Bulls Nab No. 7 Pick In NBA Draft

Chicago fell one slot, as Sacramento received lottery luck.

Cody Westerlund
May 15, 2018 - 7:32 pm
Bulls executives John Paxson, left, and Gar Forman

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images


By Cody Westerlund--

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- When the Bulls hit the rebuild button with the Jimmy Butler trade on draft night last June, a crucial part of their reasoning was because a path toward adding a future leading star was clearly visible at that moment.

What they viewed as a strong 2018 draft class headlined by several prospects with franchise-altering talent was on the horizon. So the Bulls blew it up, mentally preparing to ride out what they knew would be an ugly 2017-’18 season with the intention of landing a top-three pick.

That’s what made the NBA Draft lottery at the Palmer House Hilton on Tuesday evening disappointing, as the quest to add an elite player officially became more difficult.

Holding 5.3 percent odds to land the top pick and 18.3 percent odds to nab a top-three pick while also ready to slot in at No. 6 should the math hold, the Bulls instead landed at No. 7 in the draft when the Kings hopped them in the order to land the No. 2 pick, pushing five teams down a rung. The Suns, owners of the best odds at 25 percent, landed the No. 1 pick. The Hawks own the third pick, followed by the Grizzlies, Mavericks and Magic before the Bulls’ selection.

That the Kings landed the second pick with a ping-pong ball combination that they owned specifically because they lost a coin flip tiebreaker with the Bulls back in April only added an eye-rolling frustration to Chicago’s plight, however coincidental it was.

“There’s nothing you can do about that,” vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said. “That’s just the odds that are played. We can’t focus on that. We know we’re going to get a player we like at seven.”

Team president Michael Reinsdorf represented the Bulls on stage, while his son Joey, a student at Northwestern, kept an eye on the proceedings in the lottery drawing room ahead of the televised spectacle. Their hope of repeating the good fortune of landing the No. 1 pick against long odds like in 2008, when they selected hometown star Derrick Rose, didn't come to frution.

Paxson downplayed falling from No. 6 to No. 7, saying he didn’t see much of a difference between the two spots. He then explained that the Bulls group prospects into tiers. He wouldn’t reveal how many were in that first group, but his words and logic hinted that the Bulls would be choosing from their second tier.

The Bulls will soon begin working out prospects who are projected to be available in the range of the No. 22 pick that they also own via a trade with the Pelicans. Paxson doesn’t expect workouts for the top prospects in the next few weeks, though.

“It will depend,” Paxson said. “Agents sometimes have an idea of where their guys should go. So we’d like to get a variety of guys in, but a lot of that will be determined what agents think.”

Paxson previously spoke of the Bulls’ need to add a two-way wing player who can hit 3-pointers and guard multiple positions, and he doubled down on that in comments Tuesday night. Of course, he also maintained the Bulls need to take the best player available as they remain in the early stages of a rebuild.

“We talk about needs,” Paxson said. “And we obviously have some needs that I’ve spoken about before. But most of the time, we’ve gone down our board and the best player available we’ve taken.

“The two biggest things are versatility – guys that can play multiple positions, can guard multiple positions and guys that can get where they want on the floor. Those are the players – outside of the shooting component, everybody loves shooters – but those two things, that’s kind of the way the game is going. You see in these playoffs, everyone is switching.”

Arizona center DeAndre Ayton, Slovenian guard Luka Doncic and Duke forward Marvin Bagley are widely considered the top prospects available.

After them, Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr., Texas center Mo Bamba, Michigan State big man Jaren Jackson Jr. and Oklahoma point guard Trae Young are also projected by many to be selected in the top half of the lottery, while Villanova wing Mikal Bridges and Duke big man Wendell Carter Jr. are another pair of players the Bulls have heavily scouted.

Projected as the 2018 top pick by many last summer, Porter was a player the Bulls had their sights on since the rebuild started. A back injury has since cost him nearly his entire freshman campaign at Missouri and raised a red flag for NBA executives.

“It plays a big part in the process, for sure,” Paxson said of medical reports in general. “There’s so many things that every team evaluates and we do the same. The medical is important, because you don’t want anything – there’s certain things you can live with, certain things that are worth taking a risk on.”

Whomever the Bulls select, Paxson knows he will be a vital piece to a rebuild that currently finds its optimism in Lauri Markkanen’s breakout rookie season, Kris Dunn’s progress and Zach LaVine’s untapped potential.

“Everyone has opinions,” Paxson said. “You can have the opinion now, but who knows? That’s what makes this whole process pretty interesting. We’re good with where we’re at. We know we’ll get a player we like.”

Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.