There were two major NBA events that took place on Tuesday, May 16th. One of them was a blowout between the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. The second one, and the one more important to the Bulls, was the NBA Draft Lottery. The top three wound up as follows: Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers. You can view the official draft order here.
RIP to the #Kangz pick which has now turned into a second rounder, #38 overall. The Bulls also have their own first-round selection at #16.
The Celtics winning the lottery has a lot of implications for how they move forward in terms of building their team, whether it’s (likely) taking Markelle Fultz with the pick, or using it a deal that could land a superstar like Jimmy Butler or Paul George. A trade like that has been suggested by many, and it was something that both the Bulls and Celtics had talked about during the draft last year and at this past trade deadline. The value of this pick would have been a good starting point in a deal for Chicago to make if the Bulls wanted to start a rebuild.
But at this point, those Celtics rumors seem all but dead. Danny Ainge decided to take a chance when he stayed pat at the deadline and kept this year’s Nets pick. Nobody at the time knew just how valuable that pick was going to be, which made it such a risk to stay put and not put in all of your chips in for a sure star. That risk has paid off for him in that it turned into the #1 pick where he will have the chance to draft a possible future superstar in Fultz or Lonzo Ball. While it seems certain that teams like the Bulls could be calling Boston about that pick, the Celtics now have the leverage. That, along with the looming fact of Boston trying to get a free agent like Gordon Hayward this summer, could be enough for them not to trade for Butler.
I don’t see a scenario where the Lakers and 76ers are trading the #2 or #3 picks respectively, so that leaves Phoenix at #4 as Chicago’s next best option after Boston. But even then, there isn’t much that Phoenix could realistically offer. Trading #4 pick, Eric Bledsoe, plus some salary cap fillers isn’t that good of a return.
With the likelihood of trading up in the draft looking very bleak right now, it looks all but certain that Jimmy Butler will be playing in Chicago for the foreseeable future. That’s not a bad thing by any means and for many that were against Chicago trading Butler, this almost comes up as a relief. But there is always a sad truth over everything when you think about the Bulls keeping Butler: They haven’t surrounded him with the right pieces to truly flourish, and likely won’t. We still have the draft and the entire offseason to play out to see exactly what type of team the Bulls are, but it will most likely be a repeat of last year.