We’re still months away from the draft, but that won’t stop us from analyzing every possible scenario and player in the meantime. And with good reason. After trading Jimmy Butler ten months ago and resetting the roster, the outcome of the 2018 NBA Draft will go a long way in determining the success of the rebuild.
In management’s eyes, the rebuild is already off to a strong start. All season long, it’s been made clear that the future was already present. Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen, the three pieces received in the Jimmy Butler trade, have already been billed as potential franchise cornerstones. Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine continued to improve, so much so they’re now considered key pieces moving forward. Adding two draft picks to the “core” should position the Bulls well for years to come.
But more talent is needed. Drafting a prospect with the most upside in June should be the objective, as management can’t be complacent with the roster and should view no player as a sure-fire certainty. But can we be sure in management not being tempted to expedite the rebuild by taking a player who is a more logical fit?
There’s one position that requires extra consideration: It’s hard to see a power forward being added to the roster, not after breakout seasons from Markkanen and Bobby Portis. To a lesser extent, drafting a backcourt player looks unlikely because for better or for worse, Dunn and LaVine will both be given more time to prove they will be the Bulls guard partners of the future. It’s reasonable to the top of the Bulls’ draft board may be limited to a small forward or center prospects. In some respects, that makes sense given the roster design.
Ideally, the best available player will also be one who perfectly fits the roster. That’s not always possible, though, and it could be a scenario the Bulls find themselves in.
Two players projected to be drafted in the Bulls’ range are Oklahoma guard Trae Young and Villanova wing Mikal Bridges.
Bridges is a ready-made NBA prospect who could start at small forward on opening night. His defensive tools and 3-point shooting would be a welcome addition to a roster desperately in need of both traits. The floor is high for Bridges. He won’t fail in the pros, making him the safe and obvious option, a pick that can be justifiably made with little criticism.
Drafting Young isn’t as simple. The Stephen Curry comparisons may be too much, but there is a clear and obvious path to his stardom in a perimeter-orientated league. This, of course, assumes he can reach his potential, which isn’t guaranteed given his slight frame and defensive flaws. This reality makes Young a high-risk, high-upside talent, someone the Bulls typically avoid drafting.
They may also be swayed against Young simply due to position. As a scoring point guard who does his best work on the ball, the presence of Dunn and LaVine in future plans may result in overlooking Young.
Choosing not to draft Young because of existing players on the roster would be the wrong decision. Dunn and LaVine may have shown glimpses in their debut season’s in Chicago, but neither should be considered fixtures moving forward. Neither should sway the Bulls into drafting a wing or center, irrespective of talent.
All we can ask of the Bulls ahead of the draft is that they consider fit and role, but ultimately lean to taking the best player available. If it’s determined that Bridges will be the best player, then so be it. So long as they make their decision with that in mind, it will be hard to fault their approach. And who knows, in time, history may suggest Bridges was the best player available to the Bulls. However, should they take Bridges – or anyone else for that matter – while actively avoiding drafting someone like Young simply because of fit issues, it will be a flawed outcome for what was one of the few silver linings of this season.