a stretch four or five with his shooting. Target
Donovan Mitchell – Super athletic with NBA range, Mitchell would be a great fit along Butler or really any two-guard set. While a tad bit undersized for a two guard, his huge wingspan and quickness should allow him to keep pace with larger players. Target
Luke Kennard – The 21-year-old sophomore from Duke instantly gives the Bulls the shooting they desperately need, but so did Doug McDermott. Even if Kennard is McBuckets 2.0, his weaknesses still mimic the reason McDermott was a liability on defense. Kennard’s ceiling is too low to fit the Bulls’ long-term plans. Avoid
Jarrett Allen – The 19-year-old Allen would be a project but his potential is outstanding. With improvements in his shot and defensive IQ, he could be the perfect pick and roll partner with anyone. His length and quickness make him a prototype for the center in today’s NBA, if the rest of his game comes along with it then the Bulls would have one less position to worry about. Target
John Collins – Another big man who needs work, but has the potential to be a two-way player in the NBA. Collins needs to work on most facets of his game, but could be an elite rebounder at the next level. He does not have the freakish athleticism like others in the draft. His ceiling might be lower but his variance is smaller and should be able to contribute at an NBA level. This is not the knockout pick that the Bulls need to rebound back towards being a contender. Avoid
Justin Jackson – Seems like the “contribute now” type of player the Bulls always target. He has a solid shot and seems to understand the game well, but doesn’t have the pure athleticism or At 22 years old, Jackson’s potential is historically limited. Avoid
Og Anunoby – Anunoby is coming off a torn ACL, a pretty big red flag in most situations. That said, he is a freak athlete who’s giant wingspan molds him into the perfect forwards in today’s NBA. He should be able to switch on multiple positions on defense. His offensive game needs to be worked on for a few years but could develop into a valuable starter in the future. Target
Harry Giles – Another injury risk, but Giles was projected to be a top prospect in this draft when he came out of high school. His potential might be one of the highest in this draft, but his long injury history at only the age of 19 makes this the ultimate high risk, high reward pick. Avoid
Terrance Ferguson – Another amazing athlete that is raw around the edges. Needs to develop more NBA skills, but has the tools and the shot to become a guard who can play in the Bulls’ system. Has perimeter defensive ability that any team would desire. Target