As for who the Bulls pick, that remains shrouded in mystery as new Bulls executive Arturas Karnisovas and Co. are on the clock for the fourth pick after the basketball gods finally smiled upon the Bulls last week in the lottery.
Let’s take a look at a roundup of several mock drafts that came out right after the NBA lottery order was revealed so we can get an early idea of who the experts believe the Bulls will select.
6-feet-7-inches; 180 pounds (Point Guard)
Team: Illawarra Hawks of the Australian National Basketball League
NBL Rookie of the Year
2019-2020 Stats: 17 points per game on 37.5 percent shooting from the field; 7.6 rebounds per game, 6.8 assists per game
The Bulls moved up to No. 4 from No. 7 and have an interesting decision to make here with respect to what’s already on the roster. Chicago should benefit from a fresh start under a new head coach and be able to pick with a clean slate here. GM Arturas Karnisovas comes to Chicago from Denver, where he was part of a front office that has been comfortable—and successful—taking risks and finding talent in all parts of the draft. The Bulls don’t have a gaping positional hole, but there’s a long-term need for a playmaker. Ball is this draft’s big gamble on talent, and if the Bulls are believers, there’s a reasonable chance he’s on the board here.
In terms of sheer talent, Ball has a case as the most gifted playmaker in the draft, and his combination of size, handle and vision creating a reasonable rotation-player floor even if he’s not the star some have billed him as. Not every team buys his iffy jump shot improving, and there’s little track record here as far as leading winning teams, but the fact Ball genuinely loves to play does help. That being said, recent history should serve warning at the prospect of building a winning team around a lead playmaker who can’t consistently hit perimeter shots. Ball isn’t a fit for every team, and opinion here differs, but he’s a consensus top-five prospect worth the investment in a draft like this.
6-feet-9-inches; 220 pounds (Small Forward/Power Forward)
3 Time Israeli League Champion
Israeli League MVP in 2020
2020 Stats: 13 ppg; 6.1 rpg; 39 percent 3-point shooter
Viewed as a potential top-five pick for most of the season, Deni Avdija solidified his case in July, earning MVP honors of the Israeli BSL while helping power Maccabi Tel Aviv to the Winner’s League championship.
Along with his success in every setting overseas, certainty over his impressive physical profile and well-rounded skill set to handle, pass and shot-make have begun to outweigh skepticism over whether he offers star potential.
With Otto Porter Jr. potentially entering his last year in Chicago, new executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas should be drawn to Avdija’s versatility and fit between Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen.
He also could embody everything the league is now about. He’s long. He’s versatile. He’s smart. In an era of positionless basketball and units now mandating multiple playmakers, Avdija could thrive in Chicago as a secondary playmaker.
He also could double as an ideal fit. With incumbent starting small forward Otto Porter Jr. entering the final year of his contract, Avdija can be groomed slowly for a year before sliding in nicely between Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen. And you can already envision how the Bulls could take advantage of his size and mix and match lineups to play big or small.
CBS’s Kyle Boone also predicted the Bulls would snag Avdija although he didn’t offer an explanation.
6-feet-4-inches, 216 pounds (guard)
Played Professionally in France and Germany straight out of high school
2020 stats: 12.8 ppg, 6.2 apg, 39 percent from 3-point land.
After LaMelo Ball, Hayes feels like the next best bet in the draft to eventually turn into a high-level offensive initiator. While not the most explosive natural athlete, Hayes is a big 6’5 lefty guard who already understands the reads and rhythm of playing in the pick-and-roll. He answered questions about his outside shooting ability during his first season in the German league, showing an improved three-point stroke while hitting 87 percent of his free throws. As Ball and Edwards each struggled to score efficiently, Hayes finished his season with an impressive 59 percent true shooting. He should also be able to hold his own defensively after showing a knack for making plays off the ball.
Despite just turning 19 years old, Hayes also feels like one of the most physically mature prospects in this draft class. He should have the strength to compete defensively early in his career, and has showed off impressive awareness and an ability to play the passing lanes. He’s already shown flashes of pull-up shooting off the dribble, and it feels like that’s the skill that could push him to become one of the best players in this class if he can consistently hit it with range. Questions about his raw athleticism might push him down the board further than this, but few prospects in this year class offer as many translatable skills as Hayes.
The more likely pick feels like Deni Avdija.
6-feet-9-inches, 220 pounds (Power Forward)
University of Dayton
Associated Press Player of the Year; Wooden Award; Naismith Award
2019-2020 stats: 20 points per game on 63.3 percent from the field; 7.5 rebounds per game
Obi Toppin is a former zero-star recruit who earned CBS Sports National Player of the Year honors after averaging 20.0 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 63.3% from the field and 39.0% from 3-point range this past season. He’s a super-athletic forward who dunks everything — he actually led the nation in dunks — and consistently makes jumpers in pick-and-pop situations. Yes, the fact that he’s already 22 years-old is an issue worth taking into account. But it will not — or, at least, it should not — overshadow the idea that Toppin has a chance to be the most impactful player selected in this draft. In Chicago, he could easily play with Lauri Markkanen or Wendell Carter and immediately become another weapon for Zach LaVine and Coby White.
The best player in college basketball averaged 20.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game last season while shooting 63.3 percent from the field and 39.0 percent from 3-point range. His shooting ability would allow him to play with Lauri Markkanen or Wendell Carter Jr.
Toppin is not a particularly strong defender, but the Bulls finished with the second-worst offense in the NBA in 2019-20. It wouldn’t hurt to add the 22-year-old’s scoring punch.